Biblical Text: Mark 7:31-37
Full Draft of Sermon
It was rally day at church this week. For those who might not know, that is the day we install the Sunday School teachers for the year and try and “rally” everyone back from the summer’s diversion.
It also turns into something of a mission festival. Rally Day doesn’t just issue a call to return to church, but issues a call to be witnesses. The lesson is the healing of a deaf and mute man. Jesus’ miracles, in John’s gospel called signs, almost always point to something greater. They might be signs of his being the messiah. They might be signs point to his Godhood. They might also be signs of the disciples or our own spiritual state, or our calling. I think that is what is happening with this miracle. It does function as a sign to Jesus being the messiah. That is why the OT Isaiah lesson was matched up with this Gospel text. But in the context – which the sermon proclaims – they are also a sign to the opening of new ears and a call for tongues to the loosened. Rally Day calls for ears to be opened – come back to the sabbath and the Word. Rally Day also calls for tongues to be loosened – teachers installed and witness in the community renewed.
When ears have been opened, not even Jesus could stop tongues from proclaiming the grace received. That is the call to us. Are our ears open? Are our tongues ready to proclaim?
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Transfiguration sunday. Exactly what we do with this picture of the Glory of God in Jesus is tough to talk about. Fundamentally, the image is too bright for our mortal eyes. What we can look at is the reactions of the disciples in contrast to the reactions of other people who have glimpsed the glory, primarily those healed like the leper or the deaf man in Mark’s gospel. Those two can’t keep the joy and the word in. Jesus tells them to be quiet, but they run and tell everyone, and there is no crackdown.
The Disciples don’t do that. They do three things. 1) They equate Jesus the messiah with Elijah and Moses – just another teacher, and they want to build an institution around them. Let’s build three tents. When God works in his glory we often want to domesticate it. We are scared of God working so we try and put Him in a box. The world and the church is full of sad empty boxes where God used to work. 2) They react out of fear. The text says they were terrified. The leper and the deaf man come to Jesus, unafraid or at least uncommented. Jesus drags the disciples up the mountian, and they cower. This view of the glory before calvary was for their reassurance, but run in fear. Fear is the power of the law. In Jesus God is doing a new thing. Fear is not called for. 3) They keep the word to themselves. They have just glimpsed the glory of God. Would this not have been something to share? If they had been healed like the leper, if they had been under the gospel, they would have told everyone.
Don’t build institutions, but follow Jesus where the Spirit wills. Don’t cower in fear. The law has no claim on you in Jesus Christ. And please, pass the Word on to those still in cowering. Under the Gospel we are freed from fear. The little kids know it best. Jesus loves me this I know. Hide it under a bushel – no! I gonna let it shine!
Allen Bauchle asked a great question/observation in bible class after worship about something called the ‘messianic secret’. That is a technical term for those times when somebody is telling who Jesus is (the messiah/the son of God), but he tells them to be silent. The demons obey. The humans do not. Strangely, the disciples do. Many words have been spilled on this theme, and while it is present to some degree in Mathew and Luke it is primarily something in Mark, the gospel for this year.
The truth of the matter is that I have received view, one that I’ve been told and strikes me a very close to truth, but I have not given enough pray and study to hold a view of my own. The only piece that I’ve done some work on is catagorizing the who and why.
The text of this sermon has one of the secret events. Jesus tells the leper to be quiet. The leper goes and tells – in loaded terms the former leper – “proclaims/preaches the word”. I don’t know why our more “literal” translations give us things like “talk freely about it and spread the news.” The New Living Traslation gets very “literal”…”the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone.” The juxtaposition of proclaiming the word by the man made clean and the command to be silent seem to be core. The leper is doing more than just talking about an event.
Part of my answer has to include the why’s of the people told. The demons, who have no interest in spreading the gospel, shut up at the command. The leper breaks the command, the law, for the sake of the speading the gospel. That is a slippery slope. Which laws can be broken? When are you breaking them for the sake of the gospel? Martin Luther’s quip about ‘sin boldly’ would seem to be appropriate.
Ultimately, it is those who have been cleaned by Jesus Christ that are given the mission to save others. Jesus can’t go into the towns, but everybody is looking for him. They are coming out to the desert places. It is the cleansed, the healthy, that can give directions where to find him.