Rediscovering Jesus - Part 3 - Deaf & Blind - Hope 103.2

Rediscovering Jesus – Part 3 – Deaf & Blind

We’re returning to Mark’s Gospel, and it’s a little bit as I’ve said like going back to a favourite cafe or restaurant. We’re just returning to Mark every now and again. It’s been quite a few weeks since we left Mark behind, and I have been trying to take small sections in which we might […]

By Simon ManchesterSunday 24 Sep 2017Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 17 minutes

We’re returning to Mark’s Gospel, and it’s a little bit as I’ve said like going back to a favourite cafe or restaurant. We’re just returning to Mark every now and again. It’s been quite a few weeks since we left Mark behind, and I have been trying to take small sections in which we might think more deeply. And so, you may be surprised to see that we’ve taken 28 verses today. Which is a long section, but it has one point to make, and that is the issue of deafness.

Deafness, and you can see that they bring a deaf man to Jesus and at the end of the passage he’s asking them, “Have you got ears? Can you hear?” There’s a physical deafness, there’s a spiritual deafness, and that really is the theme of this section.

Many of you know that some weeks ago I was at the Keswick Christian convention in England, and one of the very special parts of Keswick Convention with so many thousands of people, is that they have a section where there are a number of people who are deaf or hearing impaired, and they have signers. And it’s very moving to watch during the singing that all these deaf hearing impaired people are singing with their hands.

And I played a prank on the signers who are lovely people, and they work incredibly hard because they don’t just sit and listen to a sermon, they can’t go to sleep like other people. They have to keep translating it and making sure that the group in front of them get the message.

So, I thanked them publicly for this great work, and then I said,

”Look, I wonder if you would pass on to your group that’s in front of you the deaf and the hearing impaired, that we would love to welcome them to Australia sometime. And if they do come to Australia we would especially like to show them some places like Wollongong, Parramatta, Turramurra, Jindabyne, Cootamundra, Undara, Jamberoo, Indooroopilly, Puckapunyal, Woolloomooloo?”

And the lady stood up on her chair and shook her fist at me like this. It was a great, great moment.

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

So there is physical deafness. Physical deafness is a reality more seriously, of course, there is spiritual deafness. And in the section we are looking at today there is the physical man being healed with the problem, but there is also the bigger problem of spiritual deafness. You can imagine occasionally, can’t you? Just by stopping up your ears what it’s like to hear no voices, and hear no music, and hear no laughter, no birds. It’s a very, very great loss; it’s a very isolating thing.

But it is a terrible, terrible thing not to be able to hear the Word of God, the gospel, the message of Jesus Christ.

There are millions of people in the world who have good physical ears, who have no spiritual ears. That is an absolute tragedy.

I was interviewing somebody this week, a girl, and I said to her, “When did you come to believe?” And she said, “Oh, you know, I was hearing Christianity from childhood. But it’s only when my mother died that the message really penetrated.” And I thought how real that is, the message just washing, washing is not really affecting at all and then suddenly it really, really is heard.

Now, because we’re in the first half of Mark’s gospel, we’re inside chapters 1 – 8, you need to know that the big issue in chapters one two eight, the major issue is, who is Jesus Christ? And everything is pointing to Jesus as the Messiah, as the king, as the son of God, and people are not getting it. They’re not hearing it. Even the disciples are not getting it. And there are verses today are going to teach us that people are profoundly needy, and Jesus is profoundly gracious. That’s the point.

So we’re going to think of it under three headings you’ll be surprised to know I have three headings;

  1. The Need for Jesus
  2. Two kinds of deafness
  3. The need to listen

The Need for Jesus

Jesus is travelling. He’s travelling sort of up north and then around to the right and down again, it’s a very, very extensive journey and it’s in the area to begin that we would call Lebanon today. It’s a very gentle territory, and they bring him a man and the man has two problems, he’s deaf, and he cannot speak properly. And there’s no doubt that the deafness and the inability to speak are related as you know when you meet somebody who cannot hear it’s very difficult for that person to articulate.

Now, if you love your Bible and I know many of you do love your Bible, you may be interested to know that this little word “couldn’t speak properly,” Mark 7:32 could hardly talk, comes in only one other place in the Bible. It comes in the Greek Old Testament Isaiah 35. And in Isaiah 35 we read that there is going to come a day where God will come to His people, and the ears of the deaf will be opened, and the mute or the dumb, or the person who’s finding it difficult to speak will shout for joy.

Isaiah 35 tells us that day will come. And here in Mark 7, the same little phrase, Jesus is healing the person who can hardly speak.

