Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why the Cross Is the Center of History

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Rally Sunday
September 6, 2009
Mark 7:31-37

If the Gospel reading were the crucifixion of Jesus you would obviously have good reason to focus on the suffering and death of Christ. If the Gospel reading were of Jesus speaking of His suffering and death it would make good sense to emphasize that.

What about today’s Gospel reading? There’s no talk of the cross. There’s no mention of Jesus suffering and dying. There’s miraculous action He accomplishes. There’s mercy shown. There’s a bunch of people making known how great all of this stuff is.

But no talk of the cross.

It would be a great passage to show how God exhibits His power in our lives today as He did with the man who had his ears and mouth opened. A jumping off place to encourage us to make known far and wide the glory of Jesus and His miraculous power even as the crowds did back then. An obvious place to remind us that the Lord who showed mercy on that man is the same Lord who shows mercy upon us.

Yes, this passage would be great for all of that.

But better to do is ask, What is this passage telling us? What is it getting at? If we look at it simply for what it’s showing us we will come to see that the thrust of the passage is how the cross is the center of history.

With no mention of the cross, how can that be? It can be because that’s what Jesus is all about, the cross. Who He is and everything He does is all about the cross. This passage shows us that.

The people bring the man in need to Jesus and they beg Him to lay His hand on him. Even in our day of modern medicine we understand the healing power of touch. There’s something about a loved one or a person of authority holding your hand or placing their hand on you that immediately makes you feel better. But perhaps because of our reliance on modern medicine we have lost much of the significance of laying on of hands and of touch. The request of Jesus had as much to do with the wish to receive a blessing as it did to receive some sort of healing touch, if not more.

Jesus’ response shows us that there’s more to His answer of the request than meets the eye. He’s not helping out that day simply to give these men, and that man specifically, more than they had expected. No, He was wanting to show above all how the cross is the center of history.

And how is that? In the very act of opening the man’s ears and releasing his tongue Jesus was fulfilling what Isaiah prophesied in the Old Testament reading we heard this morning: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Isaiah prophesied not of a miracle worker. Not of a healer that would be the talk of the town. Not of glory and power to be made known throughout the land. He prophesied of the Messiah. This was one of those many prophecies, allied with countless prophecies in the entire Old Testament, of the Messiah. The Messiah, the Savior of the world, would come to suffer and die in the place of sinners. This man who couldn’t hear and who had a speech impediment was one of those sinners. He received mercy that day. Not just in being able to hear and speak plainly, in being forgiven his sins because the one who touched Him was the Messiah, the one who went to the cross.

How we know the cross is the center of history from this remarkable event is because Jesus’ response to their response to Him doesn’t make sense apart from the cross. They had just witnessed a miraculous display of power and mercy. How could they not speak of it? Well, they could have obeyed Jesus. He charged them not to tell anyone. Why was that? Because the cross is the center of history. Not Jesus’ healing of people and not even His merciful helping of people in their needs. The cross.

The reason they disobeyed Him is because they didn’t understand this. They didn’t know. If we look at this passage and see no mention of the cross and deduce from that that the passage and the incident is not about the cross, then we’re as little understanding of who Jesus is as they were. They didn’t know about the cross. They were just gonna’ go tell everybody what they saw!

How the cross is the center of history is shown by Jesus trying to keep those people quiet about what they saw until after. After the cross. Because it doesn’t mean anything without the cross. Nothing.

It means nothing.

Apart from the cross nothing in the Bible makes any sense. Apart from the cross we have in Christianity one more religion among many. How the cross is the center of history is shown in Jesus’ emphatic but failed efforts to keep those people quiet. Because when it was time for the cross there was no one there. No one to speak of the glory or the power or the mercy or the miraculous. There was no one there because Jesus came for the cross, not for miracle working. There was no one there because no one wanted to have anything to do with a Messiah who would be beaten up and crucified.

But how the cross is the center of history is great and all, yet doesn’t quite tell us what we need to know. The sermon title isn’t how the cross is the center of history but why the cross is the center of history. You can know all about God’s power and miraculous work all you want, but you won’t get from that what you need to know, not apart from the cross. You can even know how the cross is the center of history but it will mean nothing to you if you don’t know why the cross is the center of history.

If we can rejoice in how people can blindly stumble into something good, then we can rejoice in those people who said something they didn’t understand but was very much true and of far greater importance than they had realized. “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Yes, He did indeed do these things. And yes, He has indeed done all things well. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you know the reason He has? The cross.

The cross is how our Lord has done all things well. What those people spoke of was miraculous power, not suffering and death, and yet, even in their feeble attempts to glorify God, they spoke of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, that the Messiah would come to do these things. What those people would soon find out, and what we gratefully know, is that in doing those things He showed He is the Messiah. And what did the Messiah come to do? Die on the cross. Suffer on behalf of the world. Receive the punishment every sinner who has ever lived deserves. That’s why the cross is the center of history.

God comes to you in your life in the same way He did with that man that one day as recorded by Mark. In mercy. In power. In the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Your Savior. Baptizing you so that your ears may be opened to continue hearing His Gospel your whole life through. Daily forgiving your sins as you die and rise remembering your Baptism, confessing your sins, rejoicing in His manifold forgiveness. Giving you His very Body and Blood in His Holy Supper so that your mouth may be opened to eat and drink of them and then to proclaim His death until He returns in glory. Calling to your mind His promises as He brought them through Isaiah and the prophets, Paul and the apostles, when you’re flat on your back in the hospital and could use some miraculous healing, if not simply a hand to hold yours. Strengthening you in those dark times when you’re hurting because you feel alone or are carrying a burden. Your Lord is the Lord who opened the ears and mouth of a man who needed a Savior. He is the one you know is your Savior because He is the one who went to the cross.

Without the cross there is no salvation, no forgiveness, no restoration of God’s creation. The cross is the greatest miracle, it is the most astonishing display of power and mercy in all of history. Why the cross is the center of history is because God saw humanity in its lost condition and looked upon it as He did that one man and opened to us the gate of heaven. Amen.


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