“A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.” ” Mark 7:32-37 (NLT)
Really – if there’s an apt title for this message – it’s this: (holy) SPIT.
Does that offend you? Does it make you uncomfortable? Are you bristling or shifting in your seat right now? I wonder why we react in such a way when the thing that God does, according to the scriptures, is take the raw material of our lives and make it HOLY.
Like Jesus’ holy spit.
Let’s not waste our time here today, okay? Let’s not let some words go in one ear and out the other. And let’s not waste this perfectly wonderful object lesson – Jesus’ use of spit – when what God has to teach us is as close as the moisture in our mouths.
Four things stand out to me, about God, after reading this story of Jesus’ healing of the deaf mute…
God Says it, then He does it.
God does what He says – HIS WORD IS ACTION! Jesus SAID to the deaf mute ‘BE OPENED’ and it was SO. No empty promises. No passive, pious ‘I’ll pray for you’. Jesus literally puts His money WHERE HIS MOUTH IS, and the result is HEALING and RESTORATION! So much so that the people around Him say things like:
“He’s done it all – and done it well!” (NOT – “He says such nice things!” or “He’s so smart. He knows so much!”)
Scripture is jam-packed-FULL of ACTION WORDS when it comes to the promises of God. To ward off any doubt, let’s do a quick re-cap:
He defends, feeds, frees and gives.
He lifts up, loves and protects.
He takes the side of, upholds, watches over and sustains.
He listens to and lays hands on.
He casts out and makes short work of demons, illness and fear.
He SAYS it, and then He makes it SO. That’s the S.
People are His Plan!
Look around you. What do you see? WHO do you see? Do you SEE GOD? More likely than not, you only see PEOPLE. And people, WE are God’s PLAN of ACTION! When we read Isaiah 35:4 and hear the promise “GOD IS HERE!” we can’t help but look around…
And some of us, when we look around expecting to see God, are disappointed. All we see are a bunch of broken, messed up, unholy people with issues at least as great as our own. Let’s be honest – we’re not much to look at, even in our Sunday best, even on our very best day – are we?
But God’s Plan to ACT in this world doesn’t just ‘include’ us – it RELIES on us, too! Listen to James 2:14-17 (the Message):
“Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right WORDS but never DO anything? Does merely TALKING about our faith indicate that a person really HAS it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved, and (you) say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit! (I’ll pray for you!)” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup – where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-ACTS is outrageous NONSENSE?” [caps & emphasis mine]
It’s true that God is already working in the world all around us – after all, HE IS HERE! But He is calling you and me to JOIN HIM! To get in the game! To stop wasting time on our little, human projects and join Him in HIS Kingdom-work – work that CHANGES things and makes a LASTING impact on the world! God is calling you and me to ACTION that:
Defends, feeds, lifts up and upholds.
He’s calling us to sustain, watch over, free and protect.
God is looking for givers, lovers and those who will take the side of others who are otherwise alone.
Actions that, yes, HE IS ALREADY DOING and will continue to do – with or without our participation. But people, PEOPLE ARE HIS PLAN! That’s the P.
Incarnation is that churchified word that simply means God-lives-here. In Christian theology, we believe the incarnation to be the embodiment of God the Father in the human form of God the Son… Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there!
God’s Plan is People, and He has made it possible for you and me to BE the Incarnation of Jesus through His living and active Spirit! God moves in to you and me and we become people who embody IN THE FLESH the PERSON of God, the Holy Spirit! This includes His personality, His power and His priorities.
When our words are just words, they make little difference to others and we have little impact on the world. It’s like Psalm 146:3-4 says: ‘Mere humans don’t have what it takes – when they die, their projects die with them.’ It’s not just ANY act/action that God is after – His ‘capital P’ Plan isn’t to sit back and watch while we each make our own ‘little p’ plans! He knows that our actions, when done apart from His Word and His Spirit, are only temporary, weak, fruitless, even impotent acts that will be buried with us when this short life is through.
God is trying to tell us today that WITHOUT THE WORD, our words are as powerful as SPIT. Yuck. Gross.
Why else would the world look at Christians and Christianity with such skepticism and negativity? The world is watching us, and when they see mere humans operating without the Word and without the Spirit, what they see is the outrageous nonsense of God-talk without God-acts.
Jesus’ words to the deaf mute are a powerful reminder that we must remain open! The degree to which we are open to this mystery of Incarnation is the degree to which we participate in God’s Plan! But you and I know from painful trial and error that human effort isn’t enough to bring about the Incarnation – what we need is a:
Transfusion of grace from God!
I had some bloodwork done recently. Often when I have blood drawn, the phlebotomist has trouble finding a good vein (fortunately it only took one stick this time). But think about it… maybe the pricks and pokes you’re feeling in your life right now are the work of the Savior, who is set on finding a good vein in you so that He can begin the life-saving TRANSFUSION of grace and forgiveness that you so desperately need.
It is only by God’s free-flowing, undeserved grace that we can be filled with the living, active Word Himself – the Word that Speaks and makes it So – the S!
And only when we’ve been connected to that flow will we be able to live into God’s Plan as God’s People – His Plan to act in ways that will heal and restore and include all people – the P!
He knows that we can’t do it on our own – God knows our track record, both personally and corporately. He’s seen our attempts and He’s watched our failures. Only Jesus Christ, alive in us – the Incarnation – makes it possible for us to participate in God’s Plan – the I!
So, why are we willing to settle for knowing the ‘right words’ but failing to live them? That’s DEAD faith, people! And when we’re dying, what we need is something we can’t supply for ourselves: we need a TRANSFUSION of life-saving, life-giving proportions! To come ALIVE with Christ, we desperately need the GRACE of God, so…
Hang in there! Let him find a good vein! Transfusion – that’s the T!
And what we’re left with is SPIT.
Saliva. We’ve all got it, right? Basic, raw material.
Yet God can take the most raw material – the least spiritual offering we’ve got – and He can make it holy. Jesus proved it – with His spit.
It doesn’t take anything special on your part, because the power comes from the Spirit of God, ALIVE in His Word! And it is Spirit-infused actions that will change the world, no matter how small they may seem to you and me.
Let God take what little you have – even if all you have to give is the moisture in your mouth – and let Him make it a blessing to others!
Share some (holy) SPIT with the last, the lost and the least – the poor, the widow, the orphan, the grieving, the outsider, the alien, the stranger, the needy, the sick, the addict, that teenager… you can fill in the blanks. YOU KNOW THE WORDS.
Now LIVE THEM.