800 BC Isaiah said, “God would come.” And here is Jesus fulfilling the prediction. Now, the friends want Jesus you see to lay hands on him, but Jesus does something much more personal, and much more wonderful, and much more individual, and I hope that you will treasure this, he wants the man on his own.

And he takes him away from the crowd where he won’t be distracted. And we might look at some of the actions that Jesus performs here;

  • fingers in the ears
  • spitting
  • touching the man’s tongue
  • looking upwards

It sounds very strange to us, but it’s sign language for a deaf man. He’s standing in front of this man, he’s got him all to himself, and the man has got Jesus all to himself, and it’s as if Jesus is saying something like this;

  • I’m gonna fix your ears
  • I’m going to get something out of your mouth
  • I’m going to get a problem out of your mouth
  • I’m going to fix your tongue
  • I’m going to get heaven to help you as he looks up to heaven.

And it’s very wonderful that Jesus deals with him so specifically and compassionately to look after him and he speaks one word, “Efatha” which is “be open” in Aramaic, and suddenly his ears are open, and his mouth is open, and he can speak and that is an amazing, amazing day. It’s a creation of miracle; he’s now speaking like a normal person.

Those of us who’ve seen faces on television where somebody has given you help to hear even if it’s just partial, even if just suddenly a noise comes from them for the first time and the look on their face it’s wonderful.

So this man was completely helpless and hopeless and his friends, his friends may have been pagans we don’t know, but they have the brilliant decision of bringing him to Jesus which is exactly the right person to take him to, and his physical problem is solved.

There are some clues in the verses that follow, a look at verse 36 and 37 that Jesus has a bigger agenda. We read in verses 36, 37 that he immediately told them that they were to tell no one, but they were to keep quiet. And we ask ourselves the question at that point, how could you keep that quiet? How could you keep quiet about that? And, you know, would not some publicity be a good thing for Jesus? And to say nothing of the fact that these people are probably Gentiles, and so it’s not as they’re going to spread news about the Messiah in a way which will confuse everybody, so why is Jesus telling these people that they should keep this to themselves? And the reason is that working miracles is not his number one agenda.

Miracles do not solve the biggest problem in the world. They don’t solve the problem of our relationship with God.That is the biggest problem in the world. The first priority for any individual in the world, the most important thing is that they would have a relationship with God. And that is going to come with Jesus dying on the cross, and in a way losing his fellowship with God. It’s through the crucifixion where Jesus loses his fellowship with God that he’ll make it possible for people to have fellowship with God That’s his number one agenda, that’s what’s going to come in Mark 9-16. Miracles are not his number one agenda; it’s meant to point to who he is.

But you can see that the effect of this is incredible because suddenly, the man is listening, and he’s speaking, and the people, verse 36, are telling everybody despite Jesus telling them to keep it quiet, and this lovely sentence in verse 37, Jesus has done everything well. And that I think is a lovely comment on this particular moment, how well Jesus has done this. And that is, of course, what we Christian people often say as we look backwards he has done everything well. And there’ll come a day at the end where we will say, ”He has done everything well.” After this sermon, we’re going to sing that famous hymn which includes the words hear him ye deaf, his praise ye dumb. Your loosened tongues employ and we, of course, are taking words out of this wonderful event.

Two Kinds of Deafness

Now, the second thing this morning is two kinds of deafness from chapter 8:1-13, there is a helpless deafness, and there is deliberate. The helpless are the disciples they cannot hear the helpless, and then there is the deliberate deafness which is the Pharisees.

So just look with me at chapter 8:1 because we come to the feeding of the 4,000 and this for many people is an embarrassing paragraph in the Gospel of Mark because there are many people including scholars who say, “Well, Mark must have just had a little bit of forgetfulness here. You know, he’s forgotten that he’s told this story already. And now here he is, he must be repeating himself.” it’s a little bit embarrassing, but here we are he’s telling the same story again as some people do.

I want to tell you some reasons why that’s absolute rubbish and Mark is telling a second time Jesus fed people because believe it or not people get hungry in different places. And there was a crowd that got hungry one day, and there’s another crowd that gets hungry on another day especially as we are told they’ve been with him three days.

The second thing is that Jesus himself believed there were two miracles. Look at verse 19 and 20. He says to the disciples, “Remember the 5,000 feeding? And then, remember the 4,000 feeding?” So he believes there are two miracles.

The third thing is that the details are very different;

  • there’s different place,
  • there’s different numbers,
  • there’s different baskets,
  • there’s different loaves,
  • there’s different leftovers,

It’s a very, very different situation. But the real key I suggest to you is chapter 8:4. And I think we have been specifically told in the context of deafness that these disciples are absolutely deaf. They asked the question in chapter 8:4, “Well, here we are in the wilderness. What are we going to do? Can anyone get enough bread to feed this crowd?”

