The Word Comes In
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Why do we worship the way we do? Why do we follow the liturgy week after week? Why don't we just take turns saying what we feel about God? Why is it that we worship according to the holy liturgy? We worship the way we do because Jesus does for us in the Divine Service what He does for the deaf and dumb man. He opens our ears to hear His Word. He unties our tongues to speak rightly, to speak His Word. One of the great things about our hymnal is that you see the Scripture verses listed next to the words. It teaches us that when we speak and sing as we worship, we are speaking, singing, and hearing God's Word. It’s not our own thoughts, nor is it merely the stuff the pastor likes to say. We hear the Word of God, and that Word opens our ears and loosens our tongues.
Like the world, our ears are so full of our own ideas that we can't hear God. We have all sorts of things to say about Him, but that's just the witless mumbling of tongue-tied sinners. When people talk about God, they say things like, “Oh, He's a nice guy.” “He's loving, and people are basically good, so He just ignores bad things you do.” The world does not know God. But what about you? When you talk about God, do you say what the Lord says? Or do you just make up things that sound good? If you're like me, at the first chance you get to talk about the Lord, you just kind of mumble something. So Jesus must open our ears and loosen our tongues.
Jesus saves you by taking you aside from the world and opening your ears and untying your tongue. But what can get through the sin filling your ears and loosen tongues that are stiff with silly talk? In the healing of this man, our Lord shows exactly how He saves you. Why does he stick his fingers in the man's ear and touch his tongue with spit? Why does He lift up His eyes to heaven and sigh? Remember that Jesus is the Word made flesh. When He sticks His fingers in the man's ears, He is putting the Word into them! When He spits and touches the man's tongue, He is showing that the only thing that should be in your mouth is His Word! By putting His fingers in the man's ears, Jesus is plugging them to anything else. By opening His ears and loosening this man's tongue, the Lord gives to Him the Word of salvation. “Ephphatha! Be opened!” The man's ears and mouth are opened! The Lamb of God let His blood spill forth for the salvation of the world. This sacrifice opens the Father's ears to your prayers. This sacrifice opens His mouth to speak forgiveness and blessing.
With fingers in ears and spitting and touching his tongue, Jesus heals the mean of his deafness and silence. These actions all point to what we call the external Word of God. Your salvation and forgiveness and righteousness are all outside of yourself. The world is full of preachers whose message to you is to look inside your heart to try to feel whether Jesus is there. They will point you to your intentions and your efforts and your good works. But Jesus opens the ears and mouth of this man. This man could not hear what Jesus says, nor could he repeat it. He cannot change himself. He cannot make himself hear or talk. Only Jesus the Word can do that. Don't go looking for Jesus in your heart! He comes to you at the font with the water and word of Baptism, the very spit of Jesus! He comes to you from the pastor who delivers the forgiveness of sins in absolution and preaching, saying, “Be opened.” He comes to you at the altar where His body and blood are put into your mouth, just as His fingers and spit were put into the deaf and mute man. You will not find Jesus or hear Him or speak rightly from within yourself. But He comes to you, from outside yourself, in these holy means of grace. It is the Word which opens your ears and the Sacraments which fill you with Jesus.
Isaiah prophesied that the deaf would hear God's Word. When Jesus shows up, the deaf do hear! But this is much more than a miracle for a deaf man. It teaches you that Christ opens your ears and mouths so you may hear His Word and speak and sing His praises. With this Word, given at font, altar, and pulpit, have no doubt: your sins are forgiven; you are the Father’s dear child in Christ. As He has taught you in His Word, boldly pray: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise.” And He is gracious to answer, “Ephphatha! Be opened!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.