"And looking up to heaven, He sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," which means "Be opened."
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. It is not always possible to make lemonade out of lemons. 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 decay, sin 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.
Sighing is a fruit of the curse. It comes with the knowledge that all is vanity, that nothing can be done to stop death. It comes with desperation, with frustration. It comes when with blood, sweat, and tears we see that our work never amounts to what we desire. It comes with sorrow and distress, with pain and suffering, when our bodies grow old, our health deteriorates, our loved ones die. Sighing is a fruit of the curse and the curse is sin becoming flesh to dwell among us.
But when Jesus sighs, it's different. His sighs are not out of desperation or exasperation. He sighs not out of confusion or exhaustion. This is not to say that He doesn't feel your pain or know your frustration. He does. But His sighs are not just an acknowledgment that this is not the way things are supposed to be, that man was not created to suffer, to live under a curse of his own making, to live separated from God by his sinfulness and then to die. Man was created to live forever and to live forever in communion with the most Holy Trinity. No, His sighs are more than that. They are more than expressions of the curse made incarnate. His sighs are filled with compassion and with the cure. For He is the cure incarnate. God's Word made flesh, the embodiment of God's will and law in human flesh. When Jesus sighs He does more than give expression to the human struggle under the curse of sin. When Jesus sighs He breathes in the curse and breathes out the cure, the blessing of His Word, the impartation of His Spirit, which gives life.
For looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said "It is finished." He breathed His last and handed over His Spirit. He gave His life into death so that you will live. He took the curse into Himself, your sin into Himself, He suffered in your place, died in your stead and was raised from death, out of the tomb so that you who trust in Him are forgiven your sins, rescued from death, have eternal salvation. And now He gives you His Body and His Blood. He gives you Himself, the embodiment of His Father's Word, to make it embodied in yours, taking away your sin and giving you His righteousness, His holiness, His purity, His life. Indeed, He does all things well. And in Him, so do you.