If you have a copy of the word of God with you I want you to turn with me to Mark chapter 7. Mark's gospel and chapter 7, and we're beginning to read at verse 31. You know well, if you read the word of God and read throughout the Gospels, that they are full of the healing occurrences of the Lord Jesus Christ, where He healed men and women of various diseases, of various ailments that they had. In Mark chapter 7 verse 31 we find here again a record of one of these occurrences.
"And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; And looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak".
I want to continue on from last Sunday morning, where we thought of the subject from Proverbs 29 and verse 18: 'Without a vision the people perish'. I tried to encourage you, I hope, in the Lord last Sunday morning to catch a vision of the need that there is, not just within the church, but in the world around us. I want to continue this morning by bringing a message entitled 'Bringing People To Jesus', bringing people to Christ - from Mark chapter 7.
But let us bow our heads quickly and quietly as we ask the Lord's help before we come to His word. Our Father, we thank Thee this morning for Thy word. We know that Thy word is truth and we pray, our Father, that Thy Spirit - the Holy Spirit of Almighty God - may wing this word home to our hearts, that He may fill us, that He may bless us, that He may encourage us and challenge us and speak to us today. But that most of all that we may have an encounter with God this day, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.
As we read this passage of Scripture together we see a unique encounter of a man who was incapacitated, a man who was helpless, a man who could do nothing for himself - physically speaking he was deaf and dumb. What that means for a person who is deaf and dumb, we who are not deaf and dumb can never really enter into, we can never appreciate that predicament. To be a person on this earth who cannot hear, who cannot hear the birds of the air, who cannot appreciate music, who cannot receive the communications of others who speak to them - and also, in turn, who cannot respond to those who are speaking to them - it is a terrible predicament to be in. Some people say that deafness is worse than blindness - you cannot communicate, you cannot express how you're feeling within, you cannot talk to others, you cannot have them talk to you. Yet this man in Mark chapter 7 was both deaf and dumb. What an awful life this man must have had!
We read, as so many times we read in the gospel accounts within the word of God, we read that on this day he met the Master - and from this day on this man's life was turned around. From this day on this man's life was turned upside-down, it was changed, every conceivable change for him was made by one simple meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ. You see it in verse 31 on, that his friends - and maybe you have friends like this, they love you, they care for you - this man's friends were so concerned about him, they were at the end of their tether as to what to do about this man's predicament, but they had heard, perhaps they had even seen, this teacher, this Rabbi from Nazareth and what He could do. They, out of compassion, out of love, they took their friend and they brought him on the chance - as they saw it - that perhaps they could get near in the crowd to the Saviour, to this great Healer, and perhaps He could just reach out and touch him and heal this man's deafness and dumbness.
These friends of this man brought this man to Jesus. They brought him to Christ, why? Why could he not come to Christ of himself? Simply, as I've said, he was incapacitated. He could not communicate with people to ask them where Christ was going to be next, he couldn't speak to the disciples to hear where he could travel to to be in the front line of the queue to meet the Lord Jesus and to ask - he couldn't ask the Lord Jesus: 'Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me', this man couldn't say that. This man had to be brought to Jesus.
Now, friends, I don't even need to make the parallel this morning. There are so many people in our country, and in our area, in our vicinity, and they've gone to Sunday School, perhaps they've gone to church, and they know what it is to hear the gospel, to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ - but oh, I believe in the generation in which we are living: that may no longer be the case. There are people, believe it or not, in East Belfast and in Northern Ireland who do not know what the gospel of Jesus Christ is. They may have some kind of parody of it, they may have some kind of view of what a Christian is, the things that he does do and doesn't do, the things that he says - but they don't really have a grasp of what the gospel Jesus Christ is, and what it can do for their lives.
There are six lessons that I want to bring out shortly this morning from this passage of Scripture that we've read. They are six lessons, and six encouragements to us, about bringing men, bringing women, bringing boys and girls to Jesus Christ. The first thing that I want to emphasise to you is found in verse 32, it says: 'they brought unto him one' - they brought unto Him one. We live in an age, as I've already said, when church-going is not the norm any more. We have televisions, we have midi systems, we have videos, we have video games, we have so many things to keep men and women and boys and girls in their homes behind closed doors. Whereas, years ago, it was - dare I say it - even entertainment for ungodly men and women to come into a building like this, to listen to a preacher, to listen to beautiful songs, soloists, all sorts of things - it got them out of their homes and it brought them into a friendly atmosphere that they could enjoy.
That is no longer the case, and that is why we hear from Christendom today words like this: 'Gospel preaching no longer works', 'Gospel missions no longer work', 'The old-fashioned ways no longer work'. But the reality, I believe, is not that - the reality is this: that we no longer have people in our churches, in our halls, to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because people need to be brought, people need to be brought! The Lord Jesus in one of His parables said that you are to compel people, not to come into a church, but to come into the kingdom of God. You're to go to the highways and byways, you're to go to the four corners of the earth and bring men and women, effectively, to Jesus Christ.
This man was in great need. He was deaf and dumb. He couldn't communicate, he couldn't connect in a social way. He was pitiful. There are so many people in our society today and, spiritually speaking, they don't connect, they can't communicate, they are pitiful people. What do we do? Do we pity them? Do we look at them and bemoan their situation and their circumstances? Or do we do what these men did in verse 32 and bring them to Jesus? Why did they bring him? They brought him simply because, perhaps they had seen what the touch of Jesus could do, they perhaps had heard about it - and that's why they asked: 'Touch him'. They brought him to Jesus that he might be touched by the Master.
I saw recently, and read, an interesting survey. Now you have to be careful about statistics and surveys, but it said this: Gallup - who take polls every year - Gallup, every ten years with Princeton University in the USA, take research and a survey of people who go to church less than twice in a year - that is, excluding funerals and marriages. In their recent survey in 1988 they find this: that one third of Americans go to church, that one-third of Americans lose the connection with church, and one-third have no Christian memory at all in their life. To that last third that have no Christian memory in their life, they were asked: 'Could they see themselves coming to church?'. 63% said yes, and they give two reasons why they would come - first of all because of spiritual interest. People today are looking to New Age, they're looking to cults, and there's something within them - I believe they're dead in sins, yes, but they have a gap that needs to be satisfied that can only be satisfied through Christ. But interestingly, the second group of people said that they would come if they were invited. If they were invited! Only 1 in 6, 1 in 6 of those people said that they had ever been invited to a gospel service or to a Christian gathering - and let me say this: 43% of that 63% were invited by Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. There are 20 million Baptists in America, and they only made up 10%.
Now, friends, I don't want to discourage you this morning, I want to encourage you to bring people to Jesus, to bring people to an atmosphere where they can hear the gospel, where they can hear words by which they might be saved! Their only hope of escaping an eternity in hell, but you must bring them!
The second thing I want you to notice is this: they prayed. You might say: 'Well, it doesn't look as if they prayed', but if you look closely it says: 'And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech', they besought, 'him to put his hand upon him'. Jesus Christ, the living God incarnate in flesh, they were asking Him a question, but they were praying, they were imploring, they were pleading, interceding for this man who couldn't intercede for himself - and they were pleading that Christ would touch him. We need to pray.
Now let me say this: if you look down this passage you might - if you're inquisitive - you might see that Jesus didn't just simply touch the man. What these men asked Him to do, simply touch him, Jesus didn't do - it says that He put His fingers in his ears, He spat upon His finger and He put it upon his tongue. That was not what these men asked to do. If you go throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament you learn a lesson, and it's this: that often, when we ask God for something, we often tell God how to answer our prayers. Think of Naaman, what happened Naaman? The servant girl came from Elijah and told Naaman what he was to do to get rid of his leprosy - go to the river Jordan and dip in it seven times and your leprosy will be gone. What did Naaman say? He said: 'The Jordan? A dirty river like the Jordan? What's wrong with the good rivers in Damascus? Why can't the man of God just come down to my house and wave his hand over me and I'll be well?'. But Naaman had to do what God told him.
What about Paul? He had a thorn in the flesh, we're not going to debate about what it was, but it was a thorn in the flesh, it was painful, it was troublesome to him. He cried to the Lord, it says, three times that the Lord would remove it, and the third time the Lord said: 'No! I'm not going to answer your prayer the way you think. My grace is sufficient for thee'. Do you remember Jairus' daughter? He wanted the Lord Jesus Christ to come and heal his daughter before she died, but Jesus went off and was concerned about other things. Before Jairus knew it his daughter, the message was sent back, had died! He thought the Lord Jesus Christ was neglecting his daughter - only to hear from the Lord's lips that this was to the glory of God that this had happened. But Jairus' prayer was not answered the way he thought it would be.
My friends this morning, we need to pray, and we need to pray that God will do His will - whatever that may be. We need to pray, not indicating to God the way we want our prayers answered, but we need to pray to Him that He will answer our prayers His way. Isn't it lovely, I think this is beautiful that you see in verse 32 and verse 33 that the Lord Jesus Christ took this man aside. Can you imagine the multitude that was thronging the Lord Jesus Christ? But Jesus took this man aside, because He is interested, He wants to be involved, He wants to be encapsulated by the lives of individuals. Jesus was not interested in the crowd in the sense of a PR stunt, but Jesus was interested in changing individual lives, and at times He did one individual at a time.
Do you remember that poor soul lying at the pool of at Bethesda? At that pool, remember it's said in the word of God, that the angel came down and he mullied the waters, and if you got in when the angel was mulling the waters you were healed. Can you imagine the amount of paraplegics, and diseased and incapacitated people that were around that pool? But it says that the Lord Jesus Christ went to this one man, and when He went and dealt with him, he went away. Why? Because He was concerned individually - it's not that He wasn't concerned for the rest, but He was concerned personally for this man and his needs.
The third thing I want you to notice: they were brought, they prayed, but the third thing is in verse 33: He touched. He touched! Jesus Christ, it says in the word of God, was a man of no reputation. Now what that simply means is this: that He did not try to make a great, famous reputation for Himself. In many senses He was not interested in public opinion, but I want to say to you this morning: it does not mean that He didn't have a reputation, it means He didn't have a great, fantastic one in the eyes of some people - but He had, in many people's eyes, a bad reputation because of the people He frequented and hung around. That was simply because the Lord Jesus Christ touched the untouchable. He touched the leper, He touched the immoral woman, He let the immoral woman wash His feet with her tears, and dry His feet with her hair. He touched the ones that no-one would touch, and He touched this deaf and dumb man.
He took him out of the crowd, perhaps to save him from the embarrassment that he had faced all of his life from his youth. It says that He brought him over, and He put His fingers in his ears - why? He was saying, He was demonstrating to this man: 'The deafness that you have, I am going to make you hear'. Then it says that He spat on His finger, and He touched his tongue to symbolise: 'The dumbness that you have experienced since your childhood, it's going to be loosed'. What was the ingredient within this man's life that made the difference? Simply this: faith. You might say: 'David, well he didn't say anything...'I have faith'...and Jesus didn't ask him 'Do you have faith?', because the man couldn't hear' - but how do I know that this man had faith? Very simple, let me ask you question: would you let anybody spit on their hand and touch your tongue? This man knew who Jesus was, this man knew that Jesus was the one who could free him, that Jesus was the one who could liberate him - and he would let Jesus turn him inside out if He would only set him free!
Do we touch sinners? You read about General Booth, you read about a man who touched sinners and he revolutionised a generation because of it. Wesley, and his brother whose hymns we've been singing this morning, they touched a generation for Christ. They stemmed a very revolution in the whole of our country - why? Because they touched the untouchable, and they knew the power, they knew the dynamite of the gospel of Jesus Christ could change lives.
The fourth thing is this, verse 34 and 35: 'And looking up to heaven, he sighed', Jesus sighed, 'and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened'. I think this is tremendous: the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God incarnate, God the Son - where was His source of power? Where did He get His strength? Where had He the power to change this man's life? The word of God says that He who was perfect - sinless, unselfish, undefiled, separate from sinners - He looked to heaven! Where do we look to? Do we look to Christians of bygone days? Do we look to ourselves and our confidence, and our abilities and our gifts? Do we look to our church? Do we look to evangelical Christianity? Do we look to authors? Do we even look to the word of God - and I hope you know what I'm saying when I say that - simply the word of God on its own? Or prayer on its own? My friend, the word of God is to show us Christ, to show us God, to bring us through the veil right into His very presence - but do we look to heaven? Do we look there for the power of God?
Duncan Campbell was a great revivalist of this century. Many years ago, in the 1940s and 50s, there was a move of God in the Isles of Lewis at the side of Scotland. I want to tell you this this morning: Duncan Campbell was a humble man of God. What happened was: as Duncan Campbell walked up those hills, full of the beauty of heather of the Scottish vales, he walked up that road to the little pink church, he walked through those doors. Listen: there were no invitations, there was no publicity or posters - not that they are wrong - but there was a congregation bigger than you could ever imagine that the Spirit of God had invited. Duncan Campbell got to that platform, he stood there and he realised in his own helplessness that he couldn't say anything, he couldn't do anything. Do you know what he said? There was a young man sitting in the congregation who he knew was a man of God, and he asked him to stand to his feet, and he said: 'You lead the congregation in prayer, because you are nearer God than I am'. He stood to his feet, and the accounts say that he looked to heaven, and he prayed and he said: 'Father, I can see Your Throne. I know that Your Throne is there, and at Your right hand there is the Lord Jesus Christ' - and listen to what he said - 'and there's power there, let a bit of that power go and bless us!'.
My friend this morning, as he sat on the seat, people started falling down around him in conviction of sin and in tears. Do we look to heaven? The Lord Jesus Christ, of all people, if He needed to look to heaven, if He needed to take His strength from God, if He needed to pray throughout the night - how much more do we need to do it? But I must move on - there are many men of God that I could tell you about this morning: Matthew Henry, who prayed and studied from 8 o'clock in the morning to 12 o'clock. He had his lunch, he studied from 12 o'clock in the afternoon to 4 o'clock. He had his tea, and then he went out and did his pastoral visits. That's why we have his works today, because he spent and he wrote them in prayer before God. You could read about men like John Wesley who, when he reached into his eighties, into his 80th birthday, it says that he felt he had backslidden because he could no longer get up at half four in the morning to meet God, it was now 5 o'clock! Martin Luther, who shook the whole of Europe for Christ, he said he had so much to do some days [that he had] to pray for two hours. He had to pray for two hours because he had so much to do!
I believe today, that we are in the age of prayerlessness. We are in the age of prayerlessness. It may not be that we don't pray at all, but we pray little - and E.M. Bounds in his great book, 'Power Through Prayer', says that praying little is like a salve to our conscience, because we think we have dealt with God and it makes us feel alright the rest of the day, and we pray no more. A church in America that is here now, and thriving now, and changing lives - the minute it happened, and the change started to happen, and people were, in their multitudes, being born again, there was a preacher who was in the congregation. He was asked to stand on the platform and give a little word and share with the people, he was from Australia. He said these three statements: 'Look at your Sunday morning, and see how popular the church is. Look at your Sunday evening, and see how popular the Pastor is. Look at your prayer meeting, and see how popular God is'.
My friends, we need to pray. We need to pray more than ever. Jesus, when He prayed, He sighed it says. He looked up to heaven, He didn't just utter a prayer, He sighed. It was a prayer that had no words, the word of God records, but it was from the very depths of His being, it was a prayer of compassion, it was a prayer of feeling. He was showing - I think this is beautiful - the man couldn't hear a sigh, the man couldn't hear a prayer, but he could see the lungs of the Saviour fill and exhale in a sigh of compassion for him! The Lord let this man see that He loved him. We need to let men and women see that we love them, in our prayers, in our sacrifice. I believe this morning that the greatest prayer, the best prayer, is the silent prayer - it's the prayer that you can't even put into words that's welling up within your soul and in your heart, and all you can do is groan to God, as Romans 8 says, with groans that cannot be uttered.
The fifth thing, in verse 35, is this: He healed. They brought, they prayed, He touched, He looked, He sighed, but He healed! He had the power, no-one else had the power, the disciples didn't have it, we don't have it, He has it and it's for us! It's for us to use. He looked at this poor, pitiful man, and He said: 'Ephphatha', meaning 'Be opened'. That reception, he couldn't receive anything in his ear, that began to receive - and his response that he couldn't speak with, it began to respond. It says literally: 'The string of his tongue was loosed', the band that was tying his voice had gone and he was free! He was free.
'Hear Him ye deaf, His praise ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ.
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come,
And leap, ye lame, for joy!'
'My chains fell off!
My heart was free!
I rose, went forth,
And followed Thee'.
That is what the word of God says happened to this man, for in verse 36 and verse 37 it says that he went about declaring what the Lord had done, he published it. Now, that was disobedient, because the Lord told him not to do it. But my friend, I want you to see this - and I wonder, deep down, did the Lord know this? The change that was in this man's life, the joy that he had found, the peace, the freedom, was so great that he couldn't keep his mouth shut!
'They were all beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well'. Friends today, Jesus still does all things well. He can do it among us, He can do it in our personal lives - and we don't have to wait on it, He can do it now. May God bless His word to our hearts.
Our Father in heaven, we thank Thee this morning for the great truth of Thy word and the stories of Jesus that we love so dear. We pray that we would appropriate the truths of them in our lives, not just love the stories, but live out the truth. Take us now to our homes, and take us with Thy blessing, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Bringing People To Jesus" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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