15th Sunday after pentecost

Pentecost   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:10:28
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The anxious heart

I’ve been thinking about those horrific, saddening images of those people trying to get out of Afghanistan as I meditate on this passage of our reading today.
Our reading from Is 35 starts with this:
Isaiah 35:4 ESV
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
I am saddened by this new rule and reign. I’m anxious for them, for us, and honestly I am angry but not righteously so. I have no idea what would be better or who on earth could have done it differently.
Now, the original recipients of Is. 35 had the exact same reasons to be anxious. Chapter 36 of Isaiah starts out with this terrifying verse of a new rule and reign:
Isaiah 36:1 ESV
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.
This is Sennacherib’s Prism, a type of diary- listen to how he recorded his version of events in Isaiah 36.
“ I shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird in his royal city of Jerusalem.” Doesn’t that make your blood run cold?
Assyria captured and destroyed Israel. Eventually, Israel was set free only to fill her cities with people who were oppressed by their own kind and their own deeds.
That is the story of a nation, but sometimes it is helpful to drill down and get a picture of the lives of individuals who suffered and were delivered.
Today in Mark 7 we encounter three different individuals who are imprisoned, anxious, worn out.
First in v.26 we meet the Syrophoenician woman, then we meet her daughter.
Mark 7:26 ESV
Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
Mark is cluing us all into the prison this woman lived in. A gentile - read NOT AN INSIDER, NOT a member of Israel - God’s chosen people.
Then Mark identifies her as a Syrophoenician, this is present day Syria meaning that she was from BEYOND the river Jordan - an area typically outside the historic rule of Israel. This woman is LOW on the ladder.
Then we hear of her daughter, what is her problem? She’s possessed by a demon. Demon possession at this point in history is a signal to the reader that this family has done something horrible to deserve this treatment.
It’s like when you drive through a big city and you see a person loitering outside a bail bond office. You know they are there for a reason, it’s not a Starbucks. They have real reason to be anxious.
Finally Jesus heads back from the sea of Galilee to Tyre and Sidon. Now if you’re a close reader of the scriptures then you remember this:
Ezekiel 26:3 ESV
therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.
This anonymous man in this accursed region is deaf and unable to speak, unable to advocate for himself.
As we hear this, we should be thinking about a few people, including Jesus who should have incredible anxiety. They are on the outs in every way:
Geographically
Politically
Spiritually
Physically
In each of these cases the individuals that are healed have this miraculous, close, encounter with the living God.
Think about the Syrophoenician woman- at this point she is the very first person in the Gospel of Mark to call Jesus Lord. She, an outsider in every way recognizes that her King has come and as a King He should institute a reversal of this horrible injustice: the demons have taken her child.
I’ve never had so much anxiety as I did when my either of my boys were in peril. Yesterday Jack was running on campus down hill and a car was coming just as it looked like he was about to step into the road.
Now what I see in Mark is an incredible act of faith. Not that the woman implores Jesus but that she actually leaves him.
Mark 7:29–30 ESV
And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
Man, if that’s my kid I am not leaving until that guy is coming with me.
Compare this to the deaf man. Who can certainly feel and see the crowd around him until Jesus takes him away for a private moment.
Mark 7:33 ESV
And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
Just the two of them- where Jesus places His flesh on the mans tongue. Gazing into the eyes of His Lord- God looks away. That’s where I would lose faith.
Mark 7:34 ESV
And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
Jesus looks to heaven and sighs! What does that mean? Can you imagine meeting God and he looks away while He sighs? Are you disappointed Lord? Are you glad to see me?
This is where God’s faithfulness to us is made very real.
Jesus gives an imperative - ephaphta - an aramaic command. Be opened.
It reminds me of another imperative regarding the flesh in Mark.
Mark 14:22 ESV
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”
After the world receives the body of Christ, everything He does and is, we cannot help but speak of Him.
Mark 7:36 ESV
And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.
I have this app on my phone. It’s called Yelp- I use it to assuage my fears about eating out somewhere. People use it for two reasons, to complain about a restaurant OR to proclaim how WONDERFUL the food was!
Here’s the thing though, no restaurant is ever quite as advertised. It’s like they’re somehow over hyped or under-reviewed. You ever see a restaurant with just like 4 reviews but 5 stars and you go ‘hmmm maybe I’ll let someone else try it first.’
We have no faith in some of the things that require zero trust.
Isn’t our God different? Aren’t our anxieties bigger than mealtime? Aren’t our fears about being trapped in a body that doesn’t work or a city or a politician that will fall or a household that may be destroyed?
Isn’t it right for our God, the Lord, to be abundantly faithful in all of those moments? Isn’t it right that our God would be exactly where He said he would be? In His word, In His gifts to the church. It’s less about our trust and more about Him being exactly who He said He is and doing exactly what He is supposed to do.
Jesus is King. Jesus is ruler over all nations, tribes, demons, economies and anxieties. He has come to save you and to bring justice to a world oppressed.
Psalm 146:8–10 ESV
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!
Church this should cause you to feel peace and act to bring Justice.
This passage challenges us to find one person who is low in stature and raise them up.
God has saved you. He has raised you up.
God is faithful.
Amen.