Devotional for October 14, 2018

Devotional for October 14, 2018 based upon Mark 10: 17-31

Suppose someone very reputable says to you, “Go into business with me. It will be very expensive for you, but I guarantee you it will be worth it. Dig up whatever cash you can. Take out all the equity in your home. Cash in all your life insurance policies. Pay the penalty and take all the money out of your IRA’s. In every way you can, come up with all the cash that you can and invest it with me. I promise you that you will get back 100 times whatever you invest. If you put in $10, 000, you will get back one million dollars. If you put in $100, 000, you will get back ten million dollars.” Is there anybody who would turn his or her back on an opportunity like that?

Well listen again to the words of Jesus in our Bible lesson for this morning. “Truly, I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my safe and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – and in the age to come eternal life.” That is quite a promise. Whatever you invest, you will receive a hundredfold return. Not a one hundred percent return, which would be only doubling your money, but a hundredfold return, which is getting back one hundred times your original investment. And Jesus is not just offering it. He is guaranteeing it.

A rich young man came up to Jesus one day, seeking the way to eternal life. “Keep the commandments,” Jesus said. “I have,” the young man replied, “since my youth.” Mark then tells us that Jesus said, “You lack one thing. Go, sell what you have and give it to the poor. Then you will have treasures in heaven.” And so Mark tells us that the young man turned away sadly, grieving because he had many possessions.

The Deal of a Lifetime. The rich young man turned down a one hundredfold return – the Deal of a Lifetime. Why do you suppose he did it?

First, I believe he turned down the deal of a lifetime BECAUSE HE COULD ONLY SEE WHAT HE WOULD BE GIVING UP, NOT WHAT HE WOULD BE GAINING. I am sure he was accustomed to the best of everything. He did not want to give that up. He valued financial success above everything else. Jesus said that if you do that, your odds for entering the Kingdom of God are equal to that of a camel squeezing through the eye of a needle. Which are pretty slim odds, indeed. Being forced to decide between Jesus and their wealth, most people would only be able to see what they would be giving up, not what they would be gaining.

Second, I believe he turned down the deal of a lifetime BECAUSE HE OVERESTIMATED THE VALUE OF MATERIAL THINGS. Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest men who ever lived. He was also very generous. Perhaps because as he once said, “Millionaires seldom smile.” I have read that Andrew Carnegie practically became allergic to money as he grew older and richer. He was offended, he said, just by the sight and touch of money. And he never carried any of it with him. One time he was put off a London train because he had no money with him to pay the faire.

Why make your greatest value something that will eventually rot or rust? Something that someday you will have to leave behind? Something that by itself cannot give peace of mind? The rich young man overestimated the value of material things.


Someone once said, “We cannot take it with us, but we can send it on ahead.” The great test of our faith is whether we really believe the promises of Jesus. Jesus has promised that anything we give to Him, He will return a hundredfold. Does that mean that if we tithe, someday we will be materially rich, just as some television evangelists have suggested? No, it does not mean that. But it does mean that the rewards for following Jesus far exceed the costs. It does mean that in following Jesus you will be making investments that will pay rich dividends for eternity – long after all of your material possessions will have deteriorated into dust.

Someday each one of us will move from this world to the next. We brought nothing with us into this world, and we will take nothing with us out of this world. If the promises of Jesus are true – and I believe that they are – then that means that our hands will be empty so that we will be able to receive from Jesus a hundredfold more than we left behind. Our hands will be empty so that we will be able to receive from Him blessings untold.

Dennis D. Nelson
Director of Lutheran CORE

Devotional for October 7, 2018

Devotional for October 7, 2018 based upon Mark 10: 13-16

The Gospel writer Mark tells us, “People were bringing little children to (Jesus) in order that He might touch them” (10: 13), but the disciples spoke sternly to them. In contrast to the attitude of the disciples, Jesus welcomed little children. I can think of at least three reasons why.

First, JESUS WELCOMED LITTLE CHILDREN IN ORDER TO SHOW THEIR GREAT WORTH. The disciples were trying to keep people from bringing their children to Jesus. They may have resented this imposition upon the Master’s time and energy. They may have made the tragic mistake of believing that the needs of children are not very important. Which is amazing when you remember that just a few days before Jesus had told them how important it is to welcome children. In the previous chapter – in response to their arguing over who was the greatest – Jesus had taken a little child and said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.” (9: 37) The way we treat children is the way we treat God.