I suppose we read that and we think to ourselves, you must be really stupid because somehow the message of Jesus has not got through to these disciples. How can they ask that question?

They’ve seen him feed the 5,000 where he turned a few loaves into a feast because he’s the God of creation as well as the God of salvation, and it should occur to them.

Why does it not occur to them to say something like this, “Well, we’ve got a huge crowd with us, but we have the Son of God with us, and therefore, we’re not going to despair.”

But they don’t, it’s as if nothing has happened, nothing has been communicated, nothing has been said, and certainly nothing has been heard. They’re helplessly and hopelessly deaf.

Now, friends were all bad listeners on occasions, aren’t we? You may be a bad listener right now. One of my many faults is being in company at a dinner, and somebody says something, you know, they say a word like ache. And my little brain goes off in a detour and goes for a little spacewalk, and while I’m off with the pixies, the person who’s speaking mentions that they’ve been living in Africa for the last 25 years. And then I cheer in again to the conversation and say, “Oh, and by the way have you ever been overseas?” And my dear wife, my intelligent wife tries to cover the cracks of this terrible embarrassment, but that’s the kind of casual listening, isn’t it? Perhaps we’re all capable of a little of that.

But what’s happening here in chapter 8:4 is astonishing. The message of the son of man among them, the son of God feeding a huge crowd, they all experienced it. It must have been unmistakable that they would remember how Jesus solved the feeding problem, but they have not heard it. They’re helpless, and they’re hopeless.

It’s like when you and I go to tell the gospel to a friend, perhaps you have the opportunity over coffee, or I’m trying to preach it from a pulpit. And we say they are a friend or we say to the congregation something like this, we say, ”You know, your performance in life has not been adequate for God.” It is not adequate for God right now. Mine is not adequate. We will never be adequate in performing for God. But Jesus Christ has lived perfectly, and he saves the failure and the sinner, and if you call to him, he will save you, forgive you, adopt you, carry you, deliver you.

And your friend says, ”I think I better do better. I think they’re telling me to do better.” And you realize that there is this profound deafness to the Gospel.

Well, Jesus is facing this kind of deafness in the disciples, and yet he very graciously and wonderfully goes and feeds the crowd. He communicates again that he is God, gracious, sufficient. Are they going to hear the message for the second time? Well, you and I need to read this little section of Mark chapter 8 and remind ourselves that they were profoundly deaf and we would be profoundly deaf if Jesus does not open our ears.

Now, what about the deliberate deafness? Well, the deliberate deafness is in chapter 8:11 where the Pharisees come up to Jesus. These are the religious professionals, and we’re told in chapter 8:11-13, they come to test him or to tempt him that’s the word, and they say, “Show us a sign.” Isn’t it interesting in the context of deafness? They say we want to see something. We’re not listening to you it could have been that they witnessed the feeding. And the point is they reject his communication. They say, “We’re not listening to you, we want you to show us something. Even your feeding, you’re talking it’s not enough for us we want something to impress us, perform for us.”

And this is a deliberate deafness. This is refusing to hear something that is very clear. We’ve all experienced this. And I want you to notice that Jesus responds very interestingly from chapter 8:13. First of all, he says, “You know, this is a global problem.” He doesn’t say why do these Pharisees ask for a sign, he says, “Why does this generation ask for a sign?” It’s a human problem. People say, “When you show me, I’ll believe. I will believe when I see it.” Of course, that’s not true, people saw lots of things in Jesus and did not believe. The second thing Jesus does is he refuses to provide a sign, in fact, he makes kind of an oath literally in the original language he says something like this, ”I will die before I give them a sign. Over my dead body will I give them a sign.”

And the third thing he walks away. Can you imagine this little group of Pharisees? They are very important in the church, they’re very religious, they’re very intelligent, they come up to him, and they say, “Show us a sign.” And he turns his back, and he walks away. So the deaf man who comes to Jesus humbly finds compassion. The disciples who are deaf who come to Jesus foolishly find that he is patient. But the Pharisees who are deaf and they come to Jesus arrogantly, find that he rejects them. The need for Jesus, two kinds of deafness, and thirdly the need to listen. This is where suddenly we’re face to face with human responsibility to be a listener.

Chapter 8:14 and following. He warns his disciples in verse 15, “Watch out for the laven or the yeast, or we might see the influence of the Pharisees, you know, their prejudice will get into you, their cynicism will get into you, their hypocrisy will get into you. Watch out for them. And the disciples say, “He’s talking about a loaf of bread.” And so, Jesus sits them down like they were a primary school class and he says some questions;

  • Do you have two eyes?
  • Do you have two ears?
  • Do you remember the 5,000 being fed?
  • Do you remember the 4,000 being fed?
  • Do you get it? Do you not get it?

