Beloved. In today’s Gospel we read of Jesus healing a man of his deafness and his inability to speak. This is a fascinating account for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the detail that St. Mark gives: After he looked up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”) Notice that detail—Jesus sighed. That shows His compassion on this man. Jesus sighed as He saw all that the devil has wrought on humanity and the world. This creation which was pronounced by God at its completion as very good is now corrupted. Sin and all it has brought into the world has corrupted it. The devil is now the prince of this world and seemingly running the show. But it is precisely into this corrupted world that the true God, the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity has come in grace to destroy and to undo the works of the devil. It greatly grieves our Lord Jesus when He sees us suffering under the corruption of this once perfect world. It grieves Him that the ears that should hear the wonders of God cannot; it grieves Him that the tongue that should praise Him is muted. Jesus sighed; certainly He also sighs as He looks out at the world today; certainly He also sighs as He looks and sees each one of us suffering whatever it may be that we are suffering. And most of all He must sigh as He looks out at the world and sees so many who do not know Him, the true God and their Savior or who reject Him; how Satan has blinded the eyes of their heart and made their ears deaf to His saving word and so has bound their tongues so they do not cannot praise the true God.
Jesus sighed. He is grieved over our condition; yes, He has compassion on us. But what is most wonderfully glorious is: After he looked up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”) Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was set free, and he began to speak plainly. Jesus could and did do something about it. He opens this deaf man’s ears and frees his bound tongue so that this man would plainly praise and thank the Lord. What Jesus did here physically is also a picture of our spiritual healing, of when we are brought to faith.
And also notice that lovely word: “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). Not only does it show Jesus’ almighty, divine power—Jesus spoke and it was done, like at the original creation when He spoke and it was created—but this man stayed healed. It wasn’t as if the devil could then come and again make the man deaf and unable to speak. Instead, when Jesus said, Ephphatha!/ Be opened, they remained open! No one or nothing can undo Jesus’ word.
We want to spend a few moments this morning on the word Ephphatha!/ Be opened! In today’s Gospel we have Jesus saying Ephphatha!/ Be opened. Later on in Scripture we hear Jesus saying about Himself [Rv. 3.7]: These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”. What sort of image is that which Jesus uses to describe Himself? It actually goes back to the Old Testament to the words the Lord spoke through St. Isaiah—the verse we’re using as our text: The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.
In our text, the words refer to a man named Eliakim. A man by the name of Shebna was the treasurer or steward over the royal household in Jerusalem. He was a proud man who was interested in glorifying himself. In our text God said that He would depose Shebna and give his position to another man named Eliakim; who would be faithful in that position. The key of the house of David being given to Eliakim is another way of saying that he would be given charge over the royal treasures to give out or not to give out. This Eliakim in his position is a foreshadowing of Jesus since Jesus applies these words to Himself. Jesus is in charge of the treasures of heaven giving out its gifts and treasures: so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. When Jesus says to the deaf man with the speech impediment Ephphatha!/ Be opened, He is giving an earthly/ visible example that He has the authority and can and does open the heavenly treasures to us: so he shall open, and no one shall shut.
Jesus has the authority to say Ephphatha!/ Be opened because He is the head of all things, even the Church. Our text: The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder. Jesus Himself is of the house of David. Remember, that although He is the true eternal God, the Son, the Second Person of the holy Trinity, according to His human nature, Jesus is a descendant of David. That was God’s great promise to David—that one of his descendants would be the Savior of the world. And as the Savior of the world, His kingdom would be a world-wide kingdom and an eternal kingdom. That kingdom is the Church.
St. Paul writes that God the Father [Eph 1.20,22]: raised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church. The Father exalted Jesus and gave Him to be head over everything. So when Jesus says, Ephphatha!/ Be opened, no one shall shut. And why was Jesus exalted by the Father and given to be head of everything? –Because He brought salvation to the world and established the Church. Before the key of the house of David [was laid] on his shoulder, all our sin and all our guilt were placed on Jesus’ shoulder, as Isaiah later on says of Jesus [53.4,6]: Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows….And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. There on the cross Jesus paid the price for our sin. He endured the wrath and punishment for all our sins and guilt. And precisely by that and by His holy life perfectly obeying the holy law of God for us, Jesus reconciled us sinners to the holy God. That’s what His glorious resurrection from the dead proclaims. It is God’s announcement that Jesus’ sacrifice for all was complete and accepted. It announces that sin, death, devil and hell have all been conquered and that Jesus is the Victor. Is it any wonder that Jesus is exalted over all things and the head of the Church; and has authority? The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder.