But here the disciples were acting as if they neither heard nor remembered anything of what Jesus had said. Mark tells us that when Jesus saw the disciples’ attempts to keep children away, He was indignant. It displeases Jesus very much whenever we stand in the way of children coming to Jesus, for children are very important to Jesus. And so I believe that this story is telling us that whether or not we are parents or grandparents or great grandparents, and whether or not our own children or grandchildren or great grandchildren attend the church that we attend, all of us need to be investing time and energy in making sure that our church has ministry for children. We need to be a part of letting children know that we love them and how much God loves them.

Second, JESUS WELCOMED LITTLE CHILDREN IN ORDER TO BLESS THEM. It was very common in Jesus’ day for parents to bring their children to a godly rabbi and ask him to bless them. With the teaching and miracle ministry of Jesus, it was no doubt an exciting prospect for parents to have their children blessed by the Master.

Christian counselors agree on the importance of receiving your parents’ blessing. Christian author and psychologist Gary Smalley speaks of two kinds of people – blessed people and unblessed people. He tells of the good things that happen to people who have received their parents’ blessing and the bad things that happen to people who have not. No wonder Esau became so upset when he realized that his brother Jacob had tricked their father Isaac into giving him the blessing.

Third, JESUS WELCOMED LITTLE CHILDREN IN ORDER TO TEACH ABOUT SALVATION. A Christian organization that works with children estimates that 85% of Christians come to faith in Jesus before the age of 21. This is a staggering statistic. And many of those who come to faith in Jesus later in life do so as a result of seeds that were sown during their childhood. What childlike – not childish but childlike – characteristics did Jesus have in mind when He said, “Whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it”? (10: 15) I can think of three.

First, HUMILITY. I believe that it is no coincidence that Luke records this incident of Jesus and the children right after the story of the Pharisee and the sinner. The Pharisee was self-righteous, so therefore not at all righteous in the sight of God. The sinner humbly confessed his condition to God, so Jesus said that he was forgiven.

Second, children possess a simplicity of FAITH. They have a wonderful ability to trust and then to act on that trust. But those of us who are older have been lied to and manipulated and taken advantage of and taken for granted so many times that we have developed a tendency to doubt and be cynical and skeptical.

Third, children are WILLING TO RECEIVE A GIFT without suspecting that there may be strings attached. In contrast, adults do not want to be beholden to anyone. Adults do not believe that there really is such a thing as a free lunch – there really is such a thing as a “something for nothing” gift.

Parents were bringing little children to Jesus in order that He might touch them. This morning Jesus wants you to come to Him in order that He might be able to touch your life. Will you come to Him in humility and with a simple, child-like faith? Will you come and receive His love, forgiveness, and grace?

Dennis D. Nelson
Director of Lutheran CORE

Wisdom from Above

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  (James 3:17)

My parents taught special education, and many of their students would come to our home years after graduating from high school to visit with my parents and let them know how things were going.  As I came to know those former students of my parents, I came to know how wise they were.

Many a man with a Ph.D. will argue with his neighbors and grumble that they deserve all their woes, yet many of my parents’ students would listen carefully even to a little kid like me and show compassion to the plight of others.  They had no high degrees or credentials, but they had the “wisdom from above” that James describes.

Ultimately, it’s the wisdom that became flesh and dwelt among us in Jesus Christ–it’s the wisdom of the cross!  Pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy—what a blessing if such a life were found in every government, home, school, and neighborhood today!  Such wisdom comes less by learning and more by faith, the faith that welcomes the love of God and cherishes it—and for this faith we pray.

LET US PRAY: Lord, dear wisdom made flesh: make me wise as the magi were wise, kneeling at Your feet in worship and believing in Your reign, that Your own virtue and blessing would work through me for the sake of my neighbors; for You live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau



Devotional for September 30, 2018

Devotional for September 30, 2018 based upon Mark 9: 50 and Ephesians 4: 31-32

We read about and feel the tone of American politics, the climate in our society, the acts of terrorism and violence all around the world, and the relational dynamics in so many marriages and families, and we wonder, How can we possibly do what Jesus said in our Gospel lesson for this morning? “Be at peace with one another.”

The truth is, we human beings – on our own – are not able to be at peace with one another. Basic human selfishness, self-centeredness, and sin make that impossible. But I believe that the apostle Paul – in his letter to the Ephesians – tells us how God can make us able to do what humanly speaking – on our own – we would never be able to do. Be at peace with one other.

