The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity: The Deaf-Mute as a Picture of Mankind

Readings: Isaiah 29:17-24, Romans 10:9-17, Mark 7:31-37
Hymns: 545, 820, 620, 797, 895

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Remember the Syrophoenician woman? She’s the one who begs Jesus for mercy since her daughter is demon-possessed. Initially, Jesus says nothing to her, and the disciples ask Jesus to send her away. She doesn’t let go of Jesus; instead she continues to draw near, making her request to the Lord. Jesus says, “It is not good to give children’s food to dogs,” and she responds in faith, saying, “Yes, Lord, but even little dogs take the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” She clings to Jesus in faith, even when it seems He won’t help her. She teaches us a lesson on making our petitions before God—to keep on praying, knowing that God hears our prayers and answers them.

Today’s Gospel takes place right after Jesus healed the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter. He travels east of the Sea of Galilee to the Decapolis, which was a region of ten cities which Rome helped rebuild. Some people bring to Jesus a man who was deaf and, as a result, had a speech impediment. They begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man to heal him, which Jesus willing does.

These two accounts teach us a few things about Jesus and our standing with Him. First, they show that Jesus is God, for only God can perform miracles like these. It is important to see that Jesus is God, and not an ordinary man with divine ability. There are many religious groups out there who deny the divinity of Jesus. Three examples of these are the Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. All three acknowledge the existence of God and the existence of Jesus. But none are willing to assert that Jesus is one with the Father and the Spirit. They make claims that Jesus is a great prophet or, for a time, had achieved godhood, but they will not assert His unity with the Trinity as God.

The miracles of Jesus serve as proofs that Jesus is truly God. In addition, the miracles teach us of our Lord’s compassion. Jesus truly cares for every poor person, every outcast person, and even each of us. For His love extends to everyone. That is why He went to the cross. In love, He paid for the sins of the entire world. This same compassion which moved Him to bear our sin and suffer the wrath of God so that we can be granted eternal life is the love He showed as He helped those in need, such as the deaf-mute man in today’s Gospel.

The man and the events of our Gospel can even serve as a picture of mankind’s spiritual condition and our Lord’s response. So, let’s take a look. Today’s Gospel pictures our soul’s sickness, our soul’s Physician, and our soul’s medicine.

The soul’s sickness

God created the deaf-mute man. Yet, he was not the way he was supposed to be. He was imperfect, as his condition showed. He had no idea what people were saying about him, and anything he tried to convey with his voice came out as noise to who heard him. He was rather cut off from those around him.

So it is with all mankind. God originally created mankind perfect. Then, in disobedience to God, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, bringing the entire world into sin. We lost that original image and likeness of God in which He created us. So, we are not the way we are supposed to be. We are imperfect. In fact, we were born without love of God, without trust in God, and with evil lusts and inclinations. We were born corrupt as poor, miserable sinners.

Our sin is not some sort of slight imperfection that we face, but it is a total corruption of our very nature. Like the deaf-mute, we are born with this corruption and, like the deaf-mute, we cannot fix ourselves or rid ourselves of our sin and temptation. In fact, the Scriptures teach “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12).

It is true, though, that we are born with a conscience. Even little children can identify injustice and will cower at the sight of another person being injured. A little child may cry when another child cries.

But our conscience is like the deaf man’s speech impediment. He may try to speak, but since he cannot hear, he does not know how to get his words out right. In the same way, our conscience, when guided by ourselves, will not always do what is right. Sometimes it will tell us to do the very opposite of what God teaches. And often it is too weak to stop us from doing the evil that the conscience hates.

You see, until a person hears God’s voice through His Word in the Bible, his conscience cannot be trained to learn what is truly right and good, versus what is bad and evil.

So, the soul’s sickness is this: we are born ignorant of God, indifferent toward God, unable to find God, and equipped solely with the unclear stuttering voice of the weakened conscience.

The deaf man could not fix his own condition. In fact, no one else could either. And so, he is brought to Jesus, who became known for having compassion and healing those suffering from various diseases.

The soul’s Physician

The people had never seen something like Him before. They never knew someone who was filled with so much wisdom and so much compassion. They never knew someone who could heal any ailment, drive out demons, and even raise the dead. Yet here He was. And Jesus declares, “Be opened.” The deaf-mute’s ears are opened, and he can hear. And God instantly grants him the ability to speak plainly. This is an amazing miracle which only God can do.

For Jesus is God, who became Man. He has human flesh and blood, but without sin. His ability to heal and cure has no bounds.

This work of God also extends to us. For Jesus comes to us sinners who were ruined by the Fall, He speaks to us His plain Word of truth, and He delivers to us what He accomplished on the cross. His ability to forgive or credit us with His righteousness has no bounds.

Now that our soul’s Doctor has come, we can hear our Lord speak. We can receive the wonderful gift to know God, hear Him, behold God, and recognize His voice. The Father speaks through His Son.

And just as the deaf-mute’s friends brought him to the Great Physician to be healed, so also family and friends bring their loved ones to Jesus for Him to heal them of their corruption and sin. This happens when parents bring their children to be baptized, when children are raised learning the Christian faith, when someone takes a friend to church to learn of Christ’s bleeding love, and when Christians tell others of the good news of Jesus Christ. In essence, this occurs whenever we are “not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

Jesus also instituted the Holy Ministry so that His Word would have free course and be preached for the joy and edifying of God’s holy people. As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15).

For salvation comes to all who believe, and “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

The greatest opportunity in life is not to become a professional athlete, world leader, rich, or famous. The greatest opportunity in life is to meet our Savior, the great Physician of our souls. The deaf-mute man met Jesus and was healed. We have received this opportunity to meet Jesus through the means He instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, Jesus is present to bless us with His forgiveness, life and salvation.

The soul’s medicine

When Jesus met with the deaf-mute man, He did something rather strange. Jesus put His fingers into the man’s ears and, after spitting, touched the man’s tongue. He looks up to Heaven, sighs, and speaks. It seems so insignificant, and even unnecessary.

Yet that is the way of God. He chooses to deal with us in ways that often seem too ordinary and rather insignificant. For His Word is sounded forth from parents, friends, neighbors, and preachers. And His Word is also administered through the visible means of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These seem remarkably simple. A little water and the Word. A little bread and wine and the Word. And yet, Jesus is present to bless in these means. He adds the baptized into His family, and they are joined to our Lord’s death and resurrection. In the Supper, Jesus presents Himself in, with, and under the bread and wine. He forgives us sinners as He unites Himself to us. In these means, He blesses us with that which He earned when He shed His Blood in our place on the cross—remission of sin and everlasting life.

So, do you want confirmation from God of your eternal salvation? Then look to Jesus as He suffered for you on the cross, look to Jesus who comes to you through Word and Sacrament. For Jesus served as the all-sufficient sacrifice for your many sins. He is the ransom that paid for your freedom. He atoned for your sin and covers your guilt.

Your sick, deaf, mute soul is healed by Jesus, and by Him alone. He is your Savior. The medicine He uses to work faith in you and grant you salvation are the simple means of Word and Sacrament.

The deaf-mute man did not criticize the method Jesus used to save him, nor did the crowds. Instead, they praised God, saying, “He has done all things well” (Mk 7:37). We, too, praise Him the same. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen

Credit for the sermon outline and some thoughts goes to Bo Giertz from his sermon in 1943 as published in A Church’s Year of Grace, Volume 2.