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Faith Is God's Work - Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

[Mark 7:31-35] Then Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Faith Is the Work of God

“His ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” Christ encounters you. Your ears are opened by His Word. Your tongue confesses what you believe.

Faith has two parts. Faith is the faith that is believing. You believe in, you trust in, Christ. Faith is also the faith that is believed. We believe and confess the Christian faith. So, faith is a belief – the Christian faith. And faith is believing – I believe, trust in Christ.

The faith is preached to you. You believe it. You confess the faith that is believed. You hear, believe, and speak. Scripture says, “With the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved”; “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”; “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [Romans 10:9-17]

But, “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?” And, “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” For, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” [Romans 10:9-17]

In the Gospel today, Jesus opened a man’s ears to hear and freed a man’s tongue to speak. The man was deaf. And the man had a speech impediment – he could not speak rightly, clearly. This would indicate, most likely, that the man was deaf from birth – or from before learning to speak. We know from experience that a person who cannot hear their whole life has a very hard time forming the words which they have never heard.

He was deaf. His speech was impeded. They brought him to Jesus [v.32]. Jesus, by physical contact, by prayerful intercession, and by His Word spoken made the man to hear and to speak plainly.

Jesus, who is God and man, whose flesh is God’s flesh, whose spit is God’s spit, stuck His fingers into the deaf man’s hears. He spit and touched His spit to the man’s tongue. Jesus prayed a sigh for the man – “looking up to heaven, He sighed” – and Jesus spoke His Word, “Be opened”.

By physical communion with Christ, Christ has power. By Christ’s intercessory prayer, Christ has power. And by Christ’s Word – which is God’s Word – Christ has power. “The man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” (‘Plainly’ in Greek is ‘orthos’ – it means ‘rightly’, ‘correctly’)

To those who are born deaf – or to those who become deaf or tongue tied due to stroke or injury or age – this encounter with Christ directs us to hope in the resurrection of the body. Jesus will raise your body on the Last Day. He will fix your hearing. He will fix your speaking.

But, in fact, this encounter with Christ teaches us even more. What does our Old Testament lesson say? “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” [Isaiah 29:18]

Our human nature is broken by original sin. By nature, we are all born deaf. Deaf to faith in the true God. Deaf to faith in Christ. Deaf due to sinful corruption which does not want to hear. A person cannot hear, believe, and confess saving faith unless his ears have been encountered by the Word of Christ which has power to heal and open.

They brought you – someone brought you – they brought you, a child deaf to God, to the water of Baptism. In Baptism you were baptized into Christ; Christ encapsulated you in the water and the Word [Ephesians 5:26]. Christ grabbed hold of you through this physical means.

The Word of Christ was spoken to you. His powerful Word was taught to you and preached to you. Christ, at the right hand of God, has interceded for you –sighing for you in prayer to God like He did for the deaf man.

Christ has opened your ears by His powerful Word so that you who were deaf can now hear and believe His Word. And now believing in Christ, you also now confess that belief in Christ – “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, etc.” “With the heart one believes and is justified; and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Just as hearing and speaking was the work of Christ alone for the deaf man, so also your faith in the true God that you believe and confess is the work of Christ alone. Christ has opened your ears and loosened your tongue by His powerful Word and Sacraments.

And Christ continues to do so even today. His Word is still spoken to your ears. And He encounters you physically – even on your tongue! – by the bread and wine, His Body and Blood, in the Lord’s Supper.

Your faith in Christ continues daily to be the work of Christ. What does this mean? It means that the endurance of your faith does not depend on your strength, your goodness, or on your circumstances, whether hard or easy. No matter your strength or circumstances, your faith is alive by what Christ does for you here in this place. Faith continues to be His work.

And this faith which we believe is a good faith. It confesses that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life” [John 3:16]. That God isn’t willing that any should perish but has given His own Son, Jesus in whom we believe, to bear the sin of the world and to die for the sins of man in all man’s place.

Our faith says that God has worked for you by the concrete action of giving His Son as the world’s atoning sacrifice. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” [John 3:17]. And, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:2].

Christ has made you hear, believe, and confess the right faith. And, through you, Christ has now encountered others and has had His fingers in their ears too. And maybe they never come here. Maybe they never quite get it all the way. But, nevertheless, Christ has been in their ears, or in their eyes, or has held their hand through you.

And, in the day of trouble, we have great hope that their tongue knows to call upon that God, that Lord Jesus, that they know of because of their mom or dad, their grandma or grandpa, or their friend or aunt or uncle. Christ heals many deaf ears and loosens many tongues to call upon Him in time of need. He’s not desiring that any perish [2 Peter 3:9].

Thanks be to God that we who once were deaf to God can now hear, believe, and confess rightly faith in His Son Jesus – faith confessed by word and deed; and for our sake and others – all by the Word and work of Jesus Christ alone. Amen.

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