Deafness and muteness had their start in the Garden of Eden. God spoke very clearly and succinctly. "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Now, it is not that Adam and Eve failed to hear those words. They were not physically deaf. But they had a kind of selective deafness, as parents sometimes accuse children of having, and as wives sometimes accuse husbands of having.
Eve seemed to hear, "Do not eat of the tree, unless it looks delicious and desirable, or unless someone else tells you that you will not die, or unless you think that eating will make you like God."
Adam seemed to hear, "Do not eat of the tree, unless your wife gives you some."
When the Lord came in the Garden and spoke to Adam and Eve, He found that they also had become mute - not completely mute, but like the man in the Gospel, they had an impediment on their tongues. Adam and Eve could speak, but they could not speak the right things anymore. Instead of speaking the truth, they tried to blame others. They were not able to admit their sin.
Yet the Lord was merciful. He gave Adam and Eve a powerful Word that could break through spiritual deafness. He promised a Savior who would overcome the serpent. The Gospel became a Word of truth that could even unloose our sinful human tongues.
For we also, Adam and Eve's children, are so often deaf and mute. We do not hear what we ought to, and we have trouble recognizing the truth when we hear it. The Gospel is something that our sinful flesh cannot understand.
Even now that we are regenerated in Christ, our ability to hear is muffled by our old Adam. We hear, but we quickly forget. We have selective hearing as far as the Word is concerned. We often twist what we hear to suit what we want. "Thou shalt not . . ." unless the temptation looks desirable, or unless someone tells you that it's not really a bad thing, or unless you think that something good will happen because of it.
Our speaking is also afflicted with an impediment. We only like to praise God when it feels good. Even when we do, our words are often feeble and faint praise. When we speak about God, we often say what feels right, and in so doing slander His Name. When we speak about our neighbor, we often speak when we should be silent, or reveal what should remain hidden, or speak as truth what we cannot prove. Our words, even when our intentions are good, so often hurt others. We are not masters of our tongues, for no man can master that poisonous serpent lurking in our mouths.
In the end, the physical deafness and muteness of the man in the Gospel is a sign of the far greater and universal deafness and muteness that afflicts us all. These are very serious handicaps. A deaf man may not hear a car coming until too late. A mute may not cry out for help clearly enough. So we spiritual deaf-mutes are in even greater danger. As sinners, we cannot call out for help to our Savior the way we ought to, nor can we hear the danger coming in the first place. For the serpent is cunning and seductive as he hisses in our ears and leads us astray. We cannot hear him nor detect the ways he influences us, but he leads us along nevertheless, so easily, so often.
But Christ comes to us, and He takes us aside. He looks at us in compassion and touches our tongue and says, "Be opened." Wonder of wonders, His Word is able to come into our ears and be heard, since it is a Word of power, living and active, able even to pierce our deaf ears. Then we are enabled to speak clearly, since everyone who hears the Word and receives it with joy will surely also confess with their lips. Our confession of the Word is able to be pure and perfect, because they are not our words spoken by feeble tongues. No, it is the holy Word of the Almighty God that He has gladly placed upon our unworthy tongues.
Although the flesh is still with us, and the spiritual deafness and muteness still cling to us in this life, yet we also have a new Adam who does all things well. The new nature in us hears and speaks and glorifies God for His miracle of healing in His Son.
For this Christ has come to reverse the curse of Adam. He became the curse as He hung upon the Tree of Calvary. He entered the darkness of death that all children of Adam must inherit. But by entering the grave, Christ filled it up and burst it open. Death is dead for us, because the Man who is called Life has destroyed the grave.
The serpent cannot destroy us with his whispering, either. For Christ conquered satan. The temptations of the wicked one cannot destroy us who trust in Christ's Blood. We may stumble and we may fall, but Christ is our sure Defender whom satan can never overcome.
Surely we continue to be troubled by deafness from time to time, as our flesh causes us to listen poorly to the Word. Surely our tongue will speak in crooked and unrighteous ways, as it slips out of our feeble control. But this deafness and this muteness were also placed upon Christ on the Cross. He was pierced for the poisonous words that we have uttered. And every ear, even His Father's, seemed deaf to His cries as He hung along in the darkness of the Cross.
Yet His suffering was not for nothing. Because He died, He was able to stand before the gates of heaven and cry out, "Be opened!" and they are opened for us. That is what forgiveness does for us. By our sins, we were barred from entrance into Paradise. But by His Blood, we have free admittance into eternal glory.
Our Savior keep us in His grace until we hear His voice in that holy place. Amen.
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