Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | September 16, 2012

Sermons on Mark 7:31-37

We get by with help from our friend

  • Order of Service: Rite of Baptism (CW, p12) and Common Service (CW, p15)
  • Lessons: Isaiah 35:4-7a, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:31-37
  • Hymns: 363, 427, 316, 353

Downloadable Version

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Our Gospel today teaches us about the difference friends make.  Without friends, this poor deaf-mute might very likely have remained deaf and mute.  Without the sense of hearing, he could never hear someone say, “Jesus is here!”  Without the ability to talk, he could never say, “Hey, could you please give me a ride to the place where Jesus is today?”  But, because he had friends and family nearby, he had someone to help him get where he needed to be:  to the healing hands of Jesus.  He got by with help from his friends.

What a difference friends and family make in the life of little Hannah Kristine, no?  Without Christian friends, this poor little sinner might very likely remain a poor, little sinner.  Who would ever teach her about Jesus?  Who would ever bring her to Baptism?  Without the faith the Spirit gives in Word and Sacrament, Hannah would never know to look to Jesus.  Without that faith, she could never confess with her mouth those saving words, “Jesus is Lord!”  But because she has Christian friends and family nearby, she had someone to help get her where she needed to be and what she needed to have:  the healing hands of Jesus.  She’s getting by with help from her friends.

These situations aren’t perfectly parallel.  The deaf-mute may or may not have had a spiritual problem.  We don’t know.  He appears here for a moment in Mark as a singular example of miracles Jesus performed while surrounded by crowds, and then disappears.  We don’t know his name.  We don’t hear any of the plain words he spoke once Jesus healed him.  Also, while his impediments would make it difficult for him to get to Jesus, they didn’t make it impossible.  He could see Jesus.  He could walk to Jesus.  So, theoretically, he could have gotten to Jesus without his friends.

On the other hand, while Hannah does not have hearing or speaking problems, we know she couldn’t very well walk into this church to hear a sermon or get baptized.  On top of that, we know she has a spiritual problem.  Hannah was conceived and born deaf and mute in the only ways that matter:  towards God.  Conceived from the seed of a sinful mom and a sinful dad, Hannah inherited that sinful condition.  So bad is this sin, that as Paul says, on her own, without help, she doesn’t want to get her spiritual hearing or speech back.  Sinners are born perfectly content to be hostile to God.  So, even though Hannah’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and feet work, spiritually speaking, they don’t.  So, not theoretically, but really and truly, she could not get to Jesus without help from her friends, in this case, her Christian parents.

These situations are also the same.  The deaf-mute’s friends brought him to Jesus so that Jesus could touch him.  They didn’t just bring him to the spot, though, and hope Jesus might notice him.  They brought the man to Jesus and begged him to place his hand on the man (Mark 7:32, NIV84).  Like those friends who lowered their paralyzed buddy through a roof, these friends fought for Jesus’ attention.  And won.  Jesus took the man aside and restored his hearing and speech.  He got by with help from his Friend.

Likewise, this week Hannah’s parents bring her to Jesus so that Jesus can touch her.  But we don’t just bring Hannah into the general vicinity in which Jesus operates, hoping that something good might happen.  Rather, we bring this child to Jesus and beg Him to place His hand on her in Baptism.  Like those parents we hear about later in Mark, we bring Hannah in our arms begging and pleading that Jesus might lay His hands on this child and bless her in the sacrament of Baptism.  And in that holy washing Jesus takes Hannah aside and restores her spiritual ears and mouth.  He washes her sins away.  He makes her His friend.  He gives her the help she needs.  She gets by with help from her Friend.

In the healing of the deaf-mute’s body and the healing of Hannah’s soul, Jesus reveals Himself as a living, breathing healing machine.  We find in Jesus our walking, talking bronze serpent, to Whom we look, and in looking upon Him, in trusting in Him, we have eternal life.  We get by with help from our Friend.

Rightly we praise the friends of the deaf-mute and the friends and family of Hannah, who brought their friends in need to the Friend who can heal and save.  And yet, we know that those friends were really only instruments.  The deaf-mute’s friends could not heal him.  Only God heals diseases, even when it’s through the agency of a doctor or a medicine.  Parents who bring their children to be baptized aren’t responsible for healing their children.  Only God forgives and washes away sins, even when it’s through the baptizing hand of a pastor.  That’s not to minimize the great help all these friends and family offered.  It is, rather, to maximize the help our dearest and only powerful Friend, Jesus, gives.

See Jesus heal bodies.  He immediately opened the man’s ears and unchained his tongue.  Mark says the man immediately spoke plainly and clearly.  He needed no speech therapy.

See Jesus also heal souls.  He opens spiritual ears and unchains spiritual tongues with His Word and Sacraments.  Thousands of years of infants being baptized and growing up as believers proves to us the effectiveness of the tool we use on Hannah now.  God brought His Word to simple water and made it holy water, cleansing water, Baptismal water.  As Paul told Titus, not because of any righteous things we’ve done.  This water doesn’t have any special power because the parents believe really hard, or because this baby is especially cute, or nice, or whatever.  Here we see God’s mercy in action.  Here we see God saving us by pouring out on us generously the blood of His Son Jesus, which He poured out on the cross.  This isn’t just a little help from our Friend; this is our Friend doing it all completely.

There’s one more similarity between these two miracles.  Both this deaf-mute and Hannah, after receiving help and healing from Jesus, became enemies of the devil and the world.  When Jesus healed people, they ended up on hit lists.  A man born blind whose sight Jesus restored got kicked out of the synagogue.  Lazarus, whose life Jesus restored, became a target of the same conspiracy seeking to kill Jesus.  No doubt some ridiculed this ex-deaf-mute later as he related the miraculous event that happened to him.  No doubt too, the devil worked to hurl other illnesses, ailments, and afflictions at this man, hoping to get him to doubt the love of God who healed him once, but who now seemingly abandoned him.

Likewise, when we baptize an infant like Hannah, or whenever someone comes to faith through the preaching of the Word, we can be sure that where God builds His church, the devil builds a chapel nearby.  At the end of the baptismal service Luther prepared, he wrote, Remember, therefore, that it is no joke to take sides against the devil and not only to drive him away from the little child, but to burden the child with such a mighty and lifelong enemy (LW 53:101).  The devil will come after Hannah and her parents and all believers and try to make us forget God’s grace.  He’ll try to punish us for being well again.  He’ll send illnesses, ailments, afflictions, and false teachings, hoping to get us to doubt the love of God who healed us, who healed Hannah.  As he did to Job, he’ll try to isolate us from the Lord who in Baptism said to us, Ephphatha (Mark 7:34, NIV84)!

But this proves the devil’s foolishness.  He has not reckoned with the Jesus who said to baptize all nations also saying that He is always with us.  Baptism seals us to Jesus’ side.  He left that deaf-mute.  They may never have met again.  He does not leave Hannah, or any baptized Christian.  He says that where Christians are, He is.  He says that the heart of the baptized child of God is His home.  Jesus gave up His life.  He died and rose again from the dead for you.  He loved Christians that much.  Does it make any sense that He would then leave you and abandon you and forsake you?  That He would withdraw His grace?  Of course it doesn’t.  With that promise then, we tell the devil to “Shut up!”  Because we’ll get by, come hell or high water, with help from our Friend, from Jesus, who washed us clean in Baptism, who takes care of our bodies, and who preserves and protects those bodies and souls until the Last Day when He will remove us from sin forever to be with Him in heaven.  Yes indeed, we get by with help from our Friend Jesus.  Amen. 

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