Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trinity 10 sermon

Trinity 19 – October 10th, 2010 – Matthew 9:1-8

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost +
Here in October, as we move towards the end of the Church Year, we are getting texts about the main ways in which Satan attacks us. Last week our Gospel text was about one main way Satan attacks us – when Satan tries to make us self-righteous and ignore our sin. This week, our text brushes upon the second way in which Satan loves to attack us – and that is when Satan tries to convince us that there really is no forgiveness of sin. Our Lord fended of Satan’s first attack last week, so let us see how He defends us against Satan this week.

“And behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, My son; your sins are forgiven.’” First thing off the bat – this may sound a little strange to us, because today if we see someone who is paralyzed, who has some obvious physical malady, we see simply a physical problem, not a spiritual problem. If we saw someone who was paralyzed, we would think that there was some sort of spinal cord injury, or maybe a stroke. We would think of physical causes right off the bat. That wasn’t how people thought, first and foremost in Jesus’ day. The thought, the opinion of the day, was that if there was something manifestly wrong with your body, if some great physical harm befell you, that this would be due to some sin that you, that your parents had committed. The idea was that if you were a leper, or a paralytic, or something like that, then “obviously” you must have done something to royally tick off God. And of course, this whole idea is reinforced when you have the “good” people of society, the Pharisees, the Scribes, who are healthy, wealthy, and certainly thought to be wise all lamenting how horrid you must have been to be struck by God like this.

Now, I suppose that they are partially right. Why do things like diseases happen? Well, we are sinners in a sinful world. Lousy stuff happens. Do we deserve it – well, in the larger sense, yes, because we too are sinful beings, and as such, well, we really don’t have a leg to stand on when some tragedy hits us. The wages of sin isn’t mere tragedy, it is death. We confess that because of our sin we are worthy of punishment, both temporal, here and now, and eternal. Now, in our pride as modern folks, we don’t like thinking this way, we don’t like thinking that lousy stuff could happen to us. It can, and really, we can’t complain. Stuff happens to sinners in a sinful world. However, my dear friends, don’t try to make things equal out. Don’t try wondering, “did sin X cause this problem”? Unless you have a clear Word of God telling you, it’s pointless to try – unless its something like smoking 2 packs a day and getting lung cancer. We can see tangible cause and effect, but unless God has said, “Your doing X has caused Y”, the only thing that our speculation will bring will be crushing and horrid guilt. We’d have that constant uncertainty about our lives, and more over, the underlying assumption would be that God must be angry with us. Do you see what sort of doubt and despair this sort of thinking would bring?

And so Jesus walks up to this poor paralyzed man, and Jesus speaks to Him the most beautiful words he has ever heard. Take heart, My son, your sins are forgiven. Beautiful words – take heart, be encouraged, be gladdened, have joy. And why? Your sins are forgiven. That guilt you have, that fear you have that God must surely hate you – no. You are His son, His child, and He forgives you. Now, we understand the whole mechanics of this – we know that because Christ Jesus dies for us upon the Cross that the wages, the punishments for our sin are doled out in full, we know that because He rises we are promised and given life everlasting, we know that we are made God’s own children in the waters of Holy Baptism, we know that we are joined to Christ’s Body and Blood in the Supper. All off this is summed up in those simple words. Your sins are forgiven. And at that moment, that poor paralyzed man receives joy and peace and comfort, joy, peace and comfort as he probably hadn’t had in his life. God’s not angry with him – God loves him. Likewise, dear friends. God is not angry with you. God does not despise you, God does not hate you, God isn’t out to get you. You are His child, claimed as His own, and forgiven.

Now, Satan hates Christians who are joyful and at peace. See what he stirs up. “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’” So they hear this joyous pronouncement of forgiveness, and what is their reaction? They grumble, they complain that Jesus is blaspheming. Now, why would they say that Jesus is blaspheming? Because of this – it is understood that only God can forgive sins. If our sins are against God, and every sin is ultimately against God, then only God can truly forgive sins. Makes sense – if you owe me a debt, some fellow off the street can’t just walk up to you and say, “Eh, you don’t have to pay Pastor Brown back.” He’s got no right. Likewise, no mere man acting on his own would have the right to say, “your sins are forgiven.” That is a God thing – and so, they conclude that Jesus is blaspheming. Now, they are wrong, because Jesus is in fact God, so He has every right to forgive this man’s sin, and in fact Jesus delights in forgiving this man’s sin. But did you note where Satan attacks? He attacks the forgiveness of sins. Satan has two plans, two main avenues of attack. The first, he tries to make you ignore your sin – so you die unawares of the danger. The second is this – if you know your sin, if you know you are guilty, Satan will try to keep that guilt with you – he will try to cut you off from forgiveness. And that’s what’s happening here – Satan is trying to cut people off from forgiveness.

