Uncomfortable Words

Text: Mark 7:31-37 and Romans 10:9-17

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

They brought a deaf and tongue-tied man to Jesus and asked Jesus to lay His hands on him.  So, fulfilling the request, Jesus put His fingers in the man’s ears and saliva on the man’s tongue, and said, “Be Opened!”  And at the command of Jesus’ word, the man’s ears were immediately opened to hear, and his tongue was immediately freed to speak.  

Now, this amazing miracle should not catch us off-guard for this is not the first time that Jesus – by His spoken Words – did the impossible.  For example, in the fourth chapter of Mark, we read about Jesus rebuking the raging sea, saying, “Peace! Be still!” And that wild sea bowed to the command of Jesus’ Word. 

And who can forget that encounter Jesus had with the man who was demon possessed.  Like the mighty raging sea, and the deafness of the man, these demons too encountered the powerful Word of Jesus and were kicked out of the demon possessed man. 

The point being is this: when Jesus speaks, things happen.  Waves bow down, demons shutter, diseases run, and sickness submits!  That is right; the Word of Christ does stuff!  The Word of Jesus is powerful.
And here is a key point for us to take note of: the same Word of Jesus that was spoken to the sick, the demoniacs, and the storms in the New Testament, is the same Word spoken by the prophets in the Old Testament.  Indeed, Jesus is the author of all of the Scriptures, which means that the Word of Christ was not only spoken in the Old Testament and New Testament times, but also spoken today in our time, as Pastors and Christians simply preach, teach, and confess the Bible. 

But if this powerful Word of Christ is accessible in our day and age, why are we Christians in America sometimes so hesitant to proclaim the Word of Jesus and so resistant to hearing it?  Why is it that we have more Bibles now, than ever before in history and are Biblically illiterate?  If Jesus’ powerful Word comes to us in the Bibles and in sermons in churches, why the neglect; why the apathy?      

I believe the answer is quite simple.  We would rather have our ears tickled.  Yes, we would rather have our ears tickled than challenged.  We would rather have our ears entertained than confronted.  We would rather have our ears comforted than dared. 

You see, we all like to hear things that make us happy. We like to hear things that produce satisfaction for us.  We want to hear things that allow our thinking to be reinforced.  We want to remain unchanged. We do not want to be interrogated, and we do not want to be shaped by a word or a message that contradicts us.  So, we either cover our ears in protest, or we run from a challenging message to escape. Sometimes we even attempt to replace a thought-provoking message with something else that tickles and entertains our ears.  In other words, we want to hear things that agree with us – messages that tell us what we already think.  Nobody likes to be wrong, and nobody likes to be judged.   

Now, we can somewhat accomplish this selective hearing when it comes to politics or sports.  We can simply tune out the television or radio programs that disagree with us. However, the reality is that the Word of Christ comes to us contrary to our thinking and contrary to our ambitions, whether we like it or not.  You see, the Word of Christ is not our Word but Christ’s Word and because it is Christ’s Word, it will not always agree with us and it will not always make sense to us.  And it may even rub us the wrong way.       
And so we make sure not to share the Word of Christ because if it makes us uncomfortable, it will surely make our neighbors uncomfortable.  And if they are uncomfortable, they will think that we are weird. 

And as far as hearing the Word of Christ?  If we are not closing our ears to the Word or running away from it, we become clever by trying to tone it down.  In other words, we petition and request that we update the Bible’s language to a more twenty-first-century mindset.  You know what I am talking about.  We want the language softened a bit – to make it less offensive.  For example, instead of the word ‘sin,' we want to use the word ‘mistake’ instead.  And the word ‘hell,’ that makes us squirm, so we replace it with the words, ‘place of the dead.’ And what about the word, ‘suffering?’ That word is replaced with the word, ‘inconvenience.’  These are just a few examples.  The point being is that we end up substituting different words for Biblical Words, to tame the Word of Christ – to tone it down.  We change it to make it more palatable.      

The only problem with this is that when we change Christ’s Word, we are not merely toning it down but we are actually exchanging Christ’s Words for our words.  As a result, we do not end up preaching, teaching, and hearing the Word of Christ, but end up hearing the word of men.  And unlike the Word of Christ, the words of men are not powerful in the way Christ’s Words are powerful.   

Frankly stated, without the Word of Christ, faith is not possible.  And if faith is not possible, there is no salvation.  And if there is no faith and no salvation, there is no church, but just a bunch of people gathered together listening to the ramblings of mankind – words that simply sound religious but are nothing more than empty pious noises. 

. . .

Dear friends, Christ’s powerful Words do not allow our thinking, ideas, and opinions to stand but destroy and scatter everything.  The Word of Christ takes everything captive. It destroys and crucifies whatever is in us that is not of His Word.  He does not allow anything to remain in us, which is all very good, even though it sometimes hurts. 

. . .

Christ’s powerful Words do not leave us utterly destroyed and scattered, though.  There is more! Yes, there is more to the Word of Christ.  The Word of Christ not only destroys, but it also creates.  The Word of Christ creates faith in us! 

Think about this for a moment.  The Lord who spoke the world into existence in the Book of Genesis – created the World through speaking – is the same Lord who spoke healing and faith into that poor-deaf-mute man.  And the same Lord, who spoke faith and healing into the deaf and mute man, is the same Lord (with the same Word) who spoke faith into existence in you! 

You see, we have all been where the deaf man was.  We were deaf to the Word of Christ, and our tongues were tied too.  But someone loved us enough to bring us to Jesus, to place us before Jesus and beg Jesus to heal our deafness and release our tongues.  And so, for many of us, this happened in our Baptisms when our parents picked us up and placed us under the waters of Baptism, where the mighty Word of Christ and the name of our Triune God was spoken over our lives.  And so, as helpless babes, we were given ears to hear and tongues to confess. Nothing would ever be the same again. 

Baptized Saints, this is why we are people of the book.  This is why we are about Christ’s Word! This is why all of our ministries are centered around the Word – the Bible – and never apart from the Word.  You see, whenever the Word of Christ is spoken to you – whether in a sermon, a devotion, a hymn, or straight from the Bible – Jesus Himself is present and speaking His powerful Word to you.  And the very Word of Christ that can open the ears of a deaf man is the same Word that creates and sustains special ears of faith in you, so that you might hear rightly!  Yes, to hear of your sin and to especially hear that for Christ’s sake all of your sins are forgiven, is what the Word does for you.  The Word grants you repentance and creates and sustains faith in you!

And because faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ and not from the words of mankind, we are captive to Christ’s Word.  Yes, as Christians and as a church, we are captive to the Bible, for we know that through the Bible, Christ speaks to us, opening our ears to hear and opening our mouths to confess His praises.   

This is the beauty of the Word of Christ!  Faith comes from hearing.  Through the proclaimed Word we are cleansed.  
It is the Word, always the Word of Christ, for you and for me. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

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