Paul writes, “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

The world is full – our society is full – of people who are bitter and angry. Angry at the world because it has not given them enough. Angry at God because they do not feel He has treated them fairly. Angry at their spouses. Angry at their children. Angry at their neighbors. Angry at their job. Here Paul gives us a survival message that says, “If you want to make it, you simply cannot live like that anymore. It will eat you up.” Then he gives us a way to get rid of our anger. To get rid of bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling, and slander, there are three things we need to do. First, be kind to one another. Second, be tenderhearted. And third, forgive one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

First, BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER. There are so many people who are just plain self-centered and rude. They are concerned only about themselves. They demonstrate no concern for anyone else. Paul wrote in his letter to his young friend Titus, “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.” (3: 3) But then he says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy.” (3:4-5) It is only because of God’s kindness and mercy that we are saved. If God reacted to us the way that we react to one another, He would have given up on us a long time ago. But instead He reaches out to us with love and kindness.

Second, BE TENDERHEARTED TO ONE ANOTHER. The word “compassion” means to feel with. Being compassionate simply means that your feelings are important to me and they have become a part of my life so that I have come to share and understand how and what you feel and what is going on inside of you.

And then, third, FORGIVE ONE ANOTHER. I believe that Paul had a reason to put this one last, because I really do not think that we can forgive somebody until we have first done the other two. Until we have first learned to be kind to them, and until we have become tenderhearted and compassionate towards them and have come to understand what is going on inside of them. But if we have first learned the lessons of kindness and compassion, then forgiveness can follow.

So how about you? Have you experienced – have you received – the kindness of God? Have you received His kindness so that then you can go out and share that kindness with other people?

Have you experienced – really experienced – how compassionate and tenderhearted God is towards you? He understands you. He knows and cares about what you think and how you feel. He knows all your worries, concerns, disappointments, and joys. Having experienced His tenderhearted compassion, are you tenderhearted and compassionate towards others?

Have you received and experienced the forgiveness of God? He wants to – and He can – forgive you all your sins. If you have received and experienced His forgiveness, are you now able to forgive others?

It is if – and only if – we have experienced His kindness, tasted His compassion, and received His forgiveness, that we are then able to really be at peace with one another.

Dennis D. Nelson
Director of Lutheran CORE


“Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?” (Isaiah 50:9)

Look at the late summer flowers waving in the sun, like peasants desperate to catch a king’s attention.  Beneath them grow the stubborn roots of a thousand trees, a hardened defense to any wind that might topple them, and beyond the shores on which they grow, fish frenetically multiply by the thousands, as if they don’t quite trust themselves to live.  Listen to your friend as he tells, yet again, the long story of why he did what he did; witness the stones that won’t budge; ponder the insects that race to build their tiny civilizations—look at that whole sweep of creation, and learn the truth:

The whole world is arguing for its right to exist, as though it senses, deep down, that it doesn’t quite deserve it.

What God’s creative Spirit has written into nature’s cryptic hieroglyphs, He affirms through the prophets: the whole creation has been subjected to frustration, cast under the accusation, “You shall surely die!” But what nature cannot preach, and what the prophets longed to see, His beloved Son has now made known: “This is my blood for the forgiveness of sins.”  The Lord God has come into your flesh through Jesus and visited you in your sin and death.  By doing so, He has promised to you what you don’t deserve: life!  He has justified your existence by His own.

Who could ever declare you guilty?

LET US PRAY: Dear God!  What wonders are found in that blood of Your Son!  Was it really for me?  For me?  Dear God, You are dear, indeed!  Thank You!

Pastor Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau







Devotional for September 23, 2018

Devotional for September 23, 2018 based upon Mark 9: 30-37

It seems to me that there are two kinds of arguments. There are worthwhile arguments, and there are worthless arguments. Some things are worth arguing about, while other things are not worth arguing about. I am sure that Jesus – in our Bible story for this morning – was very disappointed with His disciples and what they were arguing about.

Jesus had just finished telling them that He would soon be handed over to evil people and be killed and on the third day would rise from the dead. But His disciples did not understand what He was saying. But rather than ask Him about it, they began arguing over which one of them was the greatest.

There will be times – even in the church – when we will disagree with one another. But Jesus is saying, Don’t go through life arguing about things that are not worth arguing about. If you are going to have an argument, make sure it is about something worth arguing about.

