|Sermon Archive of The Most Rev. John T. Cahoon, Jr.
Metropolitan, Anglican Catholic Church
Trinity XII, August 30, 1998
The Wednesday evening Bible class began to read the Gospel according to St. Mark this past week. Please don't excuse yourself from coming on the grounds that we have started a new book and you missed the first session. Any time is a good time to start coming to either of the Wednesday Bible classes. You can ask any catch-up questions you want, and we always review, in case you are afraid you have missed something.
One of the things that is most evident from reading the gospels is that Jesus spent a lot of his time performing acts of physical healing. underscore the word "physical." It is clear -- especially in St. Mark -- that his ability to heal and to cast out demons was the main way he attracted people. They would come to him because they had heard about the miracles. That would make them more receptive to his preaching and teaching.
Miracles and teaching reinforce one another. Miracles attract people who then hear the teaching which explains the miracles, which in turn makes them more receptive to the possibility of miracles.
The church follows the same outline Jesus did. We offer preaching and teaching, and miracles come through the sacraments and in God's answers to our prayers. We see the major sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion performed so frequently that we become dulled to the fact that they are miracles. It is extraordinary that someone dies and rises again when he is baptized -- and that bread and wine become Christ's body and blood on the altar.
Today's miracle is taken conveniently from St. Mark. Jesus has passed through northern Palestine -- not far from the area where he grew up and where he recruited his first followers. He is far from the political and religious and intellectual capital at Jerusalem -- a good distance to the south.
Jesus arrives at the Sea of Galilee (where his first disciples had fished) by way of an area called Decapolis -- the Ten Towns. Knowing his reputation as a healer, some people bring him a man who is deaf and has an impediment in his speech. His two problems are quite obviously connected. They ask Jesus to lay his hand upon him to heal him.
Jesus takes him away from the crowd. In this case he does not merely lay his hand on the man's head, he specifically touches the affected parts of his body. First he puts his fingers into his ears. Then he spits on his hand and touches the man's tongue. Then he looks up into the sky and sighs and says "Ephphatha."
Jesus spoke a dialect of Hebrew called Aramaic. "Ephphatha" is the Aramaic word for "open up" -- "be opened." St. Mark wrote in Greek, but he leaves this actual word Jesus said untranslated to give it particular emphasis. "Ephphatha" is a command.
What happens shows that Jesus has authority over illness, and that he can remove it at his command. St. Mark reports, "And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain."
Jesus immediately tells the people who are watching not to talk about the miracle. He might have been afraid that the miracle would call so much attention to him that the government might decide he was a threat. They might put him in jail before he could even get to Jerusalem.
In any event, the astonished witnesses don't pay any attention to him. The more he tells them to keep quiet, the more they talk about it. They tell anyone who will listen, "He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak."
His ability to perform the healing and to show command over illness was remarkable enough. But through the Old Testament prophets, God had also promised his people that some day he would interfere in history to save them. One of the signs of his coming was that the deaf would hear.
So the miracle of restoring hearing and speech indicated that Jesus was more than just an ordinary wonderworking magic man. It was looking more and more likely that he was the Messiah for whom the Hebrew people had waited for centuries.
It is no wonder that the crowd could not keep themselves from talking. What Jesus did showed that God had not forgotten them and that his kingdom and his power had finally come down to them from heaven.
God never forgets us either. He makes himself known to us clearly and specifically in the Bible which is his word. He shows us his miraculous power through the sacraments of the church. He reveals that he is our father who loves us in the way he orders our lives and in the way he answers our prayers.
If we really believe all of that is so, we should be as unrestrained as the crowd was. We say we deplore the corruption and decaying moral values of our society. But we can't just condemn, because we know there is an answer, and the answer is Jesus. When was the last time you tried to bring somebody to church where they can get to know him too?
God wants us to tell everybody, "He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak." If we don't tell the ones we know, who is going to?
The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more than ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle: II Corinthians 3: 4 -9
The Gospel: St. Mark 7: 31 - 37