In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus is traveling through Sidon on the way to the Sea of Galilee, but that makes no sense. You would never do this. This is effectively traveling to Fredericksburg and picking up some crab dip in Baltimore on the way to Fredericksburg. It's the wrong direction. No one would do this. Well no one would do this unless you had a very very important reason to be there. So what’s the reason? What do we have? All he does there is meet with one man!! Well now if you were going way out of your way to meet with one man it had better be an important one. There better be a huge benefit in it for you to go meet this person. So who is this man? The man is a deaf man with a speech issue. Now the world in the first century was a tough place for a person with special needs like this man. He was most likely closely cared for and hidden away with family or he was a beggar unable to find work. So socially this is one person that there was absolutely no advantage in Jesus meeting with. Not socially. Not politically. Not financially. They have almost certainly never met, are not family, are not even friends of friends or acquaintances of acquaintances. This is what Jesus went way of out of the way on his journey to do. To meet this man.
The text says that the man was brought to Jesus. This is not a time where it says the crowds were bringing lots of people and we learn about one, as far as we know this was the only person brought to Jesus. So if its way out of the way, if there’s no perceived advantage then this must be an occasion where the public nature of the miracle was how Jesus was going to find acceptance and influence in the region.
Now this man was having trouble using his speech and his hearing. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to consider all the ways in which we have different issues using our hearing and our speech. How often do we hear someone say something that tempts us to sin? To misuse our hearing. This starts when we are young with the eternal “I double dare you…” and it evolves into the eternal “who could possibly find out?” Our mouths are definitely not immune from this either are they?
About a week ago I saw a distracted driver miss a turn arrow over near Potomac Mills. Then the woman driving the car immediately behind the distracted one got out of her car and approached the window of the distracted driver. Now I could not hear what she was saying but she was pointing an awful lot and I’m suspicious if she was saying anything kind or if perhaps she was misusing her speech. This goes on to cursing and rumors and lying and on and on the ways in which we can sin by misusing our speech.
So maybe we’re in even worse shape than the man that Jesus was seeking. He couldn’t use his ears or speech fully and us? We abuse it.
So as I love to ask, Here’s Jesus in an unlikely place, with an unlikely new acquaintance. What does he do?
Jesus sometimes heals by speaking, sometimes by touch, sometimes sith nothing but a promise fulfilled. Here Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears. Then he spits in his hand and places that hand into the man’s mouth and commands that his senses “be opened.” Of all the ways that Jesus heals people this might be up there with the most bizzare, in my opinion.
Think about it this way, when Jesus requests to meet the man, this was very unusual for this man and he had to be very curious what was up. Now Jesus takes him off alone and they can’t traditionally communicate. There was just no sign language invented yet. So Jesus places his fingers in the man’s ears and the man knew that Jesus was going to try to heal his ears. Next, at this point in history spit was believed to have healing properties. So Jesus spits in his hand and places it in the man’s mouth. Now the man knew Jesus was going to attempt to heal the man’s speech, as well. Jesus communicates with the man in a way he could understand. Then Jesus says aloud, “Be opened” and the words of Jesus were the first thing the man ever heard.
So what does all this have to do with you? Similarly, what makes this text, this miracle so unique and beautiful is it reminds us of the full contact way in which Jesus encounters and heals us as well. Jesus takes our ears, the same ears used to tempt us into sin and he uses them to strengthen our faith when we hear God’s Word read and preached. Jesus takes our mouths, the same mouths we use to curse and tear down our neighbor, and he blesses them to share his Word with one another and to build one another back up. He takes our sense of touch, the same touch that we can use to harm and to steal, and he blesses it to feel the cool waters of baptism marking us as his children. He takes our sight, the same sight that takes in all kinds of deviance in our culture and media and he blesses it to see his hand at work in the world around us. He takes our sense of taste, that we can use to overindulge and covet, and he blesses it with his own body and blood and washes all of our sins away. Jesus encounters us broken and rebelling, abusing our senses all the time. He communicated with you exactly so you hear his voice as the man in our text does. There hearing the voice of the Savior we find healing and hope, forgiveness and salvation. I think the crowds were right. He has done all things well. Amen.