I wonder what the man thought. His friends, or maybe it was family, come and get him and take him through a crowd and then they stop in front of some guy he’s never seen before. And he watches them start to beg it seems for something. They keep pointing at him and back to this stranger and they make hand motions as if they’re asking this guy to do something. But the man really isn’t quite sure what’s going on, he couldn’t hear. He was deaf. We aren’t told if he was born deaf or became deaf later in life, but he had likely never heard of the man whom he now stood before. And he couldn’t ask them what was going on because he also had difficulty speaking. So he was perhaps wondering why these people, again, possibly his friends or family, had brought him before this man and why they were now begging him for something.
Now that man those people were begging of was Jesus. And so here is Jesus and here is that man who is deaf and can’t talk, and Jesus, we are told was being asked “to place his hand on the man” in order to heal him. So, what does Jesus do? Jesus “took the man aside, away from the crowd” Mark tells us. Maybe Jesus didn’t want everyone to see what he would do next or maybe he wanted the man before him to not have any other distractions, again, we don’t know. But now it’s just Jesus and possibly a few others. And then he does something sort of strange, don’t you think? “Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.”
But is this strange or is it deliberate? You picture it. This deaf man standing there, staring uncertainty at Jesus as Jesus stares back at him. The fingers slowly reach into those ears that have closed, maybe a shake of Jesus’ head as he spits and then reaches out and touches the tongue that won’t work. As Jesus brings attention to the disabilities of the man, you can almost see the man’s eyes start to become curious the longer he watches Jesus knowing that this is something different. Then Jesus looks up to heaven, maybe in silent prayer or to let the man know where the power comes from that he’s about to witness, and then you hear it…the deep sigh. Jesus sighed.
Have you ever noticed that we human beings have this uncanny ability to let people know exactly how we feel or what we are thinking by simply pushing air out of our mouths or our noses? An impatient husband or wife might let out an audible release of air from the nose and mouth to let you know that it’s time to go so shut your mouth, so we can leave. Perhaps you, after working at something for a while and having little to no success, have found yourself releasing air through your nose as if it helped relieve your frustration. Children you’ve maybe heard your teachers forcibly push air out of their mouths after you’ve asked the same question no less than four times. It’s sort of a neat thing if you think about it, to be able to let someone know how you are doing or what you want with a simple forceful breath of air.
And so we go back to Jesus and we hear his sigh and in that breath of air being pushed from our Lord’s mouth we are given a glimpse into the very heart of God. This isn’t what he wanted for this world. This isn’t what he intended for the crown of his creation. As Jesus looked at that man he saw pain. He saw suffering. He saw ruin. He saw sin. And with a knowing sigh he understood why he had to come to this earth…for a man like this.
So, yes, this is a story about a man who couldn’t hear and who couldn’t talk, yet behind this man’s physical ailments we see a much deeper greater need, a need for Jesus. And so that begs the question in our suffering, in our pain, do we see that same need? You see, you and I, we have a terrible past. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God the whole human race fell with them. We are like a great human ship that has run aground. We are part of a once beautiful world that has now fallen apart in so many ways, and we are living in that wreckage, daily stumbling through sin’s consequences.
But so often, so often when we find ourselves in moments of distress or when we see someone we love suffering in ways we don’t think they deserve is the first thought that come to mind this, that this is our fault? If we’re honest, probably not, but the cause of our misery is our sin. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying a particular hardship you are wrestling with is because of a particular sin you committed or that somehow your pain and suffering is God’s will. His will is to bring you good. What I am saying is this, that your divorce, your cancer, your depression, your addiction, whatever you suffer from, is a symptom of something far worse, sin. That great and willful abandonment of God by our human race.
Yet what did God do when we abandoned him? Look at our lesson and you will see. He pulled you aside. In his Holy Word he made himself known to you he put his name on your lips. And so now you think of Jesus standing there next to you. He sees your pain, the tears you cry when you feel alone. He sees your suffering, the misery you endure as you watch a loved one’s mind slowly go. He knows how hard this life is for you. He looks up to heaven “Father” he says, “This is what I came to fix, this is whom I came to save” and then the sigh, the groan over you his ruined creation.
God loves you. Do you know that? He does. Jesus sees our day to day struggles and he weeps over them. He weeps with you. But he also knew that our pain and our hardships, yes, they hurt, but the sin behind our hurt, the sin that makes us suffer, is a death that will never end. Pain makes us cry for a while. Sin would have made us cry forever, had God not done something about it. And he was willing to do something about it.
You go back to the man who was brought before Jesus. Jesus didn’t just sigh knowingly and wish things would get better for the man. He willingly acted. He spoke a word, one word, “Ephphatha, be opened!” and look what happened, “At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.”
You might wonder how it was for that man as he experienced this. He saw a word being said from the mouth of Jesus and suddenly he heard everything. Even as he wished he could speak to thank Jesus, to his astonishment he realized he physically could. With a word Christ set this man free from the physical chains of sin that bound him. This man had likely never heard the sound of a gentle breeze, the voice of a parent, music, or even his own voice, but now he could. “Ephphatha” …one word. Can you imagine? To be that man to witness that miracle to see and experience that love. (sigh)
It makes you want to sigh a sigh of longing. To say, “Oh Lord I wish I could come to know you like this!” But the truth is you and I, we know our Lord in a far deeper way. We call him our Savior. You see just as God willingly healed that man brought before him in our lesson, so he was willing to bring healing to us. He had an answer for our hurt, for our pain, for our sin, and it was more than a word, it was himself. His answer came in the form of silence as he stood before his accusers. It was revealed in the agony the ripping and writhing on the cross that he endured. God’s answer to our pain is God himself racked with pain – Jesus crying with us, Jesus suffering with us, dying in no one’s arms, so that we could die in his.
On that cross upon which he hung was the greatest sigh this world has ever heard. A final breath as Jesus breathed his last. And in that sigh he thought of you, all your pain, all your struggles, all your sorrows, and the sin, the sin that kept you from seeing him. Then he died and with his death he took our sin away and with arms outstretched he waits for us to come home.
I take you back then one last time to the lesson before us. When the crowd around Jesus saw this man now healed – both hearing and speaking – Mark tells us the “people were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Today can we not join this crowd and be overwhelmed with amazement? Can we not shout “He, Jesus, has done everything well?”
We can, and I hope we do. Because there he is in our lesson healing a man, and here he was (point to the cross) dying for that same man. He did both things well. And now we see that in every sorrow, in every pain, and in every heartache we suffer, Jesus does everything well for us too. He takes us aside not to point his finger at us and tell us that this is our fault, but instead to point to himself. “Here” he says, “Here is what you need….this is why I came…for you.” That by faith we might one day go home to a place where there is no pain and there is no more sorrow, there’s just him.
And so we sigh with our Savior today, but our sigh is a sigh of relief. It’s done. Jesus has done everything well. By faith that same Jesus who brought healing to a man who was deaf and who spoke with difficulty has brought healing to our souls. He lived a perfect life. He died. He rose. He won, and he did it all for us. Why? I said it once, but I’ll gladly say it again, because he loves you. Amen.