You can tell a lot about a person by the kinds of things he or she argues about. I think of some of the things that I have gotten into arguments about. As I remember and think about them, I am really embarrassed over them. And so Jesus, in our Bible story for this morning, asked His disciples, after they had arrived in Capernaum, “What were you arguing about on the way?” The Gospel writer Mark tells us, They would not tell Him. “They were silent,” because they had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

They had been caught red-handed, discussing a subject that only revealed how self-centered and petty they were. They had been carrying on an argument over who was the greatest in the presence of Him who is the greatest. In the presence of total self-lessness, they had blatantly revealed their self-ishness. In the presence of Jesus their arguments were pretty small and petty and worthless indeed.

“What were you arguing about on the way?” What do we argue about on the way? I think of some of the petty arguments at council meetings and congregational meetings that consumed time, wasted energy, divided people, and hindered the mission of the church during my years of ministry. Are the arguments that you get engaged (or entangled) in worthwhile arguments? Or are they worthless arguments?

Just think of how much it must have hurt Jesus to hear His disciples arguing about who is the greatest. For here is Jesus, trying to alert His closest friends to the gathering storm of suffering and death that He would soon be enduring. But while He was pouring His heart out to them, there they were, not really listening, but instead pursuing their own selfish discussion over who is the greatest. How much Jesus must have suffered over that. And how much He must suffer over the kinds of things that we argue about.

But notice something. Notice how Jesus deals with His arguing disciples. He does not become indignant with them and attack them, even though He certainly had reason and right to. He does not blast them with burning words, even though they certainly deserved it. He does not chastise them or correct them by Himself claiming to be the greatest, even though, with His supreme humility and sacrifice on the cross, He is the greatest. Rather He asked them a simple question, “What were you arguing about on the way?” And He turned that moment into a teaching moment, as He was and is so good at doing. He sat down with them and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

The solution for worthless arguments does not come from stopping talking. For just as bad as a lot of arguing is the silence that can develop between people. The solution for worthless arguing comes from discussing things that are worth discussing, dealing with issues rather than attacking persons, and becoming a servant to other people.

There are some things in the church that are worth fighting for. I firmly believe that the kinds of issues that Lutheran CORE deals with – like the deity of Jesus, the authority of the Bible, salvation by grace alone, Biblical moral values, the priority of mission, and the imperative of evangelism – are worth fighting for. But some of the other things that we can have our biggest battles over – those things are simply not worth fighting over. Let’s make sure that what we argue about is worth arguing about.

I like the way that the New Testament letter writer James, the brother of our Lord and leader of the early church in Jerusalem, put it. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

Why did God give us twice as many ears as mouths? It must be that He wants us to do twice as much listening as speaking. When it comes to talking, may God give us the courage to speak and the wisdom to say what is worth saying.

Dennis D. Nelson
Director of Lutheran CORE

He Has Done All Things Well

“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’” (Mark 7:27)

Today’s devotion isn’t for learning.  It’s for praising.

“He has done all things well.”  Here is the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He has done all things well!  With His Father, He made the heavens and the earth and that is in them (seen and unseen!); He delivered Israel from her enemies and established her in a beautiful land; and by the Spirit He came to the prophets to prepare the world for His blessed Advent.  Those great acts alone win Him our eternal praise.

Yet there is more.  The “all things” that Jesus did “well” were not just things like making a sculpture or delivering a speech in fine style.  They were things He did for the sake of His neighbors!  He did them “well” because they were merciful, like the acts of creation and prophecy.  He healed, forgave, comforted, and freed people—and He is the same Lord who knows you by name and loves you.

What has He done well for you?  Make a list, and praise Him!

LET US PRAY:  Dear Father, what a good Son You have!  You must be very proud.  He has done all things well!  For me, He has . . . [fill in the blank!] . . . I am so thankful for His mercy and love, a mercy and love that He shares with You and Your Spirit, one God forever.  Amen

Pr. Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau


Devotional for September 16, 2018

Devotional for September 16, 2018 based upon Mark 8: 27-38

Jesus never calls upon anyone to do anything that He Himself would not do and/or has not done. What He asks us to face, He Himself has already faced. Jesus has the right to challenge us to take up a cross, because He Himself has already taken up His cross.

But all that goes against the grain. The world tells us that anything that bothers us or becomes difficult we should seek to avoid. Jesus said, “If any want to become My followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.” What does it mean to “take up your cross”?

First, TAKING UP A CROSS IS ALWAYS VOLUNTARY. Jesus calls us, and Jesus challenges us, but taking up a cross and following Jesus is always voluntary. A bad medical diagnosis, a personal tragedy, or a severe accident may all be a heavy burden to bear. But they are not a cross that you have taken up for Jesus, because you did not volunteer for them.