But we’ve seen as we know from chapter 7:31 and following that to hear is a work of God. He will open their spiritual ears. We’ll see in the rest of chapter eight that they are beginning to hear and to see, but the physical miracle of the deaf man is a signpost to the need for spiritual miracle. There’s lots of people as I say in this world there is an excellent physically, but completely deaf spiritually. They cannot get the message, or they will not get the message. And we have in our passage here this remarkable balance of being told that we need Jesus to open our ears and we need to listen. You get that too?

The Need to Listen

You cannot listen unless Jesus opens your ears. And you need to listen. Divine sovereignty human responsibility, and there’s not a contradiction. There’s no embarrassment as Jesus as we are having this taught to us this morning. At the very same time that we’re being told that God must open ears, we’re being told that we must open our use. If I could put it like this a little bit confronting, but I hope this will make sense to you if you go to heaven, you will spend the whole of eternity thanking God that he opened your ears. And if you go to hell, you’ll spend the whole of eternity kicking yourself that you did not listen. That’s the fact.If you go to heaven, you’ll spend eternity thanking God that He gave you ears to hear. And if you go to hell, you’ll spend the whole of eternity kicking yourself that you did not listen.

Now, out of the blue this week, somebody sent me a sermon you’ll be pleased to know that I get sent lots of things during the week, mostly things to amend my life and improve my work. But there are certain things that I get very helpfully and one of them this week was a terrific sermon from my great hero Spurgeon.

It’s actually a Spurgeon sermon of Spurgeon’s on Matthew chapter 13. But what is wonderful is that it’s all got to do with listening because Matthew 13 is where the seed gets spread around, and the question is, how are you listening? And the person who sent this to me didn’t know of course I think that our theme this morning would be listening. But I want to read you a few sentences from this sermon of Spurgeon’s where he addresses his congregation in 1888 on the need to listen. And I just think the sentences are wonderful.

And he says this. “Oh my heroes, if you are not converted, I waste time and energy standing here. I would be better employed in breaking stones on the side of the road than in preaching to you. You may think you are judging the preacher, but the word is judging you. Some of you have been here as from childhood. If you are not yet saved will you ever be saved? How will you excuse yourselves before God? I’m dealing with those of you who hear the word, but its fruit never comes.

You exhibit plenty of leaf, L-E-A-F, but there is no corn. The same seed has gone out; we have not changed the seed many have brought forth fruit, some 30 fold, some 100 fold. They had no more than you that how much better they treated it than you have done. How covered with briers and thorns your mind must be that the Gospel which converted your friend never touched you? The false is not the seed and think how favoured you have been the gospel has been preached. And your blood will now be on your head if you perish.

What shall I make of the fact that the truth has had no effect on you, that you should live as if it were a lie? Do you do more than the devil? Now you are behind him for he believes and trembles, and you have not gone so far as trembling. If you wish to go to heaven, I might take a little time to show you the way, but if you must go to hell well, it’s easy and just a matter of neglect.”

What a powerful message? It may be this morning that there are one, or two, or three, here in this building who need that very message. Why have you not yet heard? And you need to take action. I’ll leave it to you to work out what action it’ll be, will it be asking the Lord to help you? It may be calling up to have a conversation. But there’s no doubt they’ll be some people here this morning, you’ve heard lots with the physical ear you’ve not yet heard with the spiritual ear.

But for most of us here this morning, you’re going to go from this building after we’ve sung this great hymn, thanking the Lord that he has opened your ears, that he has come and dealt with you, and compassionately, and profoundly, and wonderfully. And you’ll be deeply thankful. And you’ll be wanting, of course, deaf people to hear and you’ll be asking the Lord to open their ears. And you will also be saying as you go out this day and as you live this week, regarding my salvation He has done all things well.

Let’s pray. Our gracious God, we thank you for this morning that you’re speaking God, and we thank you that you are in the ear opening God. There’re so many of us this morning who thank you for your mercy, your tender care in giving us not only physical ears but spiritual ears and all because of your kindness. And we do pray together for those among us who may not yet be hearing the good news, which you would give that gift of the spiritual ear. We think of the many people who we know and love who are still deaf, and we ask Heavenly Father that you would give us grace and wisdom to be able to speak a word and that you would help them to hear it. Hear our prayers and hear our prayer we are asking…we praise, and we pray in Jesus name. Amen.