The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2018
The Most Important Evaluation of All!
Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever stopped to notice how often the process of evaluation plays a role in our lives? When I was looking for a dentist in the Petaluma area I visited two dental offices. It didn’t take long to get an email from both of them asking me to fill out a survey evaluating various aspects of my visit. The same thing happened when I had a medical procedure done at Santa Rosa Memorial a few months back. The evaluation they asked me to fill out was even more extensive! If you go to McDonald’s or Burger King, if you go to the Post Office their receipt usually has a link where you can go to evaluate how they did.
The flip side of that same coin reminds us of how often we are evaluated by others. If you are in school or if you can remember when you were in school you know that students go through a number of evaluations. Every time you take a test, every time you turn in a term paper, every time you receive a report card you are being evaluated. For some people their employer may automatically evaluates them on an annual basis. They are evaluated on things such as performance, attendance, communication and teamwork.
As much as the evaluation process is a regular part of our lives, we all understand that some evaluations are just more important than others, aren’t they? I don’t want to sound disrespectful in any way, but evaluating how “friendly” the server is when they bring you your hamburger and diet Coke does not seem as important to me as evaluating how our elected officials are doing so that we can vote accordingly.
As we turn our attention today to this portion of Mark chapter seven we have an opportunity to observe an evaluation that took place. It is an evaluation of Jesus and His work. This morning, my friends, I would like us to study this text under the theme: The Most Important Evaluation of All. There are two things we want to see this morning. First, let’s see the evaluation that the people gave to Jesus here in Mark chapter seven. Then, let’s stop to examine what kind of evaluation we are giving to Jesus in our lives today.
It’s obvious from the opening verses of our text that the people in the region of the Decapolis had either seen— or at least heard about— the healing power of the Rabbi from Nazareth. Therefore, when they heard that Jesus was now in their area Mark tells us, “…some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.” Note the confidence that these people had in the power of Jesus. They “begged” Jesus to simply place His hand on this man— fully expecting that this deaf man who could hardly speak would be miraculously healed!
What did Jesus do? How did He respond to their request? Unlike so many of the so-called “miracle workers” today who seem to seek the spotlight for themselves and crave the attention (and offerings?) of others we are told that Jesus took this man aside— away from the crowd, away from the spotlight. To me this highlights the deep compassion and the personal concern that Jesus has for each individual who needs His help.
Could Jesus have simply placed His hand on this man and healed him? Could Jesus have simply spoken the words, “Be healed!” and this man would have instantly been able to both hear clearly and speak plainly? Of course! What did Jesus do? Mark tells us, “Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven with a deep sigh and said to him, ‘Ephphatha!’ (which means, ‘Be opened!’). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosed and he began to speak plainly.”
I think that the manner in which Jesus healed this man was directly related to the man’s personal situation. Imagine what it must have been like for this deaf man to be taken to see Jesus. Since he could not hear did this man even know where he was being taken and why? Since he could not hear did this man even know what his friends were asking Jesus to do for him? I think those are valid questions to ask. I think that the fact that this man was deaf was why Jesus healed this man the way He did! By putting His fingers into this man’s ears Jesus was personally communicating to him what He was about to do. By placing some spittle (which in that day and age was considered to be a curative) on this man’s tongue Jesus was personally communicating with this deaf man what He was about to do. And by looking up to heaven and sighing deeply Jesus was personally communicating with this deaf man that the healing he was about to receive was a miraculous gift from heaven!
With that in mind let’s focus on the main truth I want us all to take home with us today, name, what kind of evaluation did the people give to Jesus as soon as this man was healed? Mark shares that evaluation with us when he says in our text, “People were overwhelmed with amazement. ‘He has done everything well/correctly,’ they said. ‘He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” The people’s positive “evaluation” of Jesus is certainly not difficult for us to understand. After all, they had just seen Jesus perform a glorious miracle! But, since the people had such a positive evaluation of Jesus, why did Jesus “command them not to tell anyone”? The reason for this command, my friends, was due to the fact that Jesus did not want to be known or seen simply as a “miracle worker.” While Jesus’ compassion for people such as this man led Him to heal their physical problems that is not the main reason why our Lord came into our world!
Jesus’ ability and Jesus’ willingness to miraculously heal physical ailments such as being deaf or blind or mute were designed to reveal to the people that Jesus is the Messiah who came into this world to heal us of our spiritual problems— being spiritually deaf, spiritually blind and spiritually dead! Jesus’ ability and Jesus’ willingness to heal these physical problems were designed to reveal to the people that He is the fulfillment of what the prophets said the Messiah would do. Remember the words of Isaiah that we read just a short while ago, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6a). (On this point see also Matthew 11:1-6) All of Jesus’ miracles pointed to the fact that He is the eternal Son of God and this world’s only Savior from sin.
As glorious, as wonderful, as awesome as it was that Jesus healed people such as this man here in our text, it all pales in comparison to the spiritual healing that Jesus the Christ, the long-awaited Promised Messiah, has secured for all people— including you and me. From our vantage point as the New Testament children of God we are able to look back through the pages of Scripture and see the entire ministry of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In a relatively short amount of time we could sit down and read the Bible’s account of Jesus’ birth, His life, His death, His physical resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven. Over the course of just one worship service we are not only reminded of the amazing grace which led Jesus to take all of our sins and all of our guilt to the cross (Pointing to the cross) where He endured the punishment that we deserve, but during the course of that same worship service we are assured that purely by grace through faith in what Jesus has done for us His righteousness and His holiness are given to us as a free gift from God so that we can live forever in our heavenly Father’s home! If we were asked to give an “evaluation” of what Jesus has done for us, all we would need to do is look up to this cross and we could certainly echo the evaluation that is recorded here in our text, “He has done everything well!” (Pointing to the cross)
When you and I are sitting here in God’s house surrounded by our brothers and sisters in the faith that’s an easy evaluation to give, isn’t it? But what about last week when we were out with our friends? What about tomorrow when we are at work or at school or back to the regular routine of our lives? What kind of “evaluation” of Jesus and His work do we express outside of this building?
Our evaluation of Jesus and His work includes remembering that now that Jesus’ work of redemption is finished, now that God’s Plan of Salvation for this world is completely revealed right here in His holy Word, Jesus no longer commands us to keep quiet about who He is and what He has done! Now Jesus says, “Go! Go and make disciples of all nations by faithfully proclaiming My Word and by faithfully administering My Sacraments.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Now Jesus says to us, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Now Jesus says to us, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Hardly a day goes by, my friends, when we do not evaluate someone or get evaluated by someone. It is a regular part of our lives. Because of that it is also not difficult for us to understand that some evaluations are simply more important than others. With that in mind remember how that same truth applies to us as brothers and sisters of Jesus. Every time we gather together here in the house of our God we are expressing our evaluation of Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. Every time we place our offering on the altar of our Lord we are expressing our evaluation of Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. Every time we follow Jesus’ command and share our faith with someone else we are expressing our evaluation of Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. Every time we stand up for the Truth of Scripture, every time we refuse to apologize when the world accuses us of being “intolerant,” every time we joyfully explain to someone that we are members of this church because this church faithfully proclaims all of God’s holy Word— without adding to it or subtracting from it— we are expressing our evaluation of Jesus and what Jesus has done for us. But let’s not forget that perhaps— just perhaps— the most important evaluation of all is the one that is perhaps the easiest to overlook: The way in which we live our life out there in the “real world” is indeed an expression of our evaluation of Jesus and what Jesus has done for us.
My prayer this morning is that when you get home today you will find a little quiet time to sit down with a cup of coffee or a glass of juice and evaluate your evaluation of Jesus. Evaluate your personal evaluation of Jesus and how that personal evaluation is made public in your life. In other words, how would someone else describe your evaluation of Jesus by simply listening to how you talk and by watching how you live your life? May God grant that the cross of Jesus Christ will be so central in your heart and so central in your life that both your personal and your public evaluation of Jesus and what Jesus has done for you loudly and clearly echoes the evaluation recorded here in our text, “He has done everything well!”
To God be the glory!