Ten Minute Sermons
Cutting a Prophet in Half
Isaiah 35:4-7; Mark 7:31-37
Today's Word from God is rather hard-hitting…for some. Now, you'd think that the Gospel's account of Jesus' healing of a deaf mute would be heartening; and the Old Testament account of springs breaking forth in the wilderness should stir our very souls. But for some people, today's lessons are very bitter pills indeed.
You see, the prophecy from God that Isaiah relates in today's lesson is just the sort of thing that got him killed, circa 680 BC. King Manasseh of Judah heard the message that Isaiah was relating to the people and … well, Jewish tradition recounts that this wicked king had the prophet sawed in half: using the ancient equivalent of a lumberjack's blade. And unlike a Las Vegas magician, Manasseh did not bring the pieces whole again.
Well, what was in the message that upset the Judean monarch so? How could he have possibly objected to what we heard just a few minutes ago, "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy?"
Well, we need a little background to understand how a heart could harden to such fantastic news. In the Book of Isaiah, chapter six, God charges the prophet to go to the people of Judah, "and say to [His] people: "' Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."
The blind and the deaf in the Book of Isaiah are not just those with physical maladies. It is God's own people that are deaf to the Word of God; it is God's own people that are blind to the glory of God; and it is God's own people that are crippled due to their sinful nature.
Judgment, she's a-coming. Keep on being blind to the truth, people of Judah. Keep on squelching the Word of God. You are about to get yours: which we know from history comes in the form of military defeat, political collapse, and physical exile. The Bible speaks that the Glory of God, itself, leaves Zion.
Oh people of Judah, how can you be so blind to God's truth? How can you turn a deaf ear to the Lord your God who saved you out of the land of bondage?
How? Well, we know how: human sinfulness, our own fallen natures sometimes allows human distractions, human pride, human intellect to impede our accepting God's truth.
Have you ever known someone who has turned a blind eye to the truth that is outlined in God's Holy Scripture? Have you ever known someone who is deaf to the cries of poor, the hungry and the oppressed? Have you ever known people who are mute in giving praises to the Lord God who made them and sustains them?
I know such people: friends…family. There is one such man whose face I shave in the mirror every morning. For we all are stained with sin, and…to some extent or another refuse to see God's provision; refuse to hear God's Word; refuse to sing God's praises, in all things and all ways.
And hearing that we have failed to abide by God's will drives some people, like King Manasseh to their feet in righteous indignation, "How dare you insult my intellect with all this talk of God, you Bible thumping ideologue" …yet, hearing that we have failed to abide by God's will drives some of us to our knees in humble repentance, "Oh Lord, were do I begin?"
Well, you begin right there…with the Lord.
You, those of you on your knees, God's remnant people, just need to begin with God. What did God say to Isaiah? "Say to those who are of a fearful heart…be strong…do not fear…Here is your God" Now, "He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense [yet] He will come and save you"…and "then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped".
Do you want to be healed from your spiritual deafness? Do you want to be responsive to the Word of God? Well…you can't heal yourself. But "Here is your God…He will come and save you"
And we know how this is accomplished. Isaiah writes about a Suffering Servant: a messianic king descended from David who will reign in righteousness. He will be a light for the Gentiles so that all the nations facing the judgment of God might find salvation.
Healing from spiritual deafness is accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ.
In today's Gospel reading, Jesus didn't just heal a deaf mute in order to relieve this man of his current malady; Jesus continued to demonstrate in this miracle, as He demonstrates throughout His ministry, that He is the means that God is using to mend our broken lives. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame spring like deer and the mute shout with joy!
Of course Jesus is able to restore this man to fullness; He is the Lord God Incarnate. And as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, He is restoring this entire broken world to fullness with the Father.
Now, I don't know what part of God's plan I'm deaf to; but Jesus knows. We can't heal ourselves; but Jesus can. So all that we driven to our knees need to do is acknowledge that Jesus knows, and that Jesus cares and that Jesus is able; and pray to the Almighty that His Holy Spirit transforms our hearts so we might know and do His will. Have faith that Christ will…no, Christ has already…gracefully saved us. We are transformed.
If we do so, our broken, severed lives are knitted back together. Our Creator wants us to be whole, and He has sent us His only begotten Son to die for our sins on the Cross as the means to this end. The deaf can now hear!
Knowing this, how can you not sing God's praises to all people, at all times, in all ways?