Second, TAKING UP A CROSS IS AN ACT OF LOVE. An act of love that we freely choose. It is a price we pay out of love. For Jesus taking up His cross meant going to Calvary to die. He did it because He loves us so much that He could not do otherwise. Taking up a cross means taking the love of God and touching the lives of other people, even those who are very difficult to love. Taking up a cross means denying and sacrificing and paying the price regardless of the hardships that we must endure.

Third, TAKING UP A CROSS IS HARD. In fact, it is so hard that whenever the message of the cross is preached, some people will object. They will say, “You cannot be asking me to do that. That would be too hard.”

Kind of like Peter in our Gospel lesson for this coming Sunday, when Jesus was talking about His impending death on the cross. Peter objected. “Lord, that is not the way it is supposed to happen.” A few years later the apostle Paul called the cross “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks.” Not much has changed, has it?

The cross was a stumbling block to Jews because it was not what they were expecting. It was not what they wanted to hear. As an oppressed people they wanted their Christ, their Messiah, their Anointed One to deliver them. It is not what we want to hear either. All of Jesus’ talking about taking up a cross bothers us. We lean back in our chair, wanting to take it easy, but we hear Him say, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

This morning Jesus offers you a cross. Not a life of ease. Not a church that will always make you comfortable and happy. Not a guarantee of success on the job. Not a promise that everything will always go smoothly and exactly as you want for the rest of your life. Rather this morning Jesus offers you a cross. But along with a cross He offers you eternal life. For, as Jesus said, “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.”

Will you do what Jesus said and take up a cross?

Dennis D. Nelson
Director of Lutheran CORE

Armor of God

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  (Ephesians 6:11)

When cleaning my grandfather’s home, my family and I came across a pair of wooden shoes that he had carved for himself as a young man in Norway.  Undoubtedly many such pairs of shoes could be found across the world, carved by different hands in different cultures.  But the connection between these shoes and my grandfather set them apart for us, and we’ve kept them to this day.

When St. Paul speaks of “the armor of God,” he speaks about something similar.  The armor of God (the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the readiness of the gospel, etc.) is not simply armor that God has given us; it is armor that He wore Himself!  He wore it when He came to this earth to preach good news, die, and rise again.  He clothed Himself in truth, righteousness, peace, and the Spirit, and now we have inherited this armor and may wear it also.

Taking up that armor confirms for us our intimate union with Jesus.  Defended by His truth, wielding His word, and covered by prayer in His name, we are assured all the more that He is ours, and we are His, as sure as the shoes on our feet.

LET US PRAY:  Lord of great might: I cannot fill Your shoes or measure up to Your stature.  Yet You have kindly honored me by numbering me among Your ranks and calling me to serve Your kingdom.  Grant that I may do so faithfully and to Your glory.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen

Pr. Steven K. Gjerde

Zion, Wausau

Devotional for September 9, 2018

Devotional for September 9, 2018 based upon Mark 7: 24-37

Our Gospel reading for this morning tells of a time when a group of people whom Mark calls “they” brought to Jesus a man who was both deaf and had an impediment in his speech.

The first thing this passage does for me is to raise the question, WHO ARE THE THEY? Whenever I hear someone say “they,” I always wonder, Who are the “they”? Who are the “they” who are supposedly saying certain things? Who are these unnamed people who are bringing their friend to Jesus?

Mark does not tell us, so they do not get any credit. And yet they still do it. They are among the millions of people who do what needs to be done simply because it needs to be done and because they care. They would never say, “That’s not my job. I’ve already done my share. Let someone else bring this person to Jesus.” They never get thanked during the announcements or in the church newsletter, but they still do it, simply because it needs to be done and because they care. God, may all of us be like them.

The second thing that strikes me is the condition of the man whom “they” brought to Jesus. He was BOTH DEAF AND HAD AN IMPEDIMENT IN HIS SPEECH. I am embarrassed when I think of the times when I have been so deeply focusing on my own, relatively small problems, and then I see someone like the man in our Gospel, who had not just one handicap, but two. At times like those I need to say, Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me for so focusing on my own problems that I have not been attentive and responsive to, in tune with, or even aware of someone else’s problems. Forgive me for being like the man who said, “I grumbled because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.”

