The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Isaiah 35:4 Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. 7 The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water. (NASB)
Mark 7:24 And from there He arose and went away to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. 25 But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit, immediately came and fell at His feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” 30 And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having departed. 31 And again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. 32 And they brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they entreated Him to lay His hand upon him. 33 And He took him aside from the multitude by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; 34 and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” 35 And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. 36 And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. 37 And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (NASB)
In 2018, there will be an estimated 1,735,350 new cancer cases diagnosed and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States this year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
From 2013–2015, an estimated 54.4 million US adults (22.7%) annually had been told by a doctor that they had some form of arthritis. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S.
Approximately 795,000 people will suffer a stroke this year and more than 140,000 will die.
Chronic lower respiratory diseases kills 155,041 per year.
Death by accident per year: 146,571
Alzheimer’s disease deaths per year: 110,561
Diabetes deaths per year: 79,535
Influenza and pneumonia deaths per year: 57,062
Kidney disease deaths per year: 49,959
Add to these the fact that nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. That means there are 44.7 million Americans who suffer with some kind of brokeness of the mind and brain.
There will be 45,000 suicides this year.
Sickness, pain, every defect, brokeness of any kind, dying and death were not part of God’s original design. These things are alien to what God intended for His children and His creation. When God first made the heavens and the earth He provided all things needed for a good and long life.
Genesis 2:8-9 “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden…”
There it is, God’s original intent for the man and woman. He provided everything needed for life, continual and everlasting life. Adam and Eve were without sin and therefore did not have any of the defects brought on by sin and God’s judgment.
In order to die, they had to do something to bring it about and that is what they did. Genesis 2:16-17 “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
You know what they did. You know the punishment. They fell into sin and brought about God’s judgment on the serpent, on Adam and Eve and all their descendants, and all of creation.
Genesis 3:17-19 “Then to Adam God said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you . . . By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.’”
Enter every kind of sickness, danger, strife, and evil and the Lord’s God judgment upon the same. Over the next few generations the natural life span dropped dramatically. In Genesis 5:5 we are told that “Adam lived nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.” Over the next few generations human beings died younger and younger, while at the same time their sin became greater and greater. By Genesis 6:3 mankind had become so corrupt the Lord God decided that He would place a limit on the earthly life of human beings. “Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’”
Now imagine all the illnesses I listed at the start of the sermon and add to those any you can think of. Add to this growing list of things are hurt and kill human beings plagues, leprosy, murder and war, accidents, child and child-bearing mortality. That’s why the ancient world had an average life span of between 22 and 28 years old. So it was in the days of Isaiah and in the 1st century when Jesus walked the face of the earth.
Now it would seem that against this background, the promise of the Lord God in Isaiah 35 would be understood as comforting as any promise given by God. Isaiah 35:4-6 is nothing short of a complete restoration of life, an undoing of what sin and judgment had done to mankind and creation. 4 “The recompense of God will come, But He will save you. 5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6 Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.”
But then, context, as they say, is everything. When Isaiah was given to write these words, the Israelites not only had to live with the various diseases and decay, the dangers of ordinary life, and death under normal conditions, the Israelites were about to face an invasion by a brutal army that would lay siege to Jerusalem, then be hauled off to Babylon as slaves. As God had punished Adam and Eve for their sin, the Lord God was now about to punish the Hebrews for forsaking Him and His Word. Life for those Israelites in Isaiah’s day was about to get really bad. It’s just that they didn’t believe what Isaiah was preaching. They couldn’t imagine that the Lord God would do such a thing to them. Isaiah’s prophecies and promises in chapter 35 didn’t make any sense to Isaiah’s contemporaries.
Let’s suppose someone ran up to the front of the church and yelled, “Don’t worry, we are coming in there to save you. Some of you are going to make it out alive.” Your first thought would be, “What is the world is wrong. What are you yelling about?”
On the other hand, if you saw an out of control fire all around you, you’d understand, take immediate action, and be happy that someone was about to rescue you.
The Israelites in Isaiah’s day and the crowds gathered around Jesus in His day didn’t know they had a problem. It’s the same today. The church, the country, and the family don’t think we have a serious sin and judgment problem. And the good news of a rescue is only understood as good news, when a person realizes the nature and seriousness of the problem. Isaiah was preaching to people who were comfortable in their lifestyles and who didn’t want to hear what the prophet had been given to preach.
On the one hand, the Lord God was sending an army to wipe out Jerusalem as a punishment for turning away from Him. The goal of the punishment was to punish and to break the people so they’d repent and return to the Lord God. “Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the recompense of God will come.”
