Whatever or Whosoever

Mark 7:31–37


Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

We live in an age of great inconsistency. On one hand we live in a time of some of the most extreme spiritualism. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute pastor, haven’t you said that Christianity is on the decline. Churches have the lowest attendance of all times?”  Yes I’ve said that. People today are spiritual but they’re not religious. Spirituality has become unbuckled from the church. A couple of weeks ago I shared an article from Newsweek Magazine that said the United States is no longer a Christian Nation, it’s a Hindu Nation. The writer wasn’t saying that people worship the Hindu god Shiva but that they embrace the concept of Hinduism over Christianity. Hinduism says many enlightened paths lead to Nirvana. Choose your enlightened path. Choose any god you want. If you don’t like any of them, create one yourself or be one yourself. But Christianity promotes the singular idea that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ and what He has done.  

However, the majority of people today, including Christians, believe that there are many paths to heaven. Some Christian groups have even gone so far as to say God grants special dispensations to certain groups so that they don’t have to believe in Jesus. But in John 14:6 Jesus says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” If Jesus is the Son of God and He Himself is God why would anyone imply that there is another way? Wouldn’t doing so deny the deity of Jesus? Wouldn’t doing so be calling Jesus a liar? Wouldn’t doing so say it wasn’t necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? Wouldn’t doing so imply that we really aren’t sinful? And ultimately wouldn’t it be in direct conflict with Philippians 2:8-11: And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth,  and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” There is no other way than calling upon the name of Jesus to be saved.

This is one the greatest lies of the devil. He promotes the idea that it’s not about in whom you believe but in how you believe. Be a rugged individualist, take the initiative show faith do something. Do anything other than focusing on the cross. Our world is full of people looking to fill the spiritual void in their lives with causes, cults and individual creativity. Let me give you an example of that. On Sunday nights there is a show I like to watch called “The Shark Tank.” Five self made million/billionaires entrepreneurs. People come to them to trade equity in their own business for venture capital. Some will get it and some won’t. Last week a woman was looking for $150,000. She had invested $100,000 of her own money and had made about $27,000 over two years and was nearly broke. The business was upside down. By the way, her business was selling hugs. One product was an umbrella that sort of wrapped around a person’s head.  Another was sandals that left words in the ground like hugs and kisses. When the sharks realized that the business had been going backwards for 2 years they tried to convince her it was time to quit. She told them that she was going too if at the last product convention she didn’t break even. And she didn’t break even; she hit a wall and didn’t quit. She instead cried out to the universe, to god, to the forces that be, whatever you call it and asked why? Did you notice that she called out to, “the forces, god, the universe, the whatever you call it!” Even one of the sharks commented this cause is not a business it’s her religion. We live in an age where spirituality is based in causes, cults and individual creativity. It’s become unbuckled from the church and God’s Word. It’s based in self, it’s based in rugged individualism.

But there’s a second part of this great inconsistency and it also is based in rugged individualism. It’s apathy! The toughest thing for a teacher, a parent, a grand parent or spouse to deal with is apathy, the “I don’t care” attitude. When I was teaching there was a phrase that I just didn’t allow in class. Do you know what that phrase was? “WHATEVER!” Nothing is more destruction than the “whatever” phrase. It’s a term of brutal apathy. It is the “I don’t care” phrase on steroids. We live in a “Whatever World a world where each person is a rugged individualist. Those that live by apathy just don’t care. They don’t have any concerns about the spiritual things of life. They may have no concerns about anything in life other than how they will get through it day by day. The thing that is unique to both these groups is that they see themselves as very individualistic. No one is going to tell them what to do, what to believe or how to act. They both suffer from the Whatever Syndrome. Whatever you want to believe and whatever is happening who cares.

Listen to our text. Jesus returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to Him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged Him to lay His hand on him. In our Gospel today we see some people bringing a friend, a deaf man who spoke with much difficulty into Jesus presence. These men didn’t suffer from the Whatever syndrome. They knew that if they could get their friend into Jesus presence, if they could get Jesus to touch him, a change could take place. These men didn’t believe in a Whatever God. They believed in Jesus. These men didn’t look at their friend and say, whatever we don’t care, see you later. They took action. And then we see Jesus take action.

The first thing we see is Jesus taking the man apart from the crowd, separating him from the masses. It’s Jesus who makes the effort to interact with this man. Jesus who cares, He isn’t apathetic but sympathetic to our needs. Secondly Jesus places His fingers into the afflicted man’s ears. Jesus is willing to touch us where we need healing regardless whether when the world and those around us might consider us unclean, undeserving and unworthy. This, by the way, is what the world of the Whatevers think. When you suffer from apathy you’ll never put out effort to help another. Apathy is a product of our fallen nature. Apathy is original sin in action. St. Augustus said  original sin is curvatus in se, to be curved in on self. It’s to only care about self, like rugged individualism. Original sin is apathy in the truest since.  

Our text says Jesus spat. Jesus did what was necessary to help another. Where did He spit? We don’t know. Why did He spit? Maybe it was a form of baptism. But we don’t know for sure. But we do know that in Mark 8:23 Jesus spat in the eyes of the blind man to heal him. Jesus now touches the man’s tongue and looking to heaven He and sighs.

Why did Jesus sigh? Luther said that the sigh indicated Jesus' compassion for the people on whom Satan had wreaked so much havoc.

But now follows the climax of the account, the opening of ears and loosing of the tongue with a single word, "EPHPHATHA" It’s an Aramaic command. At Jesus' command two things happened immediately. Very likely the deaf man heard Jesus say Ephphatha. Mark gives the Greek for his Gentile audience.  "Be completely opened." With the word Ephphatha the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

All these incredible things happened by just by being in the presence of Jesus. But it all started with the friends who weren’t part of that Whatever group. They cared and showed it by bringing their friend into Jesus presence. We’re like that deaf man. Unless someone brings us into the presence of Jesus we would still be like the rest of the world. But in His presence we’ve been touched by Jesus through the waters of baptism. Through baptism Jesus commands Ephphatha and opens our hearts and minds and ears to Him. Though His Word we learn to hear and begin the process of hearing to learn. Romans 10:17 says: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ!” By being here in His (T) presence we grow in faith. But it all started with someone that cared. Someone bringing us into Jesus presence, maybe you’ve been that someone once. And maybe you will be again.

The devil and the world would love it if you would remain apathetic and part of the Whatever Group. To remain deaf, dumb and blind to Satan’s lies. But you have been called to the Whosoever Group. Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. You were called out the Whatevers and joined into the Whosoevers. You were called out of apathy and into eternity. You were called out of the darkness of this world and into (T) His marvelous light. For our God is not an apathetic God but a loving God - He gave His all, His Son, to save us all. By His (T) life, by His (T) death and His (T) glorious resurrection Jesus declares you His’ own. For your sins were paid in full by blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. And therefore can know beyond any doubt, that all your sins are forgiven for Jesus sake and in Jesus name, amen and amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, AMEN!