Jesus Does Everything Well
Sunday, September 5, 2021
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Jesus Sighs and Saves
We are quickly arriving at another anniversary. 9/11 will be here in a few days. And 20 years ago I remember the tragedies that happened on that day. One of them was what happened on flight 93. There were terrorists who tried to use that jet to cause untold losses of life. But their plans were thwarted. And this morning, I’m not bringing this up so that we can go into detail about that event. If you’d like to know more in detail, I invite you to head out to Somerset county in PA. This morning, I speak about it because of how I heard it spoken of years ago. Years ago, there were many who spoke about the 44 souls that were lost. When there are tragedies like this—whether it’s planes in the air or boats on the sea, we hear about the loss of souls. It’s a reminder to us that these people were more than placeholders and more than animals. They were people with souls. And there is a real need to emphasize this. And we emphasize this in our sermons pretty much every Sunday. We see Sunday after Sunday how Jesus cares for souls. But this Sunday it’s different. This Sunday we have the privilege of seeing that and how Jesus cares for bodies. For we, as humans, are both soul and body. In Mark 7, we read: “31 Again, leaving the region of Tyre, he went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had difficulty speaking and begged Jesus to lay his hand on him. 33 So he took him away from the crowd in private. After putting his fingers in the man’s ears and spitting, he touched his tongue. 34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply” (Mark 7:31–34 CSB17)
In these words we meet a man who was deaf.1 And along with his deafness, he could barely speak.2 And we are told that there are people who bring the man to Jesus. And what follows seems strange. But it’s actually really smart. First of all, he takes him away. This is a man who can only perceive the world around him with his sight, smell, and touch. And Jesus wanted this man to not be distracted. He wanted his full, complete attention to be on him. So he takes him away from the crowds and people.
Next, Jesus ministers to the man in ways that if I did them in these days of COVID, I’d get in trouble. First, he takes his fingers and puts them in the man’s ears. He let’s the man know that this is what he is focusing in on and what he is there for. He is there to heal his ears. And, again, notice that it’s by touch. This is how the man perceives the world around him. Second, he spits and touches the man’s tongue. He uses touch to communicate to the man that this too is what Jesus is going to address: His tongue and speech.
He communicates to the man in the way the man understands the world around him. And what he does next catches us off guard. We would expect that the next action he would take would be to heal the man. Instead, he sighs.3 And my dear friends in Christ, there is meaning and beauty in that sigh. He doesn’t sigh out of anger, as I admit, sometimes I do. It’s a sigh of sadness. Look what the fall into sin has done to Jesus’ creation. God created Adam and Eve to have all their senses and use them fully. But the fall changed that picture. Some people are born with weaknesses. And one by one, if we are strong and healthy, each of us over time has our senses slowly taken away from us. Before Jesus heals the man, Jesus grieves over this fact and over this man.
And in this action we see Jesus as our Savior. For there are times in our lives that we commit our own sins of omission. There are times we do not sit down and sigh. There are times we do not simply acknowledge where our bodies are at in our sinful, broken world. And there are times we do not acknowledge this in others too. I once had a shut-in couple. Both the husband and the wife had sizable health problems. And each of them was scared not as much about dying, but about getting more sick to the point where they couldn’t take care of each other. And after they shared their fears with me, I spent some time making a list for them of the burdens they had in their lives. And when I made that list for them, the wife began to cry. And the reason why she cried was that she spent so much time surviving that she didn’t spend time sighing. She didn’t spend the time to grieve what being taken from here month by month. We too can fall into that trap. We can be so busy surviving that we don’t sigh, for ourselves, for others.
Jesus here shows how he is our Savior. And the primary focus here isn’t this man’s soul. And, yes, it’s true that he is also concerned about the man’s soul. But the primary focus here is his body. He sighs. He sighs in our place for the times we should have seen and sighed and grieved, but didn’t. He sighed for you and me.4 Jesus sighs. He sighs for the sadness and hardship done to our bodies. But he does more: “34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed deeply and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”). 35 Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. 36 He ordered them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more they proclaimed it.” (Mark 7:34–36 CSB17)
Jesus sighs. But he also saves. And, again, notice the context. He saves the man’s body. He takes the man aside. He spits and touches the man’s tongue. Then he makes sure that the man is looking at him and only at him so that he can see Jesus’ mouth. Then he says the word, “ethpatach,”5 ‘be opened.’ And we are told that the man was rescued from the “prison of his tongue.”6 His tongue was imprisoned. How the man wanted to hear, but couldn’t. How the man wanted to speak, but was not able. But Jesus doesn’t just sigh for his body, he also saves it.
And this is also true for us. Jesus saves our bodies. But here too, there is a temptation to sin that we face. It is tempting to conclude that our identities are what we are able to do, not who we are. The football player in high school is known as that guy—at least until he is injured and cannot get out on the field anymore. Grandma loves her lawn care. And she feels demoralized and worthless that she cannot get out and pull the weeds around her flowers and mow the lawn anymore. We fall into this trap that we can find our identity in what we do, instead of who we are.
And that’s why, in such a beautiful way, Jesus saves our bodies. He saves them, not always by healing them in the perfect way that we might want. Instead, he saves them by baptizing them. Yes, it’s not just our souls that are baptized. It’s our bodies too. And with that comes the promise that, since the name of the Triune God is on me, if I am not able to do what I used to, or never was able to do what others were able to do, that is not my identity. My identity is that I’m a child of God.
But in baptism there more. There is the promise that he will serve our bodies. Each of us protects what belongs to us. How much more so is this true of our Triune God. In those waters of baptism he put his name on us. And since that’s true, he will not abandon us. He will watch over and serve our weak, frail, lowly bodies with his angels “so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psa. 91:12 CSB17)
He baptizes our bodies. With his angels he serves our bodies. And finally, in his own good time, he saves our bodies. Sometimes that may be on this side of heaven. Our Lord does work through amazing advances in medical care. But, fully, completely, perfectly, he will save our bodies the Last Day. For on that day he will raise our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body.
So, it’s good and proper to speak about souls. We need to remember that we are different from the animals in the field. But, it is good to look at these parts of the bible too. For, as humans, we are have bodies. And in that context, Jesus sighs and Jesus saves.
1 “ⲕⲱⲫⲟⲛ” (Mark 7:32 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲙⲟⲅⲓⲗⲁⲗⲟⲛ” (Mark 7:32 GNT-ALEX)
3 “ⲉⲥⲧⲉⲛⲁⲝⲉ̅” (Mark 7:34 GNT-ALEX)
4 cf. Heb. 5:7
5 אֶתְפְּתַח, ܐܶܬ݂ܦ݁ܰܬ݈݁ܚ
6 “ⲇⲉⲥⲙⲟⲥⲧⲏⲥⲅⲗⲱⲥⲥⲏⲥ” (Mark 7:35 GNT-ALEX)