The 12th Sunday after Trinity–22 August 2021
31 [Jesus] returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. 34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (ESV)
Introduction: No escaping troubles!
The troubles of this life are like ocean waves; they just keep coming, one after another. The longer we live, the more we love and care for the people around us, the more the troubles keep rolling in. Someone we love is sick or dying. Someone else is having troubles at home or at work. And yet another loved one is fighting a fierce battle against unbelief and sinful vices. No matter where we look, there are afflictions, pain and death. And there is no escaping such troubles.
Deliver us from evil!
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray: Deliver us from evil. Sometimes we think God should deliver us from evil by giving us trouble-free lives. But such is not the case. In fact, our Lord Jesus promised the very opposite: in the world you will have tribulation (John 16:33). And so, what are we asking our Father in heaven to do for us when we pray: Deliver us from evil? Listen to how Martin Luther explains it in the Catechism: We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.
Do you see what you are praying for when you pray: Deliver us from evil? You are praying for your death! For where in this world can we go to escape evil? Is there some valley hidden up in the mountains or some secluded lake where there is no evil? No, there is not! Oh, in this life, God does graciously prevent evil from destroying our faith. But this petition—Deliver us from evil—will be fully answered only on the Day of Resurrection. Not until the Lord comes for us will we be done with this evil life.
Trouble on earth and with God!
In the world [we] will have tribulation. We know, then, that we will be surrounded by troubles and evil from the moment we are born until the moment we die. Things are not right in the world, and they will not be right until the second coming of Jesus.
All this trouble and evil is the result of sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, we now have disease, car accidents, hunger, poverty, war, and death. In fact, everything wrong in the world is the result of sin. Every trouble, sickness, sorrow, and death is the result of sin. All of it, all the evils of this fallen world are the result of sin.
But there is a worse result to sin than merely troubles on earth. Sin does not just result in trouble here. The worst result of sin is trouble with God.
This is the great predicament of the human condition. We look around and we see that there are hospitals and cemeteries and evil on every hand. And then, we look up and things are worse, for there is a wrath from heaven. Impure sinners cannot dwell in the presence of the holy God. Therefore, God has decreed that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And the world’s sad history proves true St. Paul’s words; that just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, … so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 6:23). Because of sin, death comes to you! And there is nothing you can do about it. You deserve what is coming. I deserve the evil that comes in this life and in the life to come.
In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself!
But then comes Jesus, the eternal Son of our heavenly Father. Jesus enters into our troubles, into this evil life, into our sin, sickness, and death. He even enters into the wrath of God. Hanging on the cross, bearing all of our sin, Jesus endures the full force of God’s anger. For God’s wrath against all ungodliness is poured out upon Jesus, so that even though Jesus is truly God’s Son, He nonetheless cries out in anguish to His Father: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).
Do you see what Jesus has done? Our Saviour Jesus came to sort out the trouble between earth and heaven, between humanity and God. As St. Paul proclaims: in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). And notice, it is not we who have reconciled God to us, but God who has reconciled us to Himself. And not through our acts of love and devotion, but through His dear Son’s holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death. And because Jesus died for us on the cross, to atone for our sins, God the Father now declares us righteous in His sight. Because of Jesus, the Father declares that we are not guilty, that we are innocent and free from condemnation. And since we have been declared not guilty but rather righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ—yes, because we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
The peace treaty between you and God is written with Jesus’ blood!
God the Father has poured out His wrath upon His own dear Son, who died on the cross, bearing our sin. In Christ, God the Father has reconciled the world to Himself, not counting our trespasses against us. Do you understand? God is not angry with you. God loves you. God the Father gave His only- begotten Son over unto death that you may live forever as His own dear children. And the Holy Triune God is ever comforting you with the Gospel.
Every time you hear the words of Holy Absolution, the forgiveness of all your sins, you are hearing the peace treaty between you and God, written with the blood of Jesus. God has reconciled you to Himself—thanks be to God! All is right between you and God.
An example of things that are wrong with the world
But pastor, you say, that is all well and good, but what about all the nonsense and trouble and wickedness that surrounds us every day? Does Jesus have something to do with that? For the answer to that question, we turn to today’s Gospel, the healing of the deaf and mute man. Here is a man with things wrong in his life. He could not hear or speak. His body was broken. We do not know if he could care for himself or if he could work; we do not know his name or how old he was. We simply know that he had trouble. His ears and his mouth did not work right. He was another example of things that are wrong with the world. And so the people bring him to Jesus.
Living in the “in-between time”!
Now, remember that I said that Jesus came to make things right between heaven and earth, to make peace between sinners and God. At His first coming, Jesus came to make everything right in heaven, so that now, because we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. But it is only when Jesus comes again that He will make everything right on earth. The earth as we know it pass away. According to [God’s] promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).There will be no more sickness, sin, death, tears, or sorrow. No more cancer, deafness, heart attacks, no funerals, none of it. That is the great hope of the resurrection of the body to life everlasting in Christ!
Right now, you and I are living in the “in-between time”—the time between Jesus—in His life, death, and resurrection—making things right between heaven and earth, so that we have peace with God, and Jesus making all things right on earth by creating a new heavens and a new earth on the Last Day. We are living between our Lord’s first and second comings. Thus, even though we have peace with God, we still struggle and have troubles, and see great evil in the world. But we live confessing that God the Father has indeed raised [Christ Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet (Ephesians 1:20-22). In short, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is in complete control of the universe, in spite of the chaos in the world and in our lives.
The Lord’s miracles point to the final healing on the Last Day!
When Jesus walked the earth, He would often give a foretaste of eternal life through His miracles. In His miracles of healing the sick and raising the dead, our Lord Jesus gave the gifts of life and wholeness, health and joy. But He was not suggesting that from that time forward, humanity would no longer experience suffering; rather, He was directing people’s attention to the healing of the Gospel and to the final healing on the Last Day, when sin and death will be no more.
And so, when we read about this man brought to Jesus, this man whose ears Jesus opened and whose tongue He loosed, we have hope, comfort, and joy. For just as Jesus made all things right with this man, so will your loving Lord Jesus do for you.
The Lord preserves us in the true faith until the Last Day comes!
In Holy Baptism, Jesus has opened your ears to hear the Gospel of forgiveness and He has loosed your tongue and renewed your heart to make a true confession of the one true God of heaven and earth—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Throughout your life, Jesus continues to bring you healing by forgiving your sins through Holy Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
And finally, there is a day, not many days from now, when the Lord will return and call all the dead from the grave and give them the resurrection of the body. And He will give eternal life to you and me and to all believers in Christ. Then, finally, there will be no more sorrows, no more trouble, no more evil. In the midst of all our present troubles, this is our comfort and our hope. May the Lord Jesus Christ preserve us all in the true faith until that day comes. Amen, Come Lord Jesus. Amen.