And Christ Jesus our Lord isn’t going to stand for that. “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk.” But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ He then said to the paralytic, ‘Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’” Utterly beautiful. So, do you think it is too hard, too much for Jesus to forgive sins? Well, here’s some proof. Rise and walk – and the guy walks. You think this man’s sin kept him lying on this bed and that I can’t forgive that sin? Get up and walk. If I can do that to this man’s paralyzed body, if I can heal his body – I have the authority to heal and cleanse his soul with a Word of forgiveness. This is a wonderful proof of Christ’s authority to forgive sin. This is for you. One of the things that we can forget is that Jesus does this miracles not just for the people He helps, but to be signs and proofs to us. Does Satan try to tell you that there is no forgiveness – behold Christ Jesus, who is the great physician not only of Body, but also of Soul. He who heals in ways that we see also heals with forgiveness, even though we don’t get to look at our soul. This is His love, His might, His power. Christ Jesus can forgive sins.

But here is the neat part of this text. We hear, “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid and they glorified God, Who had given such authority to men.” Are you in need of forgiveness? Yes. Can you receive forgiveness, Christ’s forgiveness? Yes. And how? Through men, through those whom God has given authority to forgive sins. Now, this in part does directly refer to me as your Pastor. This is what I am here for – to forgive you your sins. I as a called and ordained servant of the Word, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ – I have been called here to proclaim forgiveness to you, I have been ordained, ordered by God to use this authority given to me to speak a word of forgiveness to you – that is why I am here. I have been called to the public ministry – and when you hear me speak forgiveness – it’s not important that I, Eric Brown, am speaking, but that Christ Jesus has called, ordained, and sent you someone to be your Pastor and to speak this forgiveness to you. Why? He doesn’t want you to doubt that you are forgiven, He doesn’t want to let Satan tear you down. The fact that I am called and ordained is what authorizes me to stand up here and speak these words of forgiveness to you, publicly, in this place.

But it’s more than that. Are you baptized? Are you part of the family of God? Now, while Joe-Blow off the street can’t walk up to anyone and say, “that $50 bucks you owe Pastor Brown, you don’t owe it to him any more” – my wife can say that. Why? Cause she’s part of my family, she is my spouse, my bride, all that I have is hers, and so she has authority to take what is mine and give it away. Likewise, you are part of the Church, you are part of the bride of Christ. Because you are Baptized, because you are covered with the blood of Christ and joined to Him, you too have the authority to speak the forgiveness of sins to people. Now, you don’t have the authority to do so Sunday mornings here – here in this place I as pastor am given that duty, that “public” office is mine – but in your own private, personal lives and callings, you have this authority. Are you a parent? Then you have the authority from God, the duty even, to tell you children that they are forgiven for the sake of Christ Jesus’ death upon the cross. Are you a friend and neighbor? Then you have the authority to tell your friends and neighbors that their sins are forgiven by Christ Jesus. You are able to speak that Word of life unto them. This is an awesome, mind boggling thing. Sometimes I know that we can be almost disappointed that we don’t get to do spiffy faith healings, that we don’t get to do wondrous signs. Well, first off, we’ve prayed for an awful lot of people who by rights should have died and didn’t – let’s not diminish the value of that simply because I don’t get to put my hand on someone’s head and start shaking. But healing – that’s the lesser thing. So you get healed, you are well for what – a few decades at most? Now think about the Word of forgiveness you speak – that creates faith. That gives forgiveness and eternal life, that raises the dead unto heaven. That’s part of the point of the text – that this Word of forgiveness that we have been given by God to speak is more wondrous than anything else we could see in this life.

You have forgiveness in Christ Jesus – it is your possession. It is your treasure. Do not let Satan tell you that this joy and wonder of forgiveness isn’t yours. Cling to it – know that you are forgiven for the sake of Christ Jesus – hear me proclaim it to you hear in this place, come and taste it in Christ’s Supper which He has called and ordained me to give to you. And let this forgiveness reign in your life, let it flow from your own lips to the people whom God places in your private and personal lives who need to hear it. This is the beauty and wonder of His forgiveness – now let us with all fear and reverence glorify God. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost+

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