Jesus Opens Blind Eyes, Deaf Ears and Mute Lips
Lent 3, 2010 – Luke 11:14-28, Ephesians 5:1-14
This is a teaching from Lent 3.
In our Ephesians reading today, Paul exhorts us to “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Christ loved us. Gave Himself up for us. Gave us His Spirit to make us lovers in His Image.
We are images of God, and we are on a journey toward the fullness of love.
We are on festal journey. We travel toward a great feast, in fact, the greatest feast of all. But first, we pass through the desert. In some ways, Lent may likened to the journey through the valley of the shadow of death on the way to the feast of feasts. We follow in the steps of Christ Jesus, who for the joy before him endured the cross.
He calls us. “Take up your cross and follow me.”
During Lent, we pay particular attention to this command that always resounds before and within us. We meditate upon the desert places. We reflect upon the wilderness temptation, and the fight with the evil one. The Spirit led our sweet Lord into the wilderness to be tested. He leads us into wilderness places to test us, to teach us, to perfect us, and to glorify us. Today, some of us are truly immersed in a wilderness passages and times of great struggle. Others in our company are enjoying fullness of soul and times of great victory.
We enter the Lenten journey from different places. Some know first hand a barrenness of soul, the ache of God’s refining fire. Others know first hand the sweet bliss of God’s renewing love.
From our different places, we come together on Lenten journey. Paying heed to the rhythm of descent and ascent. There is a time to break down, a time to weep, a time to mourn, there is a time to die. During Lent, we pay heed to these times and to our weakness and desperate need for a Savior.
Like the Children of Israel, we are learning that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the Lord.” We are all catechumens. We all stand before the Lord, waiting, listening, trusting His Spirit to “sound down” His Word into our hearts.
Today as we wait and watch and listen, we meet Jesus casting out a demon. Verse 14 of Luke 11 reads, “Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.”
This verse captures the heart of our story.
Jesus speaks, the demon flees, the mute talks, the crowd marvels.
the demon flees,
the mute talks,
the crowd marvels.
Even as the crowd marvels, there are voices of dissent. Some people cry out, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul!” Others cry out, “Show us a sign that you are truly from heaven.”
Even as the people behold Jesus casting out the mute demon, they do not see. They cannot see. They are blind. Blind to the Sign in their midst. Jesus Himself is all the Sign needed. Jesus Himself is YHWH in the midst. But they are blind.
So very blind. They call the Lord of Glory, the servant of Beelzebul. The intoxication of sin has blinded them, and they cannot see.
They cannot hear. The Word of God is fully enfleshed in their midst. But they cannot hear him.
He declares, “The kingdom of heaven has come upon you.”
For centuries, their people waited and watched and longed for the coming of the kingdom. For centuries, they cried aloud, they called out, they looked for the Messiah. Now the one and only King has come, but they cannot see, will not see. They cannot hear, will not hear.
They even fail to speak. For as Jesus casts out the mute demon, they do not open their lips and offer praise to the Most High. Instead, they curse and challenge. Their words fall like dead letters to the ground.
Jesus, the strong man, has come to drive out the demons and take his spoil. Jesus, the strong man has come to gather His people unto Himself, but these people want to scatter.
He warns them of their own perilous condition. Their houses, their lives, their souls may appear to be swept clean, may appear to be righteous, may appear to be holy and true, but in fact, they are in utter peril. Without the strong man to protect, deliver, restore and heal them, their law-keeping cannot protect them from the evil one who comes to ravage their souls.
Earlier Jesus exhorted His listeners to ask, seek, knock. Earlier Jesus encouraged His listeners to ask the Father to send the Spirit. But these people choose to heed the serpent instead. They’ve waged a war of words with the only Lover of their souls.
Even those who are sympathetic to the work of Christ, fail to see. A woman cries out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”
Jesus replies, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”
The Word of God is true meat, true drink, and true life for the soul. But the blind cannot see this bounty. The deaf cannot hear of this treasure. The mute fail to ask and fail offer thanks for these good gifts of God.
Like their ancient ancestors, many in this crowd will die wandering at the border of God’s Promised Land.
Lord Jesus, have mercy, come and save us your sinners as we trod these dry and dusty paths. Have mercy as we ourselves fail to see, fail to hear, fail to speak. Have mercy and save us from dying of thirst before the fountain of life. For You alone have the words of eternal life.
When Jesus speaks all creation stands in rapt attention. His Word cannot, will not return void. For all things are created in and through Him. And in Him alone we live and move and have our being. His Word is the water that springs from the Rock, quenching our thirsty hearts. His Word is the sweet milk and honey fattening our souls. His Word is the wine of comfort and wisdom in our hour of need.
When Jesus speaks, the demon flees. The church has often understood desert wastelands as places where the demons inhabit. These are the places outside of God’s promised land. Again and again, God’s people cross these fierce landscapes on their way to the holy city.
In these wild places, they face temptation. They face struggle. They face trial. In these forsaken haunts, they find solace and strength only in the True Bread and True Wine flowing out from the Word of the Lord. In these desert valleys, they also discover their own blindness, deafness, muteness.
