Mark 7:24-37: Knocked Down by Sin and Death

In less than a week, two deaths—Sandy Webb and Donna Kind-Gappa.  So close together, we are left unable to make sense of this.  Inside, we are a mess of emotions, disturbed and rattled.

Somehow, this smacks of betrayal.  For if God is real, how can he let this happen, a few days apart?  Only a short while ago, Dean, Sandy’s husband, died.  By our reckoning of how life is to go, this is wrong, inexcusable.  Not fair, not by a longshot.

An unclean spirit invaded a young daughter—also unfair, as her mother thought.  A person with useless ears and vocal chords—not right either.  The nastiness of sin unleashed ruin to their lives—as both Donna’s and Sandy’s deaths are doing to ours.

So, some people brought a deaf man to Jesus, for word about this Rabbi spread fast.  “Please lay your hand on him and make him better.”  Ah, they came with a preconceived plan, some notion about how He is supposed to do their bidding.

The people expected Jesus to do what others did.  Take your hands, Jesus, touch the sick person and pray.  How we do the same!  Like them, we present the problem and the solution.  Here’s what we want Jesus—and this is what You need to do!

The old Adam in us loves to bargain with God.  “All right, Lord, give me what I want.  Hey, you failed to live up to my expectations.  How dare you let Sandy die, when she did all the right things, lived a decent life, so soon after taking Dean!”

So, Jesus enters the daughter’s and deaf man’s lives, as He does with ours.  With them, they are passive.  Unlike her mother and the others, neither of them does or says anything.  Neither does Mark choose to tell us anything about their faith.

What happens?  The little girl becomes clean, and the demon leaves her.  The man’s ears open and his tongue is no longer bound by what sin brought into this world.  The flesh-wearing God, Jesus, works both miracles by His mighty Word.  With the man, Jesus also uses His spit, taking something physical to cure his physical ailment.

Though this may not appear so, the divine Healer seized the initiative and came near.  The Word about Him earlier preceded Him, creating faith in those who received the life contained in His Gospel.  This stirring belief moved the woman, who responded to His Word.  From such confidence in the incarnate One, she prays and intercedes for her daughter.  For the man, others also act as a go-between.  Despite a faulty understanding of what God intends, they bring the man to the promised Messiah.

These are works of faith and love, showing how you also are to live.  What are you to do?  Not rebel against the One who rescues you for eternity.  No, trust He still attends to you.  Like those who came to Him long ago, you are to do the same.

Trust the Lord Jesus and call on His name.  Pray and intercede for others in their need, in their grief.  Meet Jesus where He promises to be for you—here in His Holy House.

In grief, we may crawl into our shells, instead.  Inside, we try to conjure up the strength we can find.  How focused on ourselves we become, including our fears and hurts.  Early Monday morning, the news of Sandy’s death came to me.  A resentment and grief began to consume me as I folded in on myself, becoming angry at God.

For a few moments, my faith became a mere lip service to God, as my heart turned cold.  Next, I believed—but also didn’t—being both saint and sinner.  Such is the experience of our lives in this fallen world while a fallen flesh still burdens our being—if we are honest.  In our hearts stir both trust and distrust, love and hate, toward God.

For we don’t rely on the Lord, not with everything within us.  The sin-enslaved person inside you doesn’t believe God cares for you, thinking He is unwilling to help you.  For if He did care, why does so much death come your way, uninvited?  The answer is because of the sin we, since Adam, unleashed on the world in our first rebellion against God.

So, what does God do?  What He did and does for us in Jesus.  Though a sin-infected physicality still holds you as a hostage, your God draws close to you, containing Himself within physical matter to deliver you in both body and soul.  For what He did not become, He did not redeem.

To the woman and man 2,000 years ago, He graced them in His flesh.  Now ascended into heaven, Jesus still comes.  In His proclaimed Word, your ears tingle with His life-giving breath, “Take courage!  Do not be afraid!”  Here, now, He comes to save, when you need what He gives because of your doubts and unbelief.