Jesus has the authority to say Ephphatha!/ Be opened. After all, He is the almighty God and Savior of the world. And now precisely by this proclamation and the giving of the gifts that He won for us—the forgiveness of sin, life and salvation—Jesus is gathering people into His kingdom, the Church. This is a great spiritual authority that Jesus has: so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. What does Jesus open to us but the treasures of divine mercy? Remember in today’s Gospel when that man was brought to Jesus, what did we see? His compassion and mercy! He looked up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). That sigh as He looked out and saw the corruption that Satan had worked! Jesus opens the storehouses of divine mercy and through His holy word and sacraments brings out to us mercy upon mercy and grace upon grace. Jesus is not stingy when it comes to giving us His graces and mercy. He does so, so that we cannot avoid missing His mercy. Again remember that in His holy word, Jesus doesn’t just tell us about His saving work—He gives us its actual blessings and benefits. He doesn’t give us baptism as a mere empty/ symbolic action of our work. Instead, in baptism Jesus actually opens the heavenly treasure houses of mercy to rain down upon us. He comes to us and washes away our sin, gives us the Holy Spirit and faith, unites Himself with us, brings us into His holy family. In the holy absolution, He again does not just tell us about forgiveness but He actually gives us the forgiveness of our sins. He opens the heavenly treasures and gives us fully, freely and abundantly this greatest of treasures—for where there is the forgiveness of sin—and there is in the absolution!—there is life and salvation. If there is any doubt in our minds of our Lord’s mercy, our dear Lord Jesus gives us in the Blessed Sacrament His very body and blood—that same body that was cursed for our sin and that same blood that was poured out for our forgiveness. No way can we doubt our forgiveness as we receive in our mouths the very body and blood that brought it about! Not only do we receive in this sacrament the forgiveness of our sin, but we are also so closely and intimately united with Jesus that He is in us and we are in Him. And we are united with our fellow Christians. All this as Jesus, to whom the key has been entrusted—the key that opens the treasures of mercy—opens them to us!
The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. Notice those very comforting words for us: so he shall open, and no one shall shut. That is Jesus’ power! No one can change or overturn what He has said and done. That means that when Jesus has opened the treasure house of divine mercy and forgiven us our sin in the absolution or baptism or Blessed Sacrament, that forgiveness stands! No matter how much our conscience still is nagging at us, or no matter how much we may think that the sin is too great to be forgiven, Christ’s word of forgiveness stands. Take heart dear Christian when your sin which has been confessed and forgiven wants to rise up and accuse you and drag you down to hell: it is forgiven. [Jesus] shall open, and no one shall shut. When Jesus says Ephphatha!/ Be opened He speaks with great spiritual authority that no one can undo. When Jesus opens to us the great heavenly treasure houses of mercy and forgiveness, they remain open!
Here Jesus shows His Church a great grace. He lets us proclaim His holy word. He lets us pronounce the absolution. He lets His Church administer the holy sacraments. Jesus tells the disciples on Easter Sunday evening [Jon. 20.22-23]: “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Jesus gives His Church on earth the authority to forgive sins, to be His instruments as He opens the treasures of mercy to people. How blessed we are to be able to bring the treasures of His mercy to people around us. Each Christian can tell another the Good News about Jesus. Each Christian can comfort the other with Scripture and point them back to their baptism. We can encourage each other to regular and frequent attendance at Church where Jesus has promised to meet us in grace. We can do all this because of Jesus’ great authority—He has opened the treasure house of divine mercy and no one can shut it.
But there is also a word of warning here as well: and he shall shut, and no one shall open. When Jesus shuts the kingdom of heaven to someone, there is no opening it. That’s why it is vital that we recognize that now is the time of grace! Now is the time that Jesus, as the treasurer of every heavenly and spiritual good, is opening to us the treasure stores of divine grace and mercy in His Church, in His word and sacraments. Let us make faithful and diligent use of them now. As we receive them now in faith, He will open to us the doors of the kingdom of heaven on the Last Day or the day of death. He shall open, and no one shall shut.
Our eternal destiny, soul and body, is too important to ignore or to let slide. Jesus, now, is sighing, as He sees all that destruction Satan has worked on us but He says Ephphatha!/ Be opened, and opens to us every heavenly grace and mercy. INJ Amen.