s135g97 Somerton Park 7/9/97 Pentecost 16 Sunday 23
"He has done everything well, he even make the deaf to hear and the mute to speak." Mark 7.37
We returned to the use of St Mark's gospel last week after spending time with St John with the theme of the bread of life before that.
We concentrate, in the story of the healing of the deaf mute with the miracle that Jesus was able to perform, and forget the miracle that Jesus was not able to do. The miracle that Jesus was able to do is clear enough, the restoration of the man's hearing and speech. However the miracle that Jesus wasn't able to do is less clear.
Despite the wonderful healing that this man was given, Jesus could not make him hear correctly, neither could he manage to get him to do as he was told.
This man was most likely deaf from birth and the impediment in his speech consequently similarly. So the first words that he ever heard were the words Jesus said - they were an order: "Don't tell anyone" - yet he didn't seem to hear them.
And the very first words this man ever spoke plainly were the precisely the words Jesus told him not to say: "He has done everything well, he even make the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."
I believe that these words that Jesus said to the man apply not just to that situation two thousand years ago, they are of eternal significance. Jesus isn't fickle - he doesn't have favourite people who he wants to give a testimony about his power, and those he doesn't. He doesn't want anyone to give testimonies about the way he has healed them.
I am sorry if this is rather startling, but they are Jesus' words not mine.
Jesus didn't heal people in order to get them to follow him. Jesus didn't heal people to get them to encourage others to follow him. Jesus didn't heal people to get anything out of them at all. I am reminded of the rich young ruler - he was initially startled to hear Jesus tell him to give his money to the poor - when he was probably ready to give it to Jesus. Perhaps he went off - initially affronted that Jesus was rejecting his money. Perhaps he was indeed Mark who came back after realising in that look of love Jesus accepted him for who he was.
We as the Church, all of us too have found something of the touch of Jesus. Be that touch ever so gentle, or be it earth shattering and life changing. But the same words of Jesus are directed to us - don't tell anyone else!
Jesus is not fickle, neither is he too modest. He doesn't say this, but actually expects us to do it anyway. He expects us to do precisely what he says, and not do what he forbids. Even the one time the inner circle of disciples heard the words of God - on the high mountain when Jesus was transfigured before them - the words of God were: "This is my beloved son - LISTEN TO HIM". And I am sure that God didn't mean (them or us) to listen to him and then go off and do precisely what Jesus forbad.
Why did Jesus not want this healed man to resound his praises? Why does Jesus not want us telling the world how wonderful he is? ("I'm not ashamed to own my Lord!") There is a reason. For all we would like to spend our lives magnifying the Lord - Jesus calls us to spend our lives accepting the sinners around us.
Jesus doesn't need magnifying by us, nor for that matter defending. It is we and all people who need his acceptance and magnification.
I want to finish with a quote from the book "Mister God, this is Anna" - I am sorry for those who have heard it before. It is the conversation between Anna, (some might think) a rather precocious 6 year old girl and her older foster brother "Fynn". The particular quote is where Anna announces that she is: "Not going to no Sunday school no more" (p117) "Why not?" asks Fynn. "Cos she don't teach you nuffink about Mister God" "Perhaps you don't listen properly". "I do, and she don't say nuffink." "You mean to say you don't learn anything?" "Sometimes." replies Anna. "Oh, that's good. What do you learn?" asks Fynn. "Sunday-school teacher is frightened." "What makes you say that sort of thing; how do you know that she's frightened?" "Well, she won't let Mister God get bigger." "How is it that Sunday school teacher won't let Mister God get bigger?" asks Fynn. "Mister God is big?" asks Anna. "Yeah, Mister God is good and big" replies Fynn. "And we're little?" "Right enough, we're little" agrees Fynn. "And there's a big difference?" "Yeah, and them some." "If there wasn't no difference, it wouldn't be worth it, would it?" asked Anna. This confused me a little. I supposed I must have looked a bit puzzled, so she came again, sideways this time. "If'n Mister God and me was the same size you couldn't tell, could you?" "Yes" I said, "I see what you mean. If the difference is very big, then it stand to reason that Mister God is big." "Sometimes" she cautioned. It obviously wasn't as simple as that. In easy stages I was led to accept the fact that the bigger the difference between us and Mister God the more God-like Mister god became. At such a time when the difference was infinite, then would Mister God be absolute. "What's all this got to do with Sunday-school Teacher? She certainly knows the difference." said Fynn. "Oh yes", nodded Anna. "So what's the problem?" "When I find out things it makes the difference bigger and Mister God gets bigger." "So?" "Sunday-school Teacher makes the difference bigger but Mister God stays the same size. She's frightened." "Hey, hold on a tick. How come she make the difference bigger and Mister God stays the same size?" I nearly lost the answer; it was one of those real 'give away' lines. Tossed off so quietly. "She just makes the people littler."
For all we would like to spend our lives magnifying the Lord - Jesus calls us to spend our lives accepting the sinners around us.
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