Third, I am struck with the way in which JESUS TOOK THIS MAN ASIDE IN PRIVATE, away from the crowd. He responded with great sensitivity to all of this man’s needs, including his need for privacy.

And Jesus is sensitive to our feelings and needs. He does not deal with us in front of everybody else, so that we would feel embarrassed and on display. Nor does He relate to us just as part of a crowd. Rather He relates to us individually. He knows our needs, and He cares about our needs – individually. Even though He has everyone else in the whole world to take care of, and even though there are several million other people all talking to Him at the same time as I am talking to Him, He still takes me aside privately and spends time with me individually. There is nothing cold or rushed about the way in which He does it. We all long for attention like that.

Fourth, JESUS PUT HIS FINGERS INTO HIS EARS, AND SPAT AND TOUCHED HIS TONGUE. All of which reminds us of how much we need warm, human touch. We cannot survive and be healthy emotionally without warm, human touch. From the moment we were born, we have had that need. If that need is not met, something goes wrong.

One thing that many people with terminal illnesses like cancer express is the need to be touched. And not just poked with a needle and have their temperature taken. They need to be touched with a warm, loving, human hand.

Jesus does not heal from a safe, aloof distance. Rather He got right up next to him and touched him. The one who came to Him with a crying need, He touched. Even the leper, the untouchable of all untouchables, much to the horror of the crowds He touched. And when we come to Him, He does not remain at a safe, aloof distance. Instead He reaches out to us and touches us.

Fifth, JESUS LOOKED UP TO HEAVEN AND SIGHED. What a beautiful, beautiful statement that is. When Jesus sees a situation of deep human need, He sighs. Like when E. T. saw that Elliot was hurting so he touched his own heart and said, “Ouch,” so when Jesus sees that we are hurting, He looks up to heaven and sighs and then touches His own heart and says, “Ouch.”

Sixth, after putting His fingers into the deaf man’s ears and reaching out and touching the dumb man’s tongue and looking up to heaven and sighing, JESUS SAID, “EPHPHATHA,” which means, “BE OPENED.”

We read in the New Testament of those marvelous times when Jesus opened the eyes of the blind, restored the lame, and cleansed the leper, and we say, “Jesus, why aren’t You doing the same thing today?” We all know people who need healing. And like the unnamed “they” who brought their friend to Jesus, so we would do anything we could if we only knew that our doing so would release God’s power to heal.

First of all, we need to realize that Jesus is healing and that Jesus can heal today. Sometimes He heals in spectacular ways. I am sure we all know people who have been healed in a spectacular way. We all know or have heard of someone who had been diagnosed with some kind of terminal, inoperable disease, and then, after God’s people prayed, was found to be healed of that disease. God made our bodies able to heal from all sorts of injuries, diseases, and infirmities. Sometimes our bodies need help from the medical profession, but all that is, is help. Help for the body to help the body do what God made the body able to do.

We need to remember that during Jesus’ ministry, He did not heal everybody. And everybody that He healed did eventually die of something else. But still, through His ministry of healing, Jesus gave us a foreshadowing of that time when we will be delivered from all sickness, sorrow, pain, and death, through the resurrection from the dead, which is our hope if we have faith in Jesus Christ. In the meantime, during our lifetimes, God will make our bodies able to heal many times. And there are other times when we experience the love and power and ability of God to heal us emotionally and relationally.

And so, in the meantime, our Gospel reading leads us to ask ourselves, WHERE DOES GOD WANT ME TO BE HIS INSTRUMENT OF HEALING? How do the words “Ephphatha,” and “Open up,” also apply to us? To whose cries of hurting do our ears need to be opened? To whose need for words of love do our tongues need to be loosened? Who is the person who is suffering from a lack of love that God wants me to love? Who is that scared, resentful, angry, and/or bitter person into whose life I can help bring God’s peace? With what specific person – where does God want me to be His instrument of healing?

And then, finally, what did all the eyewitnesses do once they had seen that a man had been healed? Jesus ordered them to tell no one, but THE MORE HE ORDERED THEM, THE MORE ZEALOUSLY THEY PROCLAIMED IT. They were astonished beyond measure. They had seen what Jesus can do. The Good News of what they had seen they simply could not keep to themselves. They had to share it. Too amazed to be silent, their tongues were loosened and they told everybody about it.

What a powerful example they have set for us. For we, too, in so many ways, have been or have seen someone else being healed. Like the crowds, may we be astonished beyond measure and then join with 999 other tongues to sing our Great Redeemer’s praise.

Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE