And He sighed, "Ephatha": Thoughts on Trinity 12
Sometimes we feel our fallenness most acutely not in the sins that we commit ourselves, but in the sins that we suffer from a fallen world and from the hands of evil people. We realize in those times that it’s not that we need to try harder, that we need pep talks, life coaches, or twelve-step programs. We realize that what we endure because of sin is far bigger than all of that. It is a cancer that infects and destroys everything around us.
And It leaves us dazed, even confused. It leaves us overwhelmed and exasperated. And it makes us tired. So we groan. We sigh. We sigh in pain, in exhaustion, in disbelief. When we watch our heroes grow old, become weak, and die. When our friends or family let us down, when they don’t stick up for us, or worse, when they take advantage of us, when they betray us. We feel the effects of sin. We feel the effects of the curse “by the sweat of your brow you shall eat . . .” and “you will surely die.” Sighing is a fruit of the curse.
And so we try to ignore it. We shrug it off, looking for the ray of sunshine in what is otherwise complete darkness. But some of the things we endure can’t be shrugged off. Somethings can’t be ignored. Either because they are so deeply personal or because they are of such a magnitude that they can’t be. They gnaw at us because we know that this is not how things are supposed to be. It is not how God intended it.
St. Paul says that what we experience is what the whole creation experiences. That the whole creation groans and sighs as it suffers and endures the realities of sin in the world, that sickness and death and evil are part of our daily experience. We live under the weight of sin, the weight of death and loss, the weight of loneliness and betrayal. We live under the curse.
And this is why we sigh and groan. Because we know this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Because we’re tired and overwhelmed, because we’re hurt and confused, because we don’t know what to do. And we sigh.
Our Lord Jesus Christ also sighs. But when He sighs it’s different. He feels your pain to be sure. And He knows your emptiness. But there’s more than that. He knows that there’s a cure. His sighs are more than expressions of the curse made incarnate in creation. His sighs are also blessings. His sighs undo the curse. They overcome and overpower it. His sighs give. For when He sighs, he breathes in the curse and breaths out His blessings. He gives a part of Himself, His Word, His Spirit. Ephatha. Be opened. Talitha cum! Arise! Be forgiven. Be holy. Be well. It is finished!
This is why the friends of the deaf mute bring him to Jesus. They know He can do something about it. They know that He has the cure. They know that the best help they can give is to bring him to Jesus, to hand him over to the One who sighs not out of frustration but out of accomplishment. The one who actually does something about the crap that happens to us and because of us.
Oh, that we would have friends like these. Oh, that we would be friends like these . . . even to ourselves. Oh that we would go to confession, to that uncomfortable and awkward place where Jesus prods us with His fingers and spits in our mouths, where He sighs and breathes His blessing upon us to lift the curse, to cleanses us of the sins that we have done and that have been done to us. Oh that we would seek Jesus, where He promises to be, where He promises to shut up our wounds and the demons of past sins that constantly assail us, and open us up to receive His Word, His Spirit, His breath, His life.