In divine kindness and peace, He still approaches.  The flesh-born Word declares this to be so, and Jesus does not lie, nor does He deceive you.  The heaven-sent Son descends to aid you—no matter the sadness churning within you.  Recognize He experienced you sorrows—and much more to rescue you for eternal realms.  All His healings pointed to the ultimate restoration He provides.  The woman’s daughter later died, and the healed man lost more than his hearing in old age.

Like the woman and man, whom Jesus helped in His mercy and love, Jesus graces you this day, as well.  Though unworthy, He stoops down in compassion, not because you can convince Him, but because He loves you.  Though you are made filthy by sin, which sickness and death reveal to be real, your Lord does not forsake you.

The deaf man cannot cure himself—so Jesus did.  The unrelenting cancer cells in Donna refused everything medical science did.  The bacteria, which invaded Sandy’s body, laid waste to everything the doctors did.  One day, death will come calling for you.  What matters is the eternal healing Jesus brings and gives.  To understand Jesus apart from this is to misunderstand Him—and misses the point.

Understand why Jesus came.  Value why He still does, right here, in the barren desert of this perishing world.  In this place, Jesus fills you with Himself.  Here, He grabs your worst enemy, dumping him, defeated in the grave, where your fallen and sin-consumed body will decay in dust and ashes.

The Son from heaven descended to bear your infirmities, failings, and disabilities.  All these He took into Himself on the cross.  Today, Jesus delivers His saving work for you in His body of sin-forgiving flesh and life-bestowing blood.  All the assaults and accusations of the devil, all your sins and weaknesses, and the last enemy death, He vanquishes for you.

On your behalf, He offered Himself to cleanse you of all evil, to redeem you from eternal death at the cost of His life.  Concede and admit, His work, not yours, reconciles and restores you with God.  Where you are powerless, which is everything in the spiritual realm without Him, Jesus fulfills everything, for you.

Here’s how—in His preaching, absolution, and Supper.  In these ways, Christ is still here.  Through the mouth and hand of His servants, who speak and act by His authority, He unlocks your eardrums to listen to His voice.  The faithful Word gives what is declared, freeing your heart to trust in Him and your mind to welcome His Word.

Ponder what this means.  Today, Christ Jesus is still your Savior from sin and death.  So, He isn’t some abstract God, far away and disconnected.  No, He comes, proclaimed in the spoken Word of Gospel and the touch of His hand of blood and flesh.  In this precious hour, Jesus approaches in grace, giving you life in the place of death, filling you with the life He bestows.

With the Word and water of baptism, He washed you clean.  Now, you are cleansed and sanctified.  Like the spit He used, Jesus used water to make you blameless on the day of His appearing, which Scripture says saves you (1 Peter 3:21).

On your lips and tongue, He places His body and blood.  Now, He dwells in and with you—and you live and abide in Him, here and now, and forever hereafter.  Every part of you—your mind and body, soul and heart, your thoughts, words, and actions—receive and share in the life and love of Christ.  In faith, living and breathing in Him, Jesus will raise you to life, to live evermore.

How can this be true?  Not because you are sinless, but because Jesus forgives your sin.  Not because you are immortal, as though you are not dying.  No, because your Lord will call forth your body to newness of life in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.

Today, you can walk with Jesus in death’s darkest valley, when weeping tries to claim you for all eternity.  Again, this is not by your doing, but because of Him.  For only Christ carries you when you are unable.

No more are you a stranger, but a beloved child in your Father’s house.  For here, you receive a seat at your Savior’s Table, dining today with Donna and Sandy.  At the Supper, you come to the heavenly Jerusalem and gather with myriads of angels in joyful assembly.  Not finished, Jesus also brings you to dine with the spirits of righteous made perfect, including Sandy and Donna, for He is the mediator of the New Covenant [Hebrews 12:22-24].

So, take the cup of Christ and feast with all the saints before the throne of God.  For you are eating, not crumbs, but the life-bringing Bread come down from above, who is both here and in heaven, for you and your salvation.  Amen.

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