16th Sunday After Pentecost (Series B)
September 9, 2018icon-download-pdf-wp

Gospel: Mark 7:(24-30) 31-37
Epistle: James 2:1-10, 14-18
Lesson: Is. 35:4-7a

Psalm: Psalm 146

CLB Commentary: Pastor Bill Helland

Mark 7:(24-30) 31-37

This text contains two separate accounts of miracles Jesus performed; the one was to cast an evil spirit out of a child who wasn’t even in the presence of Jesus, and the other was to restore the hearing and speech of a deaf and mute man who was in the presence of Jesus.

I’ve always been intrigued by the times when Jesus would attempt to hide or tell people to not talk about him. This happened at the beginning and end of our text.

Why didn’t he want anyone to know he entered this house? Was he tired and needed a nap away from the crowds? Chapter 6, verse 56, gives the picture of a ministry that had become so popular, Jesus couldn’t get a break no matter where he went. Or, maybe he wanted a private conversation with the resident(s) of the home; such as when he was a guest in Mary and Martha’s home.

And why was he unable to keep it a secret? Was there some form of “paparazzi” in those days that wouldn’t leave him alone? A crowd of news “reporters,” perhaps, who were following his every move in order to witness and report every amazing miracle and word from his mouth.

Well, this is all silly and fruitless speculation, I know, but I do find it interesting that, while he couldn’t keep his whereabouts a secret, today we (in the church) can shout the name of Jesus from the roof tops, yet have all we can do to get people in our churches on Sunday, or into a home for a Bible Study during the week. The difference, I believe, is in the perceived need for Jesus.

In the first half of our text, a mother was desperate to have her daughter delivered from an evil spirit. She had a great need! And she was not going to let Jesus’ seemingly disparaging reply to her plea turn her away. You see, she was a Gentile. So Jesus gave her a response that might have been typical of the Jewish leaders in that day. He said it, not because he was siding with them, but because he was testing her faith. She may have walked away from the Jewish leaders, had they told her that, but I believe she sensed in Jesus (maybe even witnessed firsthand) a power greater than all the Jewish leaders put together. She was not going to give up that easily.

Therefore, she pushed back with a statement that indicated some degree of faith on her part; just enough so that our Lord granted her request and, even while they were speaking, her daughter was set free from the evil spirit, while lying on her bed at home.

I’m amazed at how her response was an adequate expression of faith in order for Jesus to do what she asked. I think it is tempting for us in the church to want to hear just the “right” words from people’s mouths before we will assure them that their sins are forgiven. Granted, there needs to be genuine humility and repentance on the part of anyone who is able to consciously assess their relationship with God and ask for his forgiveness and salvation. However, maybe the words from their mouth, even if whispered on their death bed, are words that God recognizes as a humble and desperate plea for his grace. We need to pray for discernment to know when someone is truly broken, and desperate before the Lord, and not worry so much about whether they are using exactly the right words or following the correct “formula” for salvation. (Romans 10:8-13)

In the second portion of our text, Jesus had a man brought to him with another desperate situation – the inability to hear and speak. Here again, I am so intrigued by how our Lord used such different approaches to healing people. If the faith of the mother, in the previous account, was enough to cast an evil spirit out of a girl in another location, then why is it that the faith of the people who brought this man to Jesus, didn’t result in a miracle? There’s likely no absolute answer to that question. So instead, we see Jesus using a very “hands on” approach with this miracle, in fact even including a little spit! Why? Was there some special formula to this? People, some cases need faith and others require spit?!

I think it goes back to faith. This man entrusted himself to Jesus’ power, even if it came through something as seemingly ridiculous as spit. And presto! We have a miracle!

And again, Jesus said…no, get this…he “commanded” them! “Do not tell anyone! What happens in Decapolis, stays in Decapolis!”

Did they obey his command? Nope.

So then why is it, when Jesus gave the church the command; “Go and make disciples of all nations..,” we have all we can do to get people to talk about him in their homes, schools and work places? In fact, more often than not, those of us who feel called to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the “world,” lack the zeal of these folks at the end of our text! I know I’m guilty of that!

If Jesus told me to keep quiet, I know I would! Because at times, when I’m told to speak up, it’s far harder than it should be! May God have mercy on me, a sinner.

I think the saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” might shed some light on this. Things aren’t desperate enough in America yet. We are too comfortable. We don’t hound Jesus like the mother did, nor do we stand still and let Jesus apply his “spit” to us.

May God have mercy on us, and through His Word, rekindle in us and our listeners, a deep, genuine sense of overwhelming amazement, so we can’t help but speak of all that he has done “so well” for us!

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost