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September 9, 2018   He Does All Things Well      Mark 7:31–37

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

In the world of social media, there is a thing called ‘twitter’, where you can follow the daily activities of a person as they ‘tweet’ their thoughts about what’s going in the world, or what they’re doing in their life. I do not ‘do’ twitter. Maybe you think I should ~ to be ‘up’ with the culture, or maybe you’re glad I don’t ~ & don’t waste time when I should be doing other things. *Did you know that Jesus has a Twitter account? Sadly, he has only about 600,000 followers. That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the more than about 100 million followers for singers Katy Perry, and Justin Bieber. Former President Obama comes in with about 90 million followers, while current President Trump has about 35 million followers.

*Is it important to ‘follow’ someone on Twitter, such as Taylor Swift or Kim Kardashian, and so keep up with their /daily activities, /the things they eat,  /their views on various topics, /or the people they are friends with or feuding with? *Why should we care? And yet, this kind of social media has given people a personal access to the lives & thoughts of leaders from the world of politics, news, religion, and popular culture.

For many of these leaders, social media gives a direct platform so their voices can be heard. Maybe that’s okay, if they have something good & useful to say. One of the troubles is that people who seek attention will start doing anything to get attention & to gain a lot of followers; sometimes crazy, immoral, or dangerous things.  For our old natures, public attention can change our behaviors, not for the better.

In looking at Mark 7 & our Gospel for today, I would conclude that Jesus would have had no interest in Twitter in his day, and in getting attention for attention’s sake. He was not seeking to be ‘popular’, although he was seeking to be ‘known’; = big difference. Rather than seeking the attention & the accolades of the crowds, Jesus is doing the opposite. He takes that deaf & mute man off to the side, away from the crowd, before restoring him. This is a compassionate move. This man is used-to being avoided; Jesus doesn’t want to put him on the spot with large, awkward, public attention.   Then after the miracle, Jesus tells the few who did witnesses this ‘not to tell anyone.’

*Why would he do the miracle in private and tell them not to tell anyone about it?

We might think it’s kind of weird, unless we understand that Jesus isn’t concerned about the crowds ~ the many, anonymous, fickle people, & entertainment-seekers. He IS concerned about the one ~ the sincere, humble, needy person seeking The Lord. Here in Mark 7, it’s a deaf-mute.

This makes Jesus different from the famous people of our day. Like the story of a young baseball fan.   The boy’s hand was shaking as he held out the book & the pen to his hero, and he asked, “Can I have your autograph, please?” He had all of that player’s baseball cards, and had memorized his career statistics. He saw the superstar’s image every day on the poster hanging on his bedroom wall; now he was awestruck to be just inches away from this athlete.

But, the ballplayer had on sunglasses that covered his eyes. Never looking up, he took the book from the boy’s hands and quickly scribbled his name, and handed it back to the boy. It was like he never even noticed the boy was there. And with that, the young boy was ushered on so that the next person could come forward. Ballplayers, actors, musicians, politicians, and all manner of famous people are often prone to loving the general attention but not having the personal touch with people.

Famous people are concerned about ‘public relations’, so they all have Twitter accounts They all want to be heard & followed by crowds; and yet many don’t want to be bothered by individuals. They even lash-out & sue people so as to be left alone. How different that Our Lord did not seek crowds, but sought individuals. We might notice that nearly all of Jesus’ miracles were done for individuals; he didn’t do ‘magic shows’ for the crowds.

The issue for Jesus was ‘compassion’, not ‘attention.’ He did 2 mass miracles, feeding 5,000 & feeding 4,000; but he didn’t do it for a show, he did it because individuals were hungry. Maybe this is one reason Jesus didn’t come to earth in our day = our mass-media day.

He wasn’t seeking mass attention for his own popularity, fame & ego;  he was seeking to show compassion on the meek & needy ~ one soul at a time; how important that is when WE have our own personal needs.   Let’s conclude that Jesus is always concerned for the one hurting and needy person.   The gospel of Mark calls attention to this characteristic of our Lord. Jesus is not trying to draw great crowds, and quite often Mark notes Jesus avoiding them; and when crowds gather, he goes somewhere else.

Another characteristic of Our Lord, of importance for us, is that Jesus’ personality doesn’t change whether he’s in public or in private. This is often a weakness in famous people. On stage in front of thousands they are bright & happy & boisterous & wild; but in private they’re withdrawn & solemn & depressed; like two different people.

Not so with the Son-of-God. He is the same Jesus in private as he is in public. What you see is what you get with Jesus; he’s just One kind for all men, women or children. He was equally concerned for +the woman with bleeding for 12 years,   +and Jairus’ dead daughter, +and the paralyzed man let down thru the roof by his friends, +and the woman at the well.

He’s the same Jesus when he’s alone with Peter, James, & John as when he’s with the thousands who ate the loaves & fish. He’s the same Jesus when the palm-branch wavers shout ‘hosanna’ or when Pilate interrogates him.  God-the-Son, Isaiah’s messiah & miracle worker, the suffering servant, and King of kings; He’s the same compassionate Lord, always &forever, to one and to all.

This means that Jesus’ personal concern for this deaf-mute is showing an intimate care and concern … for you. He is The One who was willing to /touch the unclean, /eat with tax collectors, /talk with the prostitutes, /come near the outcast & the poor; he’s the One concerned about all the hurts & pains you bear. Jesus is The one who knew how to get this deaf man’s attention, by taking him aside, putting his fingers in this man’s ears, and even touching the man’s tongue with his own spittle. With this man’s attention now locked on him Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and with One Word healed that man. The same Jesus has promised to be with you with the same mercy & love, forgiveness & care.

*Did you know that in the early NT church this word Jesus used was part of the liturgy for baptism? We don’t use it today, but we can understand why it fits. At baptism, thru the hands of the pastor, with water, the baptized receives the command that our old nature be made new & reborn, that the dead nature be raised to life; that ears that are deaf-to-God be opened, and that a sin-mute tongue now confess God’s Holy Name in prayer & praise. “Ephphatha!” = be opened.   That’s something that Isaiah’s messiah did at your baptism, just for you.

The same Jesus continues to open ears and release tongues. He continues to be concerned for each one who is held in bondage to shameful habits of sin, one who is a slave to addiction, and the one who’s been broken by guilt.

Jesus is the One, the only one, who can command your ears to listen to his call to ‘repent’ of your sins, and who can command your ears to hear & receive his forgiveness.    He uses the mouth of his pastors, but with His own Word, you are freed from your sins.  What a comfort this is for those who feel forgotten and alone. The nameless, faceless crowds were amazed by Jesus during his earthly ministry, but this reading from Mark reminds us that his larger concern is for each and every single person.

That is the kind of Lord Jesus IS. He has done all things well. That crowd may not have known how profound a statement that was. Because, ultimately it means that he was the perfect substitute on that cross for each sinful man, woman, & child. From obeying his parents to submitting to the law of the land, Jesus is always the dutiful servant. As teacher, he teaches his hearers what is good, right, & true. As King, he shows mercy to the least and the lowest.

As Savior, he comes to rescue those who are lost & forgotten. Jesus can only do good because he is God-in-the-flesh; and God is good.

This crowd wasn’t yet ready to assign him Godhood, but they noticed that wherever he goes, he does what is good and pleasing to his heavenly Father. News about Jesus was spreading. Jesus was going about, teaching the kingdom of God, casting out demons, and now healing a deaf-mute; and no matter what was put in front of him, he could handle it.    So the people made the obvious observation: “He has done all things well.” Of course he does all things well, because he is God.

Later on the people would also have to note that he also suffered well, and so fulfilled Isaiah’s other prophesies. +He was doing things well when he cried out from the cross,

“It is finished.”  +He was doing things well when he spoke to the disciples in their locked room Easter Sunday evening saying “Peace be with you.” +He was doing things well when he Ascended to His Father, and sent His own Spirit at Pentecost. +He is doing things well as he works thru his Church today to forgive sins, to feed us with his own body & blood, and to guide us with his perfect Scripture into all truth & holy living.

This statement is not part of our 3 Creeds, but it IS a confession of faith & truth about Christ Jesus; ‘He has done all things well.’   Let’s say those 6 words together as a confession of our faith. Ready?   {‘He has done all things well.’}   [that could be a new Christian greeting; like when one person says ‘Christ is risen’ and you respond ‘he is risen indeed’. {Mark 7:37 ‘He has done all things well.’}

Even tho this fallen world makes us go thru all sorts of hardships & difficulties, our Lord is still doing all things well; and nothing in this world can stop Him from accomplishing our salvation, & future, & peace. Even when medical treatments don’t bring the kind of healing for which we hoped, for ourselves or our loved ones, our Lord continues to do all things well as he grants us the grace to endure the trouble, and the faith to see beyond it.  When in the world we see man’s sin & evil in violence, terror, hunger & disease, those don’t stop us from knowing the truth about God’s Anointed One; he continues to do all things well.

He has blessed our lives; / he provides for our food & clothing, house & home; / He protects us with unseen angels; / he instructs us with his Word of righteousness. He forgives us our sins, / he puts our minds at peace, / he shows us what’s right & how to live, /& he hears our prayers. Even in a world of trouble, & despite your own sinful weakness, Jesus has done well for you; and you are blessed, and you have a living purpose each day. It’s because you are not a nameless, faceless part of the crowd, but a valued child of God; you have a Good Shepard who knows each one of His sheep,  and he does all things well.

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Jesus may have a ‘twitter’ account, with not many followers; but that’s fake. Jesus isn’t using twitter ~ tho his people might. What’s not fake is that Jesus did, does, & will continue to do all things well. Jesus doesn’t need popularity as the world measures it; he didn’t want it back then, and still doesn’t. He does want your attention, and your following;   for he always has good things to say to you. And each day, you will want to hear of his care, his concern,   his forgiveness, and his peace for you.

So from Mark 7, we take away today those 3 things: Jesus was not concerned about crowds & attention, but individual compassion. He is the same strong, merciful Lord whether for one thousand people or for just one. And even early on, the people then made a profound observation, which is a truth for us that’s like the tip of an iceberg for us to begin to confess our solid, gospel faith in Christ, & his many blessings: ‘He does all things well.’

Amen