Unlocked - Mark 7:31-37
Now some of you may be like her and come to her defense later on, but I accuse my wife of being a somewhat OCD. Anita has a thing about locks, in particular about locks on the doors that go in and out of a house. If a door has a lock, it needs to be locked, especially at bedtime. Very often Anita’s nighttime pre-bed ritual is to go around to all the doors and make sure that all the locks are locked. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t used that door during the day, she needs to make sure that it is locked. If somehow we make it to bed without her checking, she will ask me, “Did you check the doors?” or “Are all the doors locked?” Unless I can answer with 100% certainty that I did, one of the two of us has to get up and go check (I’ll let y’all guess which of the two has to get up). I will admit, she has never asked me to install additional locks on any parsonage doors, but if it has any type of lock, it has to be locked…the doorknob, the dead bolt, any chain or slide locks. If it doesn’t have one of those, that’s okay, but if it does, the door is not locked unless those are turn, slid, or chained. And, if there is a storm door, it has to be locked too…it doesn’t matter that there might be three or more locks on the wooden door, it doesn’t matter that you might be able to jerk the storm door open with a hard tug if it is locked, the storm door better be locked. Going back to the bedtime discussions, if I respond, “the wooden door is locked.” It is always followed by, “what about the storm door.” Guess what, “I don’t know,” is not an acceptable answer that will enable us to simply go to sleep.
Little does Anita know that if Arthur Bühl or any of his colleagues were to move into the neighborhood, not a single one of those locks would do us much good. Arthur Bühl is a private detective out of Hamburg Germany, and for most of the first decade of the 21st century, Mr. Bühl was considered the master of lock picking…so fast in lock picking championships, he was dubbed “Master of the Universe.”[i] Annually lock pickers from around the world come together to compete with speed and skill, displaying to the world that the little security we think we have when something is fastened shut and locked is really an illusion…an illusion that these pickers can shatter in around twenty seconds.
There are some things, though, that are locked that neither Mr. Bühl nor any of his friends can open—locked mouths and ears, locked hearts and minds, locked lives.
We don’t know his name or his background. We only know that he lived in the region of the Decapolis between Tyre and the Sea of Galilee. We do not know whether he had been this way from birth, or if it was a recent development. We just know that a few of his friends brought this man whose ears and tongue were locked and presented him to Jesus.
Bühl and his associates use small knives, screwdrivers, picks, paperclips, and even ballpoint pens to carefully work their way into the locks they encounter. Jesus, though, “King of the Universe” needs no such tools. Jesus’ methods, though, might have our chins dropping faster than the quickest lock pick.
Jesus took this nameless man aside, away from the crowd that had surrounded them. Jesus breaks open the locks by placing his fingers in the man’s ears, then spitting, and touching the man’s tongue…finally looking to heaven, Jesus sighs, then says to the man “Ephphatha,” or, as we would understand it, “Be opened.” Then, quicker than the chambers sliding into place on a cheap dollar-store combination lock, the man was able to hear and speak… “Immediately his ears were opened, his tongue released, and he spoke plainly.”
Jesus is the one who can open the locks that no human hands can open. As he walked the earth, he opened ears that were locked, mouths that were locked, eyes that were locked, spirits that were locked, hearts that were locked…lives that were locked. He brought hearing, speech, sight, and freedom to lives that were sealed with seemingly unopenable locks. The Gospel of John puts it this way:
“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.’
“They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?’
“Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’”[ii]
My brothers and sisters, what aspect of our lives feels like it has been locked up? What areas of our life have produced such deep trouble and no matter how hard we struggle to unlock them, no matter what key we put in the lock, nothing seems to work?
Maybe it is relationships…trouble at home, at work, or in our community…
Maybe it is an addiction…whether it be to substances like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or to gambling, or pornography, overeating, or some other area…
Maybe it is fear…
Maybe it is something that we have done that has locked us up…maybe someone else’s actions seem to have sealed our lives shut…and again, nothing we do seems to unlock the hold those things have over our lives.
The truth of the matter is, no matter how hard we struggle, we will never be able to unlock those things on our own, it is only when we surrender our lives to the True Locksmith that we will ever find our lives unlocked, open, and free.
When we bring our “locked-up” relationships before Him and ask Him to be the key to open them up, we will see a change. Most, if not all, relationship trouble comes about when those involved in the relationship find themselves at an impasse. I know what I want, and you won’t concede, you know what you want, and I won’t concede. For me, our relationship is about me, for you, our relationship is about you. We are stuck, we are locked up, because it is about us. When we bring it to Jesus, and make our relationship about Him…when we look to Him to see what a successful relationship looks like, and pattern our lives after Him, we see those relationships unlocked. Suddenly a love-filled relationship is not about what someone can do for me or give me, it is about what I can give to the relationship.
When we bring our lives locked by addiction to Him, we will find the one and only Key that fits the hole in our lives that we tried to unlock with things that have become false gods in our lives. Addictions erupt because we feel there is something missing from our lives and we try to fill it. Maybe we take a drink and feel the numbness it brings to that ache, and decide it is the only way to complete the void, yet it takes more and more drink, and longer and longer periods of numbness. Perhaps it wasn’t a drink or a smoke or a hit…maybe it was looking and longing at images that sexually aroused us, and we decided that arousal was what love felt like and if we just kept feeling aroused, we would be complete, but suddenly it took more and more images, images that were more and more graphic, and the need continued to grow. For others it is nothing that folks would deem immoral or wrong, but simply ordinary things that become the addictive substitute for that emptiness…maybe it is eating, maybe it is shopping, and the trouble is that we try to complete ourselves with these things, only to find ourselves in a locked-up mess. The only One who can unlock us is Jesus…when we come before Him and realize that He is the only One who can fill that void in our lives, the only One who can take that emptiness and make it whole. We will find the Love that he offers to us perfectly fills us, and rather than eat away at us, destroy us, or use us up, when Jesus fills the void, He strengthens us and builds us up, and enables us to live fully.
Perhaps we are locked up by fear. We spend our lives worrying that the worst case scenario will always come true. We live our lives in a constant state of worry. We worry about anything and everything. We are afraid of heights, because we might fall. We are afraid of water, because we might drown. We are afraid of the dark, because something we can’t see might get us. We are afraid to drive, because we might be in a crash. We are afraid to fly, because hijackers might takeover and use the planes as weapons. We are afraid to speak, because someone might get upset, not liking what we say or we might forget the words. We are afraid to give money, or give things away, because we might not have enough for ourselves. The list of things that we are afraid of or worried about could go on forever. These fears bind us and lock us away from the rest of the world at times. It is Jesus who can unlock us from those fears. When we come before Him with the fears, we are reminded that there is nothing to fear. We are reminded of His Words, “I am with You always, to the end of the age.” When we come before Jesus with our fears and ask Him to unlock our lives, He reminds us that God will look after us, will protect us, provide for us, and that in Him, our lives will never truly end.
My friends, relationships, additions, fears, are only a few of the things that can come in and lock up our lives…and the truth of the matter is that whatever locks up our lives, whatever makes us stuck that we cannot seem to get any further, is sin. It is Christ, and Christ alone, that can free us from sin. Jesus is the key that unlocks that sin and sets us free…He is the One that calls us aside, sticks his fingers in our ears, spits, grabs our tongues, sighs, and looks us in the eye and says, “Ephphatha, Be opened, You are unlocked, You are free.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.