Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Don't be quiet. . .

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18B, preached on Sunday, September 5, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    There’s an odd thing in our Gospel reading today.  It seems like Jesus doesn’t want to be known.  First, Jesus entered a house and didn’t want anyone to know.  But of course, His name and the news of His miracles had spread, so He couldn’t be hidden.  Then later on, when people brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, Jesus took him aside, privately.  He healed Him away from the crowd so they couldn’t see.  Why did He do this?  Why didn’t Jesus want everyone to know about His miracle?
    This secrecy is odd and confusing.  It doesn’t make sense.  Jesus should want people to know who He is, and He should want them to know about His miracles because His miracles point to Him being the Messiah.  After Jesus’ first miracle, when He turned water into wine, John tells us that after that miracle His disciples believed in Him.  When Nicodemus the Pharisee came to Jesus at night, he said that he knew Jesus was a teacher from God because no one could do the signs He did unless God was with him.  And Jesus Himself even pointed to His miracles as proof of who He is.  When John the Baptist was in prison and sent messengers to Jesus asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus told the messengers to “Go and tell John what you have seen and hear: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, [and] the poor have good news preached to them” (Lk 7:20, 22).  These miracles reveal who Jesus is.
    But today, we hear Jesus telling the healed men and others to be quiet.  Don’t tell anyone.  “Yes, your ears have just been opened to hear the sounds of the world for the first time, and yes, your tongue has just been loosed so you can talk clearly, but don’t go talking about this.”  It’s so odd for Jesus to say this, but He did, and there’s a reason for that.  Jesus didn’t come to just do miracles.  He’s no Miracle Max for higher.  His purpose isn’t to temporarily heal and make alive...and to be sure, that’s what Jesus’ miracles were, they were temporary.
    His first miracle, turning water into wine; he did that in response to the wine at the wedding running out.  But guess what?  The water He turned into wine also ran out.  Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, they ate till their bellies were full, but the next day they were hungry again.  Jesus quieted storms on the sea, but more storms came.  The people Jesus healed got sick again.  Even Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead, he died again.  These temporary miracles, no matter how important and good and gracious they were, they weren’t the main point.  Jesus told the man not to tell because that’s all people would want from Him, just temporary miracles; after all, isn’t that what we want? 
If we heard about a miracle man in town, wouldn’t we go see Him?  Wouldn’t we want him to fix all our problems, heal all our diseases, and soothe all our pains?  But that’s not who Jesus is.  He isn’t a Miracle Max.  He’s the Messiah.
   He’s the promised Savior, God’s Chosen One, God Incarnate who saves you not temporarily, but eternally.  Christ didn’t come to heal you right now from all your physical pains, but to heal you from the pain of sin and eternal death.  He came to shed His blood on the cross so that you might be washed and cleansed from your sin.  He came to die and rise so that you too would rise from the grave and stand before your Lord face to face.  That’s why Christ came.  That’s what His miracles point to: to that complete and everlasting healing of His cross and resurrection.  And that’s why Jesus told the man to keep quiet, so people would come to Him seeking not just temporary healing, but the true healing and salvation that He alone gives.
    But of course, the man and others couldn’t keep quiet, could they?  They just had to tell.  The more Jesus told them to be quiet, the more they shouted it.  The man had to share his good news.  He was unable to talk for so long, and now he was never going to stop talking about Jesus.  He wanted to tell everyone about the One who healed him. 
    I often wonder how we should view the healed man’s and other’s actions here.  On the one hand, we understand why they couldn’t keep quiet.  But on the other hand, they were disobeying Jesus.  So was this “evangelism” a sin?  The very fact that Jesus told them to not say anything and they did means they were disobeying the Lord.  They were sinning.  They were acting contrary to God’s will. 
At that specific time, and for a specific purpose, Jesus said to be quiet.  But that time is over.  Christ finished the work of salvation.  He declared it from the cross.  And He’s given His followers the task of telling others.  So don’t be quiet.  
   Jesus says, “Go and tell.  Tell your family, your children, your friends.  In your vocations, share the good news of what I have done.  Proclaim my cross and resurrection for them.  Share my love in deeds and words.  Speak my forgiveness for the sins of the world.”  Jesus tells us to tell, but we often act like the healed man, doing the exact opposite of what Jesus says.  He spoke when he was supposed to keep quiet.  We keep quiet when we’re supposed to speak.  And when we do speak, we often just speak about sins and we keep quiet about God’s forgiveness.
   We’re quick to point out what’s wrong and condemn that which goes against God’s word, and to be sure, this isn’t bad thing.  We do need to recognize sin and speak out against it.  It’s right for us to look at our lives and the world around us through the lens of God’s Word.  But we just can’t leave it there.  We can’t just point out sin and leave it at that because pointing doesn’t take sin away.  We need to proclaim Christ who overcomes sins.  We need to share the cross of Jesus with others so they can hear the healing and life-giving word of Jesus’ forgiveness.  
   Now that Christ has finished His work of salvation we get to proclaim Him and the cross to everyone.  We get to do exactly what the healed man did, but we get to do it with God’s blessing.  We get to joyously tell everyone about the forgiveness and everlasting life we have in Christ, and we get to tell them that He has died and risen for them too!  We love to share good news and there’s no good news better than this Good News.  
   Jesus didn’t come just to perform earthly miracles.  Temporary healings weren’t the point.  Salvation is His purpose.  Victory over sin and death is His goal.  And these He accomplished with His death and resurrection.  With the promise of salvation, we open our mouths.  We can’t keep quiet.  We sing His praises.  We don’t just talk about sin, we proclaim the answer to it: Jesus and His forgiveness.  In His name...Amen.

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