Jesus meets his people in these desert valleys and opens blind eyes, deaf ears and mute lips.
Jesus gave Pearl Fryar eyes to see. He gave him eyes to see the wonder of the world all around him. Mr. Fryar lives in Bishopville, NC. He’s a simple man. He worked at a soda can factory for most of his life. One day in the 1980s, he began to see. As he passed the local nursery, he saw a pile a dying plants being thrown away.
He saw something else. He saw that these plants could live. The nursery allowed him to take home the plants they threw away. Mr. Fryar wasn’t trained in Horticulture, but he could see. He could what these plants could be, might be, would be. With his loving care, over many years, these plants would not only live but thrive and become glorious.
This man saw the goodness of our Lord’s creation and planted a garden of Love, Peace and Goodness. He literally planted these words at the heart of his garden. He created shapes out of plants like hearts and squares and circles and swirls. He created a garden of wonder, of playfulness, of joy.
His vision changed his lawn, his city, his state and has even impacted his nation. Newspapers and television stations from across the country came to behold this wonder. Art museums, schools, churches and families came to walk through his garden of love.
Mr. Pearl began see and now many people travel from around the world to come and see a simple garden through his loving, worshipful eyes.
Jesus gave St Anthony ears to hear. Walking past the open door of a church, he heard the voice of the preacher repeating the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler, “Sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.”
So he did.
He walked away from the comforts of the city and followed Jesus into the dangers of the desert. He was not running away, but running to. He was running to the voice of the Lord. And the Lord called him into the wastelands of the world.
So Anthony went into to the heart of darkness, feasting only upon the Word of the Lord.
If you’ve read the tales, you know the story. He faced all sorts of evil spirits and torments. But our Lord was faithful. Our Lord sustained Him, strengthened and gave him the victory.
Anthony heard the Lord and followed. Generations of men and women continue to follow Anthony into the wilderness, planting communities of faith in the wasteland.
Jesus gave the ancient Celts lips to praise God. They trained their tongues to praise the Lord, using the Psalms of God’s people. When they wrote a poem, they began by writing a psalm of praise unto the Lord.
Then they praised the birds of the air, the water below, and the tree before. All the time, the praise of God echoed through every poem. They praised the king, the warrior, the farmer and the mother.
In every word of praise, a double sound went forth: praise to the creation and the creatures as well as praise to the Lord Most High. They are still singing.
Bobi Jones, a 20th century poet, began to praise every person and place around him. He looked at a dreary bus conductor and wondered how can I praise this almost lifeless man? And then he did. Bobi writes,
A Bus Conductor
There’s no mystery in him: I put my hand
In his heart,—knock: I saw how sickly
Living was. Black-framed glasses, jaunty, shallow,
As grey-faced as a shop’s passion.
He knows nothing but a bus. “Tickets please.”
To death, to sweetheart, to agony.
A person’s a shilling, and two pence change.
“Tickets please” to the springtime, to autumn—
Stop. Oh Christ-where-there’s-no-field-without-scar,
Red-without-blood, trees-without-roots! Nothing but a bus!
Under slate-coloured brows, his eyes are dust
Lacking the explosion of seeing, lacking the taste of looking,
Is God to be found in them?
Oh God: bus, pools, food, pint, boys, cash, grave.
What shall we love in him? Unless love the lack.
The lack that anchors everyone. Since we all give loaves
And fishes to Christ, and He turns them into an immense creation.
Pearl Fryar had eyes to see the glory of the Lord in the plants around Him. St Anthony had ears to hear the call of Christ in the desert places. Bobi Jones had a song to sing to world around him.
Oh that we might see, might hear, might speak.
During this Lenten journey, we focus on the Lord’s calling into the wilderness. The Spirit is leading, guiding us through the perils of the desert. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.
This deadly valley saps our strength. The deserts and struggles of our lives humble us, expose us, defeat us.
We grow weary. We lose heart. He is not faithless. He will not forsake.
The desert reveals our blind eyes. We no longer see the wonder of the Lord all round us. We fail to see his goodness and see only our losses, our needs, our disappointments.
The desert reveals our deaf ears. We no longer hear the vital life of His Word. We think it has grown dull. It is we who have grown dull and fail to hear the Power of God that booms out from His Word.
The desert reveals our mute tongues. We have no praise to bring Him. Instead of new songs, we sing old songs of complaint and despair.
In the midst of our struggles, Jesus speaks. He speaks to you. He speaks to me. He frees us from the power of the evil one.
He calls out,
“Awake, O sleeper
Arise from the dead
Christ will shine on you!”
In our weariness, He comes. In our struggle, He comes. In our lack, He comes. In our faithlessness, He comes.
He comes with healing in His wings.
Come Lord Jesus open eyes to behold you, to behold your glory in all creation, to behold your Image in the people around us.
Come Lord Jesus open our ears to hear. To hear your voice in the Word, in liturgy, and in the path you’ve called us to walk.
Come Lord Jesus open our lips to praise.
O for a thousand tongues to sing our Great Redeemer’s praise!
O come let us worship God our King.
O come let us worship and fall down before Christ our King and God.
O come let us worship and fall down before Christ Himself, our King and God.
In the name of Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.