Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran, Sioux Falls, SD
Pentecost 16—Sept. 9, 2018
Jesus does all things well.
1. This he helps us learn step-by-step
2. This we learn to trust also with his commands
Jesus does all things well. This is both a beautiful truth and a gross understatement. And a reality that we, in our perversity, dig our heels in about. So our Jesus not only does all things well every day, he also helps us learn that he does all things well every day.
So, let us begin with the question: where are you at right now? Energetic, or kind of tired? Feeling good about yourself or more like a loser? Your body, is it doing what you want it to do or not so much? How about your marriage, good or one step away from divorce? Where are you at, right now? Because this is where Jesus comes to you. Where you are at. And he means to lead you, step-by-step, to the other side, where you can say quietly to yourself, “yes, Jesus does all things well.” And he’s going to take you step-by-step to the other side sometimes with pain, sometimes with mind-numbing slowness, but always with compassion.
Like he did with this man in our text. Some people brought this man to Jesus and “…pleaded with him to place his hands on him.” And Jesus proceeds to immediately ignore their advice. Did you notice that? Instead, “…took him aside in private, away from the crowd.”
This makes no sense. Why doesn’t Jesus just put his hands on the man and heal him, bam!, in one second? For the same reason he doesn’t give you instant energy, bam!, when you are tired or make you feel instantly better about yourself, bam!, when you are feeling like a loser or heal your body or marriage, bam!, when it’s letting you down. Instead he does something much better—he walks you through several steps to get you to where you need to be. And where you need to be is in that place where you can look back over the days, weeks, years, and say quietly to yourself, “Yes, Jesus does all things well, in my life, too.”
For this deaf man with the speech impediment, the first step was being led away from his friends, his safety net, to being alone. You know what it feels like to be alone? “Jesus took him aside in private, away from the crowd.” But, of course, the man was not really alone. Just like you are never really alone. Jesus was there.
And then this strange, non-verbal communication, “Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears . Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.” What is up with that? Why doesn’t Jesus just say, “Be healed!” and bam!, the man would be healed? Because it is important for the man to go through several steps to get him to where he will be able to say quietly to himself, “yes, Jesus does all things well, in my life, too.”
“Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue.” Have you ever noticed that Jesus’ non-verbal communications are so often a violation of what would be expected (ie, shouting at Lazarus’ grave, touching the leper). Sometimes, with us human beings, verbal and non-verbal cues are not in harmony (ie, an apology with irritated voice and raised hands). When verbal and non-verbal cues are not in harmony, we always believe the non-verbal cues. But in this case, non-verbal cues was ALL Jesus had. So the non-verbal cues were more important than ever. And what did these non-verbal cues communicate to this man? Intimacy and gentleness. Jesus put his fingers in the man’s ears, something that people don’t normally do, unless you are a Ferengi, and if Jesus was being even a little rough, the man would have pulled back. Intimacy and gentleness. Then he touched his tongue. Very intimate, very gentle. Not just with this man. That’s the way Jesus is with you and me, every day, as well, as he once said, “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matt. 11:29)
But–no healing, not yet. Remember, step-by-step, not bam!. The next step was, “Jesus looked up to heaven and sighed.” The man would not have heard the sigh, but he would have seen it. Non-verbal communication, right. And if that is how Jesus, who never changes, felt about this man’s burdens in a sin-ruined world, how do you suppose he feels about yours? He sees you, your burdens, every day. And he sighs. For you.
And then, FINALLY! Finally, after all those steps, finally,“… he said, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means ‘Be opened!’). And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue set free, and he began to speak freely.” After an apparent lifetime of such handicaps, to suddenly be free of them—imagine how that must have felt! Ecstatic celebrating! And rightly so!
But later, in a quieter moment, I hope this man does what I hope you do every so often. Reflect. I hope he asks himself, “Why did Jesus not just go bam! and heal me instantly?”. If he does reflect, he will discover, “Well, the step-by-step way he healed me helped me learn to so much.” He will realize, “I learned that Jesus is so compassionate, and personal, and gentle. And I never would have learned it in such a deep way if Jesus just bam! healed me.”
And then the grand conclusion will explode on him like Fourth of July fireworks, “Wow, Jesus really knew what he was doing! In letting me have these handicaps in the first place, in the strange step-by-step way he healed me, he knew what he was doing! Jesus does all things well.” And maybe, just maybe, he will remember that for the next problem that is coming up. Because in this world, there is always a next problem.
Jesus does all things well. For you, too, me, too. Find a quiet moment every so often and reflect. And you will discover what every Christian discovers, “I’ve learned so much by having to deal with this addiction, this marriage, this weight issue, this cancer, this high paying and stressful job, this potty training thing. Learned so much by having to deal with it step-by-step over days, weeks, years, instead of instantly getting it fixed, bam!. ” And then you will realize, “And what I’ve learned is that Jesus is so compassionate, and personal, and gentle. I mean, things could have turned out so much worse. Step-by-step. I never would have learned all this in such a deep way if Jesus had just, bam!, fixed the problem.” Isn’t this why, as we get older, we start to lose things, mobility, hair, hearing—isn’t this Jesus’ gentle way of step-by-step loosening our grip on this life and getting us ready to go home, to heaven?
Reflect on these things. And then the grand conclusion will explode on your like the Fourth of July fireworks, “Wow, Jesus really does know what he is doing! Jesus does all things well. In my life.” Remember that when the next problem comes up. Because in this world, there is always a next problem.
And then Jesus makes a simple request, gives them a simple command. “Don’t tell anyone about this.” In fact, he didn’t just say it, he “…gave the people STRICT orders to tell no one.” He had serious reasons for wanting to keep this miracle quiet. And so what do they do? They tell everyone. To paraphrase our text a little, “The more Jesus told them not to tell anyone about this, the more people they told.”
Jesus does everything well. But these people did not. They thought they knew better. And isn’t that illogical? If Jesus does everything well, then he must have also done well when he said, “Don’t tell anyone about this.” But the people thought they knew better. Maybe they even thought they were helping Jesus. But sinning against his commands never helps.
How about you? What commands does Jesus give that you think you know better? His command about giving your firstfruits in offerings, do you know better than he and you think, giving firstfruits of my income just isn’t realistic? But if Jesus does all things well, isn’t he doing well when he gives you that command, too? Or when he says to honor and obey your parents, or our practice of letting only members come up for communion, or when the Bible teaches you how to use your sexuality, as a man, as a woman—do we think we know better? How illogical—if Jesus does all things well, then he must have also done well in giving us these commands, right?
This is why the Jesus who does all things well does one more thing well. He forgives sin better than anyone in the universe. He is able to forgive sin better than anyone because he himself let the cost for every sin be rung out of his body like a wet towel is rung out by a vicegrip-like ringer. And he rose again to prove that the cost of every sin had been completely rung out of his body. And in so doing, to make heaven the one thing, besides taxes, that you can be certain of. Only don’t throw it away by refusing to repent of your sin. Rather, struggle to do what is right, even when you fail, struggle to do what is right. Not to earn heaven—that is his gift, but as your response of love. But even this, this repenting and struggling, is something he will work in you by the Holy Spirit as you keep hearing and learning his Word.
Because, he does all things well. Which brings us back to where we started. Jesus really does do all things well. Which is both a beautiful truth and a gross understatement. And a reality that our Lord is teaching us every day. Jesus does all things well. Amen.