Proper 18 Year B (Mark 7)

“He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark 7:37

Can you imagine a total stranger coming up to you, sticking his fingers into your ears, spitting and touching your tongue? And your own friends brought you to him! Call the police! All they asked was for Jesus to place his hand on him and bless him! And here goes Jesus sticking his fingers into the man’s ears and spitting on his tongue.

That’s what Jesus wants to do with us here this morning. He wants to stick His words into our ears. He wants to loosen our tongues to sing and to speak his praise. The One who does all things well wants to do all things well with us, too.

St. Mark doesn’t tell us anything about the man whose ears and tongue didn’t work. We don’t even know his name. He was one of the many hearing impaired at that time, living in silence, struggling daily to communicate with people whose ears did work. He’d never heard the sound of laughter or music or God’s word. He also spoke with great difficulty. Even the most casual of conversations was a struggle.

Jesus takes the man aside, away from the crowds. He doesn’t want to make a show. What Jesus does is so different from our culture of celebrity of our day. Alive today, he wouldn’t be on the talk shows promoting his latest miracle. No twitter about how good he is; Jesus never sought the limelight He is completely present for that man who couldn’t hear or speak. He has Jesus’ undivided attention.

So, without fanfare He touches what is broken with the Creator’s touch. The Good Physician is at work. He is “hands on” not distant and removed. This doctor makes house calls.

That’s because Christ is a hands-on-God, who stepped down from His glory in heaven, to step into our human flesh, to dwell among us and touch us through his own humanity. Fingers in the ears, spitting and grabbing tongues. He is the God who deals with us as the human creatures that we are. None of this out of body “spiritual” nonsense we hear about today.

God deals with us in the grubby, ordinary, earthy, everyday ways of our human existence. When Jesus stuck his fingers into that man’s ears, they were the fingers of God. When Jesus touched the man’s tongue, it was God touching his tongue.

Then Jesus looked up to heaven. “That’s where your help comes from,” he was saying to the man. “Your help comes from God, and I have come to bring God to you.” Jesus is our go-between, the mediator between God and humanity. He prays for us. He intercedes for us. He touches us with God’s touch. He sighs. Why does he do that? Because Jesus knows how deep the brokenness of the world is, and what price he will have to pay to fix it. He knows the cost of this healing: a cross and His death. Jesus knows our human suffering and sorrow. He knows our weakness.

Finally, Jesus speaks a word. St. Mark gives us the Aramaic original: Ephphatha! Be opened. “Be released from your bondage; be free.” Jesus was releasing him from everything that held him bound and captive. “Be released.” Jesus came to proclaim the release to the captives. Not just to the misfortunate, but to you and to me. To all of God’s people, He came to speak a liberating Word.

That liberating Word is still alive and powerful. The Good news for each of us here this morning is clear: God has come to open us up from whatever it is that has bottled us up; that frustrates us; that separates us from others; that impedes our relationship with others; that prevents us from being the person God intended us to be; what holds us captive.

Healing is not just for some-those who have a physical impediment or a chronic condition, or who are sick and dying; everyone here needs healing; we all are broken in some shape or form; the question for us today and every day is how are we going to let Jesus touch that brokenness, those impediments; what will it take for us to be released, liberated. The answer seems clear EHF-uh-thuh! Be opened!