Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Sermon August 14, 2016 12th Sunday after Trinity

Let us put today’s Gospel into the context of Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus has just come from the territory of Tyre.  Tyre was a prosperous Roman port city and was Gentile i.e. non-Jewish. While he was there he healed the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman—a Gentile.  This miracle is well known because Jesus initially rejects the woman’s request to heal her daughter.  He tells her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  This rejection by Jesus is surprizing as it is not typically how we understand Jesus’ response to people who come to him for healing.  It is particularly harsh comparing the Gentiles to dogs.

However, when the woman persists and asks again despite this rather harsh rejection, she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.  Jesus relents and heals the daughter.
One way of understanding this difficult passage is that Jesus had a growing awareness that he had come to bring the Good News not just to the Jews but also to the Gentiles— that is to the whole world.  This is the fulfillment of the visit of the Magi – those non-Jewish wise men who came to Bethlehem to worship the new born King of the Jews. 

With this growing awareness of his divine purpose he returns to familiar territory through the Sea of Galilee to Decapolis.  Here he has another encounter with someone who is in need of healing.  It is both similar and different to the encounter with the Syrophoenician woman.  In both cases he receives a request to heal someone.  However, here he does not initially reject the request.  Rather he does not hesitate and performs the miracle in a very personal way.  He speaks to him in Aramaic, his native language, “Ephphatha”, which means “be open”.   Jesus touches the man directly putting his fingers in his ears and using his spittle to free his tongue and free his speech.

The woman’s daughter was not even present—it was a long distance healing.  Here Jesus deals directly and intimately with the man and heals him of his deafness and speech impediment. It is as if this man is close to his heart.  He has come home to his people with a renewed sense of mission—one that must begin at home but is meant for the whole world—both Jewish and Gentile.  He opens the ears of this man who is one of his people.  He wants them to be open to hear his message and understand the Good News that he is bringing to them and to the world.  Jesus frees his tongue to enable him to speak of that Good News. 

Again he does something which is a surprize.  He tells the people there not to say anything about what he has done. It is as if he is not sure he is ready to have the Good News preached aloud to the world.  Of course the good news of this miracle and what it means cannot be contained.  He had done all things well; he is the one who makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.
This Good News was foretold by the prophet Isaiah:
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.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
This is what the Kingdom of God will be like.  We are now blind but we will have eyes to see that Glory.  We are now deaf but we will have ears to hear.  We now are like those who limp through life but we will leap like the deer at the water brook. 

Our lives are now as one thirsting in the dessert but like the Samaritan woman at the well we will receive the water of eternal life and will never thirst again.  That is the Good News for us today as it was for those people in the Jewish world two thousand years ago.  Jesus is giving us the Good News of the coming of God’s Kingdom.  If we have ears that have been opened we will hear his message for us.  But just hearing it is not enough we must loosen our tongues and speak that Good News to our neighbours and to the world.  Amen 

No comments:

Post a Comment