Let us pray: Dear Savior, teach us today to never take Your gracious blessings for granted, nor to believe that they are too good to be true. Instead, move us to embrace Your grace with appreciation, thanksgiving, humbleness, and great joy no matter what our external circumstances in life. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT!
TEXT: Mark 7: 31-37
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
I begin this letter to you, dear reader, with those amazing words: “Dearly Beloved by Christ” because I really, really, really know exactly what they mean. My name is Avi ben Levi, Avi son of Levi, and Jesus Christ changed my life in ways you cannot begin to imagine! I was born into a religious family, note my father’s name was: Levi. He was a Levite, one of those temple priests you learn about in Sunday School. My mother’s name was Ruth, after King David’s grandmother. From my earliest remembrances sadness and confusion dominated my life. I could see my mother’s loving face, I could see the concern on my father’s countenance, but I could not hear anything they said to me. I was deaf, stone cold deaf. I tried, for many years, to move my mouth like them and mimic what they were doing. I tried to speak. But, it never really worked and came out as gibberish.
It was hard growing up. Other children pointed, laughed, pushed, and shoved me around. Adults shook their heads, felt sad, and walked away. I was bursting inside with thoughts and feelings. I wanted to get them out. I wanted to grasp what they were saying to me. But, nothing happened. I remember getting frustrated and throwing things around when I was a child. I remember thinking how unfair it all was. I remember as a teenager watching other boys walk with girls, holding their hands with expressions of kindness on their faces. But when girls held my hand it was out of pity. I felt awful and very sad.
As I grew older, all I was good for was menial jobs—hauling sacks of grain with the foreman pointing where he wanted them, helping my mother cook, starting the fire each morning, and sometimes begging at the city gate. I watched my father in the temple doing his rituals. I could never hear the prayers he uttered, nor understand anything about God. Life seemed cruel to me. The friends I had were kind. They shared food and time with me. But pity was always etched on their faces. One day, when I was in my early 30’s there was a commotion in town. I didn’t know it, but Jesus Christ and His disciples had entered our city. My friends literally dragged me over to this Man with the kind face and were talking to Him with their voices and their hands. By this time I knew all about “hand talking.” Then Jesus took me aside, away from the crowd. He placed His fingers into my ears! I must say this was more than a little odd! Then He spit and touched my tongue with His saliva. He looked upwards towards heaven, sighed deeply and said (although I could not hear or understand): “Ephphatha, or Be opened!” Immediately my ears heard sound! The birds, the roaring air of the whispering wind, the noise of the crowd flooded my ear canal! For the first time I actually heard myself speak! And it wasn’t gibberish, it was understandable words, sentences, and thoughts! It was the defining moment of my life! I cannot tell you how happy I felt. Words cannot describe the joy that flooded my soul. I was a whole man. I was complete. I wasn’t a dummy any more!
I tried to thank Jesus. I really didn’t know how to say it, but I tried. But He knew what I meant. He looked deeply into my heart, bore into me with His eyes, and we communicated on a level beyond mere human words. I knew He was special. I knew He loved me more than life itself. Jesus loves Avi! Jesus was all I could think about.
I heard Him tell the crowd not to tell anyone about this miracle. Apparently, He wasn’t ready to reveal to the world what His Godly Sonship was all about just yet. But they didn’t listen to Him. They said loudly, “He has done everything well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” But I listened to Him. How could I not? And instead of yelling loudly about all this, I resolved to follow Him quietly whenever I could.
Over the next year or so, I tried to attend gatherings whenever Jesus was around. I listened to Him. I saw other miracles. I learned all about God, human sin, our need for God’s help in making us clean from the inside out, and most of all I learned about grace, God’s undeserved love for us in Jesus. When I heard He had traveled to Jerusalem around Passover time, I resolved to go, too. After all, I had never been to the great temple, and had never made a pilgrimage. But when I got there, the day after the great feast, I discovered my Jesus nailed to a cross at a place called Golgotha. They were killing Him! It was obscene. The few disciples there made no effort to help Him. The crowd roared their anger against this kind Man that saved my life and saved my soul. I heard Him say to God in heaven: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” I heard Him forgive that terrorist on His right and tell him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” I heard Him groan deeply from the depth of His soul and say: “It is finished.” I saw Him die. All that cut me to the quick. It felt as though a huge sword had been run right through my heart. How could this happen? How could evil men kill my Jesus? I cried, cried, and cried some more. But after a few days I heard rumors that Jesus in death had done a miracle beyond comprehension! He had come back to life! I believed it! Why shouldn’t I have? If He could unstop my ears and open my tongue, surely He could rise to life—He was the Son of God, after all! And then, later on when Jesus appeared to 500 of the believers, I actually saw Him! I was there when He came to show us His hands and feet. I was there when my resurrected Savior came to comfort all of us. And when He caught my eye He smiled and nodded. In an instant, I knew what it all meant. Grace, God’s riches at Christ’s expense weren’t just extended to me, Jesus extended them to everyone. His sermons about believing, trusting and having faith in Him now made total sense!
As I write this final letter to you, dear reader, I’m now an old man. My eyes are clouded, my body is tired, but my ears still ring forth with delicious sound. Jesus has now gone to heaven—years ago. His church, His band of disciples, has grown by leaps and bounds. I see people professing their faith in Him who, it seems to me, often take my Jesus for granted. They go and worship Him when it’s convenient to them, but they don’t seem to really put Him first in their lives. Don’t they know what it’s like not to live under God’s grace? Don’t they know how awful life is when you are unable to sing praises to God and proclaim the words of wonderful hymns out loud to Him? Well I know. And with this little letter, I hope you will begin to understand the depth, riches, and meaning of grace, too. Dearly beloved in Christ, don’t ever take my Jesus for granted! Don’t imperil your eternal soul! What more can I say? Signed: Avi ben Levi. Amen