Trinity 12 2021
August 22, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
“O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall declare your praise.” These words from Psalm 51 are frequently sung in the daily prayer offices of Matins and Vespers as a profound part of the Christian’s sacrifice of prayer and praise. It highlights the reality that in order to praise God our lips must be opened by God Himself, that is it God who enables faith and a faithful response to His grace.
Our Gospel reading this morning text tells us of the miracle wherein Jesus heals a man who is deaf and mute and illustr ates the spiritual reality by means of the physical healing. After this man’s ears were opened and his tongue was loosed by the Son of God, the man spoke plainly. More precisely Mark tells us that the man spoke “rightly.” Orthos is the Greek word here. It means to act in conformity with a norm or standard, rightly, correctly. Our words Orthopedic (right feet), Orthodontics (right teeth), and orthodoxy (right praise, correct teaching) come from this word. The text tells us that he had a speech impediment, which makes sense if he is deaf and cannot hear his own words. But after Jesus’ encounter with him, the deaf and mute man spoke orthos, that is, he spoke rightly.
But it is more than he could now speak clearly or plainly. That the healed man now spoke rightly necessarily means that before he spoke wrongly, out of conformity with the norm or standard. Yes, through muddled words, but again, it is more than that. In other words, there is a standard and the Lord can tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong because He does all things well.
G.K. Chesterton, a prominent English writer, philosopher, and lay theologian from 100 years ago argued that this is our great problem. We have all been asking with increasing frequency “what is wrong with the world?” What is wrong with the world is that we do not ask what is right. We do not recognize that there is a standard. We can all see that things have gone wrong, but how can it be set right if we do not know what right is? There’s an old Star Trek episode where a woman had crash landed on a planet and she was badly hurt. Some aliens found here and healed her, but didn’t know what a human was supposed to look like, so she ends up being all mangled and misaligned.
This is part of the part of the problem. If we try to fix it for ourselves, we’re going to mess it up. But we don’t always recognize what is right. Because we do not believe that it is the Lord who sets that standard. We believe that we get to set it, that we get to define who we are and what reality should be like. Because we don’t actually trust like we should that the Lord does all things well and causes all things for good and for the good of our faith. (based upon G.K. Chesterton’s, What Is Wrong with the World?”).
The history of sin is the history of thinking we know better than God and His Word. Eve couldn’t understand, she was ignorant of the reason for God’s command to not eat the fruit. She could not see for herself why God would command this since it was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and capable of making her wise. Why then not do what she knew to be good since God’s Word and command didn’t make any sense. She thought God was wrong about what was good or that God didn’t really understand. So she took matters in her own hands. And her husband who was with her let her do it.
That is what you do every time you sin. You refuse God’s Word for your own wisdom. God’s Law is always good. His Word is always trustworthy. Sometimes to your fallen reason, it seems contrary to what is good. That is because you’re ignorant. You are like the friends of the healed man, thinking, “What could be wrong with telling people about Jesus healing this deaf man?” Jesus had opened the man’s ears and loosened his tongue. So now he spoke rightly. It was a miracle. They wanted to tell others about it. They did not understand why Jesus told them to be quiet about it. And since they couldn’t understand, they ignored Him. They were ignorant of the reason, they chose their own path. What harm could come, they thought, from telling others about the compassionate power of God in Jesus? Such a thing seemed not only victimless but good and even necessary despite the Lord’s command.
And here was the problem. They were telling people that He was a miracle worker, which was true enough, but they weren’t telling people that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It wasn’t heresy, but it was misleading and incomplete. This confusion about who Jesus is, what His mission and purpose are, makes His mission and Ministry more difficult. When He is brought in front of Herod at His trial, that is what Herod wants. He had heard of Jesus performing miracles. He wanted to see a trick.
The real miracle Jesus came to perform is to make all things right, bodies and souls and all creation. He came to reconcile all of humanity back to His Father through His death and resurrection. He came to give His life as a sacrifice and ransom and to rescue us out of Hell. But Herod doesn’t get that. And that might well be the fault of these people who blabbed about the healing of the deaf man when Jesus told them not to. In that regard, the people who brought the deaf mute to be healed didn’t speak rightly.
These things are a warning to us. God’s Word is never arbitrary. Never let ignorance be the reason for doing something. When God’s Law seems contrary to what is good, it’s best simply to repent and submit to God’s Word. When you don’t, when you insist upon your way, you hurt yourself and hurt others. There are no victimless sins. When He says don’t tell people, He means it and He means it for our good because He does all things well. When He commands do this, or don’t this, He means it, and He means it for your good because He does all things well. Whether you completely understand is beside the point. He opens your lips to declare His praise, not your understanding.
Through it all the Lord has compassion. The sorrow and pain of the deaf man moves Him to act out of His great compassion even though it will result in making His ministry and mission harder. The fact that they don’t receive His Word, that they take the miracle and run, that they don’t fully understand who He is, does not stop Him or lessen His compassion. He still comes knowing that you will hurt Him, that you will complicate matters, that you will betray Him in your sinfulness. He knows you will open your mouth when you shouldn’t and speak wrongly. He groans in sorrow and frustration over your confusion and self-righteousness. He sighs in grief over your sins and self-inflicted pain. He takes your sorrow, your sin, your blame into Himself in order to heal and save. He is the friend of sinners.
That is more astonishing than any other miracle. He is faithful to you even unto death and risen from the dead to bring you to Himself alive and healed, body and soul, on the last day. For He does do all things well. And proclaiming this, we speak rightly.