Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Greater Glory of God

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
August 18, 2013
What God has done is glorious. That was the estimation of the people. Here this man was deaf, and he could now hear. Here this man could speak only in jumbled words, and now he was speaking clearly and freely. This was glory that only God could bring about. “He has done all things well,” the people proclaimed. And there is no question. This was a great glory of God. God bringing healing to this man. God restoring this man, bringing this blessing to him.

But there is a greater glory of God. The crowds alluded to it, though without question did not fully realize it. It is in what they said. “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” Mark says they were astonished at this glory of Jesus bringing hearing to the man and the ability to speak. Mark recounts their words. But he wasn’t simply stating what they stated. He was putting the words of the crowd in his Gospel account as a direct reference to the promise of the Old Testament of the Savior who would come. He would be the one, as today’s Old Testament reading says, that in the day He would come “the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.”

This was a promise of the greater glory of God. Would it be amazing glory for the deaf to hear and the blind to receive their sight? No doubt. But the Old Testament didn’t spill all those pages of ink simply to tell us about the glory of God in healing people of their infirmities and physical limitations. That’s great glory, to be sure. But there is a greater glory of God.

God gave His words to the prophets in the Old Testament to tell of the one who would come to restore. The bringing of hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind wasn’t simply for healing, which is great glory in itself. It primarily was for the greater glory, restoration. God brought restoration to that man that day. He could now hear. He could now speak. He was restored to how God had originally created the crown of His creation, human beings. We weren’t created for ears that don’t hear. God did not bring us into existence only for us not to be able to see His glorious creation. God’s will was that we share in all His glory.

But we were the ones who chose to listen to words other than His alone. We were the ones who choose to look to ourselves and the enticements of the world rather than to Him alone for all good that we need. We chose our own way. That is why some are deaf and some are blind and some are paralyzed and some suffer from chemical imbalance and some suffer injury and some contract cancer and why all have limitations, aches, pains, hardships, and things generally don’t work the way they should with our bodies and minds. Sin entered the world and along with it a host of disease and disaster and illness and tragedy.

God’s will is clear. We see that from His amazing decision of creating us and giving us everything that is His. Why is it when you have everything you want more? This happened when Satan fell, rebelling against his Lord. It happened when he tempted Adam and Eve. It happens when he tempts us. God gives us more than we could ever want or imagine, but we want what we think we don’t have. Because of our rebellion, we live in a fallen world. It is a world of sickness, sin, and trouble.

It is most certainly great glory that God gives healing where we need it. He invites us to pray when we or our loved ones are suffering from pain or sickness. It is wonderful glory when God gives the answer of yes to our prayers for healing of physical and temporal hardships. We should never let up in our prayers in this regard, He has promised to hear us and to bless us according to His good and gracious will; at times with physical healing.

But even so, there is a greater glory of God. This doesn’t minimize His glorious work of healing cancer, or depression, or heart murmurs, or any number of medical issues we face. Rather, His glorious work of healing and restoring points us to His greater glory. Those who witnessed a man who was not able to hear or to speak normally now hearing and speaking as they were able, caught on to the glory of God. They were exactly right in what they exclaimed about Jesus. But they did not see exactly how they were right. Jesus’ work of restoration—bringing hearing to this man, restoring sight to that one, giving strength to paralyzed legs to another, casting out a demon from a child, and a multitude of other miraculous actions—was all a work in progress. In other words, when Jesus brought hearing and clear to speech to that man on that day, that wasn’t a one-time action to be understood on its own. It was part of a larger, glorious work of God being brought about through this man the Old Testament prophesied of.

For there was a greater glory God was yet to bring about. It was a work which culminated in the cross. Whereas Jesus had spent three years bringing healing and hope to the downtrodden and the sick, on the cross, He was the one who was brought low. He was the one who suffered. He was the one who was brutally treated. He was the one who took on Himself all our infirmities and rebellion. He was the one who suffered as though He were the guilty one. He was the one who suffered as the sinner, in the place of every sinner—you, me, and everyone who has ever lived and ever will live. There was a greater glory of God, and this was it. There was an act in which He had done all things well, and this was it.

If the man who had his ears opened by Jesus and his tongue loosed by Jesus thought that this was the most glorious thing he could experience, well, he hadn’t seen anything yet. Or heard anything yet, for that matter. It was at the cross where his path to God was opened up. It was at the cross where the bonds of his sin was loosed. The man who received his hearing and his speech received a greater glory when the same Lord who gave him his hearing and speech was silent as His Heavenly Father laid on Him the iniquity of us all. There was a greater glory of God and it was in this, in God forsaking His Son so that we may be restored.

There was a greater glory in that though the man whose ears now worked and mouth now spoke clearly could wake every day to an amazing new life of hearing and speaking, would at some point face what is due all of us, because of sin: death. He would die one day. And he knew that. We all do. Whatever glory might be shown in your life, whether through God granting you healing, or preserving you in an accident, or whatever way He helps you, you know that at some point you will die.

But there is a greater glory God has shown in His Son. It happened to Him. He was laid to rest in a grave. He has gone the way before you. He has sanctified the grave so that you don’t have to fear it. The greater glory of God was submitting to the grave but not be bound by it. Because death cannot hold the Lord. The greater glory of God is that in three days He Himself was loosed from the tomb. The bonds of the linen were unbound. He rose having conquered sin, death, hell, and the devil. The greater glory of God is that no matter what you face, whether illness or trials or temptation, Jesus has conquered all of those things in His death and resurrection.

All of this Jesus has accomplished. He has accomplished it for you. It is a done deal. He did it. It is a historical event, an action He has brought about in the past and so it cannot be undone. Salvation is not up to speculation, it is true. And it is true for you.

But there is a greater glory. With God it’s not quite like, and that’s all there is to it. No, with God, there’s always a greater glory. With a great God comes great glory. And with God bringing about His glory through His Son, there’s always greater glory to be given; greater glory to be received by us. That’s why there’s a greater glory for you in your Baptism. The death He died, He died for all, including you. In Baptism you were joined in that death He died for you. The resurrection He rose to, He rose for you and your life without death having power over you. In Baptism, you were joined in that resurrection He rose. There is greater glory in your Baptism than an anything you might wish for in terms of blessings in this life, as great as those blessings are. In Baptism, He has restored you. He has opened up for you not only your ears and your eyes and your mouth, but your whole being! You have new and eternal life in Christ!

Even so, with Him, there is always greater glory. In sending His Son to take a man who could not hear aside. To touch Him. To lift up a sigh to His Heavenly Father, and to give this man hearing and clear speech. We see that the greater glory of God is to do the same with you. Restoring you in body and soul. Touching your lips with the bread of His Meal, with the wine of His Supper. Imparting to you for your eating and drinking His body and blood in and with that bread and wine. You may long for healing. You may long for the day when your troubles and trials subside. Here at His Table, He gives you refreshment from your sorrows and troubles. He restores you in body and soul. He gives you His body and blood. He forgives you. He strengthens you. He sustains you and lifts you up.

He has done all things well. Amen.


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