Christ demonstrates two qualities in the Gospel today that we do well to consider. First, He sees this man who is unable to speak or to hear, and He is moved with love and compassion for him in his terrible situation. And secondly, He heals the man. He opens the man’s ears and releases his tongue from its silent bondage. So we see in Christ not only a boundless mercy and love but also the almighty power that allows Him to do such things.
We see in Him both a willingness to bear with those who are in the dumps, whose situation in life is desperate and terrible; and we also see in Him the same creative power that was at work when the worlds were first created. Both then and now, Christ uses words to create and recreate. For He is the same One who spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, saying: “My Word does not return to Me void, but it accomplishes the thing for which I send it.”
Baptized saints in Christ, these two qualities, the love and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also His almighty and creative power, ought to produce in us an immense amount of comfort when we consider them together. That we do not derive much comfort from them on a daily basis only shows how far we have fallen in unbelief, and how far separated from God we are in sin and death. Our old, evil nature is not moved by any of this. We can hear about the marvelous love and mercy of Christ time after time, week after week, and still we think Him to be a cruel judge, someone who does not wish us good tidings and blessings. When we are plagued with sin and temptation, do we turn to Christ for mercy and forgiveness? Do we run to our pastors and beg them to absolve us and to set our consciences at ease. Or do we even see ourselves as sinners who are in need of God’s mercy?
Or we hear of His miraculous signs and wonders, how He heals a man who is deaf and mute, and yet we are convinced that He cannot help us in our own predicaments. We are convinced that it is all up to us, that we must be our own saviors and rescuers. We are like people who have fallen over board, and though a coast guard vessel is close by ready to help us, we ignore it and insist on swimming back to shore on our own. We are creatures who are in dire need of help every minute of our lives, but who constantly insist on helping ourselves rather than rely on the help that comes from above in Christ Jesus. We worry and fret our lives away, soaking our pillows with our tears, because we refuse to take any comfort or joy in the fact that God is almighty and powerful, so powerful in fact, that He can simply speak a few words and restore the hearing and speech of this man in the Gospel today.
Do not be unbelieving but believing! O Lord, open our eyes that we may see your kind and merciful heart. O Lord, open our ears that we may hear with faith the marvelous things that you have done for us and continue to do. O Lord, open our lips, and our mouths will declare Your praise. Did you not demonstrate before the whole world both your almighty power and your love and compassion on the holy and life-giving cross? Indeed, there You manifested Your almighty power by emptying yourself of all power for us and for our salvation.
Like a lamb led to the slaughter, You submitted Yourself to the cruel death of crucifixion. You let your holy hands and feet be pierced with the nails of hatred and unbelief. You let your side flow with water and blood at the thrust of a spear. Your tongue, the words of which give life and salvation to those who hear them, was paralyzed in silence. Your ears, which love to hear the prayers of your people, were filled instead with mockery and the shouts of disgust and hatred! All of it done, all of it suffered out of pure love and mercy for sinful men. Nowhere in the world, at any time as there ever been such a demonstration of divine love and compassion, not to this magnitude. Do not doubt the love and mercy of Christ. Only look to His suffering and death for proof of it.
This love is unparalleled, even in the relationship which is modeled after it—the union of husband and wife. There, in an imperfect way, that love is modeled as husbands give of themselves to their wives in loving service. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” As wives submit to their own husbands, they show forth the submission and self-surrender of the Holy Church to her divine Husband Christ Jesus. But again, this love is demonstrated only in a small and imperfect way in comparison to the love that Christ showed towards His Church and towards all sinners in His bitter death. For while husbands often fail in their relationship of self-sacrificial love to their wives, our Lord was faithful unto death.
From our Gospel today we learn that we can indeed rely on our Lord Jesus for mercy and for His almighty help and protection. See how much He cares for those whose bodies and souls are ravaged by sin? See how mighty is even one little word from the mouth of Christ, that it can bring forth a new creation from the old, dying one. Shall we then doubt His strength and power in times of distress and need? We have no reason to. Shall we doubt His mercy and love when we fall into sin and error? He loves us and has compassion on sinners just like us.
If this Gospel is not proof enough of that, then as I said before, look to the cross. Look to the shed blood of Jesus and you will soon see that God loves you more than He loves Himself even. The devil would like to fill your minds and hearts with doubt and despair when things go wrong. He uses your illnesses and sicknesses and trials in life to tear your faith and heart away from Christ, but God uses it to make it stronger. He wants us to be firmly anchored in His promises, not swimming around in the mire of unbelief which fills our hearts.
His Word did not return to Him void when He opened the ears and loosed the tongue of this man in the Gospel today. All He said was “Ephphatha, that is, be opened.” Neither did His Word return to Him void when He washed you in the blessed font. There again, He said: “Be opened.” And thus you became a new creation in the Name of the Triune God. “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” His Word accomplished the thing for which He sent it. Your sin and guilt was washed away, and continues to be washed away in His cleansing blood, each day as you drown the old evil nature with all its lusts and desires, and as your new man arises forth and lives before God in righteousness and purity forever. What marvelous works indeed! What boundless mercy He has shown you in making you His dear child and taking your sins away! Where else will man find such mercy and power but in Christ alone, in His self-offering unto death, in His glorious resurrection and ascension for us? Amen.