Jesus’ Groan. 12th Sunday after Trinity, 2015.
12th Sunday after Trinity
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Mark 7:31-37
August 23, 2015
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” says St. Paul in Romans chapter 8. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility…in hope that the creation itself will be set free from corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:18-23)
Groaning. Paul says creation is groaning with birth pains, waiting for the revealing of God’s Sons. In the Gospel reading today Jesus groans. It says, “sighs” in our translation, but it is the same word Paul uses in Romans chapter 8.
Paul says creation is groaning as it waits for God’s Sons to be revealed. When God’s sons are revealed, then creation will be set free from futility and corruption.
Not only creation groans. We groan, says Paul. Christians groan. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Why do we groan? We are waiting for the same thing as creation. We are waiting for the redemption of our bodies, when we will put off death, futility, corruption, and put on glorious, immortal, resurrected bodies.
And not just we and the creation groan. The Holy Spirit also is groaning. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)
Groanings too deep for words are what comes from Jesus’ body as He sighs over this deaf and mute man. “And taking him aside from the crowd privately, He put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, He sighed (or groaned) and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ that is, ‘be opened.’”
Jesus is not just groaning over this deaf and mute man. He is groaning over the futility and corruption that binds all creation.
“’Vanity of vanities,’ says the preacher, ‘Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 13-14)
Jesus is groaning as with labor pains to bring in the new creation that God has promised. In the new creation there is no more death and no more futility, no more sickness and infirmity. In the new creation there will be life and the glory of God.
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22-23) And the new creation will appear when the sons of God appear. Right now God’s sons are hidden. They are subject to death and futility like the rest of creation. But when God’s sons are manifested, then creation will be transformed. God’s glory will not be hidden, but will give light to creation like the light of the sun.
But that is not yet. God’s sons are not yet revealed. How could they be? Even God’s only-begotten Son is not yet revealed except through the preaching of the Word. When He was on earth Jesus was subject to the same futility as us. He lived in a world that was always dying because it was under God’s curse. And Jesus was not visibly any different from the rest of human beings. He “made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Phil. 2:7) Though He was the Son of God “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death…even though He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:7-8) Jesus’ glory was hidden, even though He was “the Word made flesh.” He was the world’s Creator, yet He was made like His brothers in every respect (Hebrews 2:17)—His brothers being the sons of God—you and me. He was made subject to futility and death. That is why Jesus sighs and groans over this deaf man. He is groaning as in labor pains that this man and all of us might come into the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)
What this groaning means is that He, the Creator, has taken the curse of vanity and futility caused by sin upon Himself. Creation is in bondage to death and corruption, and so are we. Our groans would not be the groans of childbirth, but the groans of death, except for the fact that our God has taken on Himself our groaning. He groans and sighs here to God as a great high priest for this deaf and mute man who is brought to Him. He takes his deafness and muteness upon Himself and brings it to the Father, groaning. And the Father hears His sighs just as He heard the groans of Israel in slavery. We are in slavery, in bondage to corruption and futility and vanity, and Jesus groans the groans of our slavery.
Then after He has groaned and taken the anguish of the man’s bound ears and tongue to God, He returns from the presence of God as a priest does, with blessing for those for whom He has interceded. He comes out from the glorious presence of God and with shining face speaks a word of glory, freedom, and new creation—“Ephphatha”—that is, “be opened.” In the flood the windows of the heavens and the fountains of the deep were opened to destroy and cleans the earth, but here the Word of God opens the closed ears and mouth of the deaf man to the world outside him. He is opened to creation.
In the same way Jesus took our bondage upon Himself at Gethsemane and Calvary that He might speak the word of glory and freedom to us after His resurrection—the word that opens us to the new creation. He groaned in the bonds of our corruption in the garden, sweat poured from Him like great drops of blood, and He groaned as He surrendered to the bonds of death for us. Nailed to the cross, He groaned in the presence of God as He was forsaken for us and became the ransom-offering for us. He groaned in anguish as He paid for us to be set free from death and corruption, from futility and hell.
And on the third day when He exited the tomb and appeared to the disciples with a shining face, after having made intercession with God for us, He spoke a glorious Word of freedom. “Peace be with you. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.” Just as He loosed the bond of this man’s tongue and opened His ears, He forgave His disciples their sins, loosed them and gave them the key to loose the bonds of sin.
That is what the groaning of God’s Son merits us—a new creation. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” says St. John, “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21: 1, 3-4) When Jesus pronounces our sins forgiven through a man, the pastor or another brother in Christ, the former things have passed away. The old has gone and the new has come and we are a new creation.
When the water pours on the baby’s head with the name of the Triune God, Jesus glorifies that baby and sets it free from bondage to sin and death. He glorifies and pronounces us sons of God in Baptism and the absolution. The old has gone, the new has come. Jesus’ miracles were signs that the kingdom of God was among them, about to break out into the new creation. Today His Word and Sacraments are the signs that the kingdom of God is among us, and that the sons of God will soon be revealed among us who participate, who commune, in the only Son’s flesh and blood.
Jesus groaned for us in Gethsemane and on the cross. Now, risen from the dead and glorified, He says, “Be opened. Your sins are forgiven.” His word glorifies and liberates from corruption and sin everyone who believes it. It opens our ears to hear the glorious news of salvation, and looses our tongues to praise God and proclaim Christ’s name to those around us. Just as at creation God looked at everything He made and saw it was very good, so He looks at us who have received the firstfruits of the new creation, the Holy Spirit, and pronounces us “very good,” for the death and resurrection of Jesus covers us. And now we groan, not in despair, but with eager longing for that glory which is ours to be revealed when Christ is revealed in His glory. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
Soli Deo Gloria