Those beautiful promises in Isaiah 35:5-6 of undoing what sin has done to us, were preceded by a promise that the Lord God is going to deal with the evil of this present age and the unfaithfulness of the church on earth. This promise was not just a simply a statement about what God would do on judgment day. It was a statement about what God was going to do in the life of Israel in Isaiah’s day and how God works in world history throughout all generations. We might not recognize the work of God in history when it happens, but God does work His will in history and does so for the benefit of His Church.
The Lord God punishes the wicked both in this life and the life of the world to come. Sometimes He uses political turmoil. Sometimes it is the collapse of economies. Sometimes He will use evil men, like terrorists and despots to punish other evil doers. Sometimes He uses natural forces like fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, storms, and the like.
The lesson of Isaiah 35 is that God does do something about the evil of this present age, while at the same time giving a promise to the faithful that He is in the process of fixing all that is wrong, all that is broken, all that is sick, and all that is dying.
Since we are in the world but not of it and we too are sinners we too will be bruised. We suffer the effects of sin on our bodies, souls, and minds. Creation itself labors under the curse of sin. Thorns and thistles spring up in every aspect of human existence. That’s why St. Paul was given to write in Romans 8:20-22 “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” If even creation groans under the burden of sin, how much more for we who actually commit the sins?
The people in Isaiah’s day saw the “vengeance and the recompense of God.” They were invaded, many killed, and the rest taken into slavery. Enter Jesus and the Gospel lesson. Enter Jesus and His miracles.
Enter the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. There on the cross the “vengeance and the recompense of God” fell on Jesus Christ not on you. “Vengeance” means retribution – that is punishment equal to the crime. And “recompense” means the a pay for a wrong. There on the cross the “vengeance and the recompense of God” played out on the One who did not deserve punishment and who owed no debt for any wrong He did. Rather, He was punished for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the world.
Now the people in Isaiah’s day did not see the eyes of the blind opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. History and mankind had to wait 800 years before they saw such things happen.
800 years later Jesus went to the region of Tyre and a Gentile woman, a Syrophoenician kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. After some theological haggling, Jesus said to her “go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter” and so it was.
Then Jesus went to the region of Decapolis where the people brought Him a man who was deaf. Jesus putting His fingers into the man’s ears and after spitting, He touched the man’s tongue with the saliva and said, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” and his ears were opened.
Jesus’s incarnation, life, suffering, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and doctrine were carried out to save people from their sin and to show them that He is truly the Son of God, the Promised Messiah.
But the same has to be said of all of Jesus’s miracles, especially the miracles of healing. A lot of Christians either didn’t learn or forget why Jesus did miracles of healing. There’s this tendency to see the miracles as only good works that Jesus did to relieve suffering because He had compassion for the people.
It is true that Jesus has compassion on people. But Jesus did not come to provide a temporary fix for those fortunate enough to be born at the right time and be in the right place in human history.
Jesus came into the world to make atonement for the sins of the world and your sins. He came to suffer the “vengeance and the recompense of God.” In the process of doing this Jesus fulfilled specific prophecies of the Old Testament so that people would know that He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God.
But He also performed these works of healings to show us what our futures will look like. In the promises of God’s Word, in the accounts from Jesus’s earthly ministry, by the virtue of Jesus’s resurrection we learn that the suffering that we going through and increasingly so as we age, is a temporary state.
We have a tendency to carry on and on as if we are the only ones who suffer with joint pain, back pain, heart disease, cancer, or any other hardship and misfortune, even though such things and worse are common to all creatures.
Even though we are all suffering under the curse and consequences of sin, even though we experience the aches and pains of aging, and even though we will die physically as a result of some diseases or accident, God is in the business and process of preserving you. He does this through the Word and Sacrament ministry of the church and in the gift of faith.
God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is with you when you’re mourning the loss of a loved. He is with you when you are in declining physical and mental health. He is reminding you in the promises of the Old and New Testament. He is reminding you in Jesus’s doctrine and the miracles of healing that He is going to restore you to perfect health in the resurrection of the dead. That’s why Jesus was resurrected in the first place! So that you too will be resurrected. You and all your loved ones who died in Christian faith.
The day of the final recompense and vengeance for all that is evil is coming. But He is save you and on that day, He will raise your tired bodies and they will be tired no more. Death will be shaken off like an evening’s nap. Health and strength and happiness will rest upon you everlastingly for your sins have been paid for and you have been forgiven and soon enough you’re going to be really healthy.
May the peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen