In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ephphatha, that is, be opened.
The man had been shut. The Lord opened Him. He removed him from the noisy, meddlesome crowd. He stopped the drumming of self in his ears. He opened him to the Word of God. He set the man’s tongue free. He could now speak, could bring his petitions and his praise to God.
Certainly this was a historic event. It actually happened, just the way it is described. Our Lord healed a man who was afflicted: he could not hear and he could not speak clearly. Whether this affliction was purely physical, or was psychological, is not stated. But it was a real affliction and he was really healed. At the touch and Word of the Lord, removed from the world, the man heard and spoke clearly.
The allegory is obvious and is intended. When the Lord had these events recorded He did so not merely that we would learn that He has power to heal but that we would learn that we need healing and He has the will to heal. He would have us know both what afflicts us and His desire to save us.
We need to be opened. Sin closes us in ourselves. We are like children avoiding bad news, sticking our fingers in our ears and yelling “I can’t hear you” because we think our mother is taking away our favorite toy when all she is doing is calling us to dinner. We block God’s Word. We are afraid of what He will ask of us, of what He will demand. And we yell, we fill the world with noise, with half-lies and full lies, and we try to hide in the crowd, like tuna running from a shark.
Al Gore finds the idea of global warming an inconvenient truth and perhaps it is, but not nearly so inconvenient as the Law’s demands and our duty to serve our neighbor in this world. We’d rather think of how we might save the whales or clean the rivers, or whether Star Wars is better than Star Trek, than think of how we might save the babies or uphold marriage. We would rather tolerate our neighbors, as though that is a virtue, instead of loving them.
This isn’t just a problem in the secular realm. We do this in the church. We would fill our ears with concern about doctrine while ignoring life, and then with life while ignoring doctrine. We play practical when the doctrine is inconvenient and abstract when the practice is costly. We worry about gay marriage while our marriages fail. We worry about stem cell research from aborted babies while neglecting our own children. We are white-washed tombs, full of death, with but a veneer of camouflage goodness on the outside. Repent.
We need Jesus to lay His hand upon us, to stick His fingers in our ears, to invade our space, to intervene, to unclog our ears and loose our tongues. We need to silence the world, even the theologians for a while, to shut up and listen, to hear the Word of God, to let it wash over us, to stop explaining it away, to stop being so afraid. Doctrine matters. We need to be convicted, to let the Law have its way with us, and stop making excuses. We need to repent, to turn, to mourn for our sins, to say “amen” to its cruel accusations, and to beg for forgiveness.
And we need to hear: “Be opened.” This is more than a rebuke of what was blocking us, this is also liberation. Not only are the deaf man’s ears unstopped, that he would hear the gentle words and invitation of the Lord, but so also his tongue is loosed that he might respond, confess, and serve his neighbor. He is free to hear the Word of God. And he is free to respond in prayer, praise, and action. He is free to confess His sins and to say amen also to the absolution. Hearing clearly, he speaks clearly, and speaking clearly he can act.
Jesus stuck His actual fingers in that man’s actual ears. He sticks His actual Body, risen from the dead, into your mouth. This is no allegory. He has been crucified as a ransom for sins, to buy you back, to pay off the devil, and He is risen up, alive, out of death, for your justification, that you would be His. He comes to you in this Holy Gift to seal the deal, to drive off the evil spirits, to touch you, in your body, with His Body. Here He binds you to Himself, clears your ears and looses your tongue, that you would praise and confess Him clearly, rightly, but mainly, that you, would be saved.
If the ministry of condemnation, as written in stone on Mt. Sinai, had glory, and it did, than this has more glory. For this, the ministry of the Spirit, given through the hands of fallen men, is the New Testament in His Blood. It undoes the old ministry because Life is in the Blood and He bestows that Life through it. This bestows permanent glory. It makes Temples in the hearts of men. The Israelites could not look at Moses’ face, but God has taken flesh that we might look Him in the eye, that He might abide with us, and that we would not be afraid to hear Him.
Be opened, O Christian, and be not afraid. He opens you not to destroy, but to fill.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Our scientific fantasies are just that: fantasies. The best scientists recognize how little they know, how lacking science is when it comes to so much of what it is to be a human. Scientists don’t really understand how our memory works, what constitutes time, and so forth. The scientific method is very useful and our knowledge, the standard of living we enjoy, has expanded because of it. But it is of limited use. It only works with things that can be observed.
We can’t observe love or friendship. We can’t observe ambition or pride. We can observe symptoms, but we can’t observe the actual thing. We can’t measure them. And the great questions of humanity, that which makes live worth living, are questions of love. That is why every story we really care about is a love story. It is not always romantic love, sometimes it is love of friends or love of God or nature, but there is no drama and little interest for us apart from love. A story without love isn’t a story: it is a documentary. But pay attention next time you watch a documentary and see if the narrator doesn’t try to add some drama to the plight of the ants or the volcano or whatever with some anthropomorphism that ends us attributing love and affection to thing being documented.
We shut ourselves off to love.
Darwin’s theories aren’t held by actual scientists because they can’t be placed under the scientific method. The theory speculates on things that cannot be, by definition, observed.