Sunday, October 14, 2012

Trinity 19 sermon

Trinity 19 – October 14th, 2012 – Matthew 9:1-8

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
          Chapter 8 of Matthew had been busy for Jesus.  It begins when Jesus finishes the great sermon on the Mount, and suddenly, right away, He is healing folks right and left – a leper, the Centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, many people.  He casts out demons right and left, calms a storm.  He even laments that “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head.”  It has been busy for Jesus.  And so then we begin Chapter 9 and our text today with these words, “And getting into a boat He crossed over and came to His own city.”  There He is, on His way home, maybe a chance for some rest and recreation, maybe a chance to get away from the crowds.  Yet what happens?  “And behold, some people brought to Him a paralytic, lying on a bed.”  No, no rest for Jesus – more to do.  But here is the beautiful thing about Jesus – He does this gladly.  We hear this, “And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’”

          It’s a wonderful thing we see in our Gospel, a highlight, a turning point.  We see Jesus pointing out the most important thing – the true point of why He had come to earth in the first place.  The great truth is this: that He has come to forgive sins – that He has come to do away with all the ills and troubles of life in this fallen world, not merely by healing people or calming storms or multiplying loaves and fishes, but by fixing the world, by dying and rising so that we fallen men would be forgiven and restored to the life everlasting.  And all this that Christ does, we receive by faith – by the gift of faith we receive this forgiveness, we see it and understand it in our lives.  He sees this paralytic, this man who is suffering terribly, who is lowly, who is probably often ignored or despised.  And this man, his friends, they have faith – they behold Christ with faith – knowing that Christ has come to fix things, all things.  And so Jesus turns to this weary, faithful man, and He says, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”  Take heart – endure, be strong, be bold in your faith and belief.  I do not care what you see right now in this world, do not worry that you suffer – rather take heart.  Be enheartened, be emboldened.  Why?  You are My son.  You are my own, you belong not to Satan, not to the prince of this world, but you belong to Me, you are part of My Kingdom.  Your sins no long bind you to Satan and death, your sins no longer bind you to a world of decay where everything falls apart, where limbs no longer work – no, you are forgiven.  The world sees only slow decay and age and destruction – but you have faith, and you see forgiveness and life, the life of the world to come.

          What a fantastic thing Christ proclaims.  And, so, of course, people are going to complain about it!  “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This Man is blaspheming.’”  And the grumbling starts.  The complaining.  And what are they grousing about?  Blasphemy.  They think Jesus is lying – because what Jesus is clearly implying right here when He says, “Take heart, My Son, your sins are forgiven” is that He has the ability to forgive sins.  And here’s the point that we folks of the New Testament overlook, or forget, or don’t realize, don’t appreciate.  We are so used to the idea of sins being forgiven, of being able to say, “I forgive you” or “Christ Jesus has died for you” – sins being forgiven is sort of… old hat for us.  It’s something we are used to having around, we just come to expect it.  It’s part of every service we have here – I mean you have a pastor, a professional forgiver.  My job is to proclaim Christ’s forgiveness – we are used to hearing it all the time – so used to hearing it that we don’t think it’s all that big of a deal if we skip hearing it a few Sundays in a row – it’s always going to be here, we know it.

But whereas we today might not appreciate forgiveness as we ought, those Scribes knew that it was a mighty thing that Jesus was proclaiming – indeed, by right they knew that only God alone Himself would be able to forgive sins.  Why?  Because our sins are against God. David nails this in Psalm 51 – He has just murdered Uriah the Hittite and stolen his wife Bathsheba, and yet David proclaims to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”  Sin is always against God.  When I sin against my wife, I’m really sinning against God, for He is the one who gave her to me to be my wife, who put us together.  When I harm my neighbor, that sin is really against God.  Jesus spells this out later on in Matthew – Whatsoever ye hath done unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.  Heavy words, but true.  Our sin, ultimately, is always against God.  And the Scribes know this – and they sit there thinking about the Law, about punishment, about pain – and there comes Jesus forgiving sins.  They see He is claiming to be God, and so they complain, they grumble.  Whereas the paralytic looked at Jesus in faith, they look at Christ in disbelief and denial.

And so Jesus responds: “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.’  And he rose and went home.”  Oh, scribes, scribes, scribes – haven’t you figured out that I am the Messiah and what that means?  Here you are fussing and doubting, ignoring the work of God going on all around you.  Here, let me show it to you again – paralyzed guy, get up, go home.  Be healed, so that these doubters may know that I am indeed the Son of Man, the promised Messiah.  Rise and go so that they may learn the more important lesson – not merely that I can heal the body, but that I have the authority to forgive sins.

And the crowds get it.  “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”  Again, this is another thing that we miss, that our familiarity bordering on contempt makes us overlook.  They see Jesus do this – and they are afraid.  Why afraid?  Because God is big and mighty and powerful, and you don’t mess around with God.  You mess around with God; you end up like Sodom and Gamorrah.  You end up swept away by the flood.  You end up drowned in the Red Sea.  You end up swallowed by the great fish, or the Assyrians or Babylonians comes and wipe you out, and the folks there thought, “look around us, there are plenty of Romans whom God could let blot us out just like that.”  You don’t mess around with God – and what had these Scribes been doing?  Messing with Jesus, messing with the Messiah – and the potential weight of that kicks in.  And likewise, we shouldn’t be eager to mess with God either – this is why our Catechism lessons on the Ten Commandments all begin “We should fear and love God” – we shouldn’t want to go mess around with God.  But yet, even as these people see the mighty, powerful works of God, even as they have the fear of God put into them, they also glorify God.  Why?  Because God has given the authority to forgive to men – because Jesus has come not to kill and condemn and blast sinners into oblivion, not to smite the Scribes into nothingness for their insolence – but He has come with authority to see that men are forgiven.

Authority is a huge word in the Scriptures – and it is always tied to the forgiveness of sins.  Think on how Matthew’s Gospel ends – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…”  I, Jesus Christ, have authority – and here’s what it’s for.  Baptized people.  Teach them to cling to the forgiveness of sins. Give them the Supper so that they might grow in faith, that they might always receive over and over the forgiveness of their sins.  And think on just how radically this has impacted our lives.  Without forgiveness, what are our lives?  They are filled either with fear or with denial.  Without forgiveness we have that fear, that guilt that clings to us and makes us miserable and shrivel up.  Without forgiveness we live in denial – we pretend nothing we do is every wrong, that nothing ever smells bad, and in our denial we step all over our neighbor and ignore them, and wound them, and we drive ourselves further and further away from people all the while saying, “Well, I’m fine, I don’t know what’s wrong with them?”  Fear, delusion, isolation, pain, suffering.  That’s the lot of sinful man in a fallen world. 
But over and against this, against these foes Christ Jesus has come into this world, has fought sin and death and Satan, has gone to the cross, has died and has burst forth from the tomb, all so that He can pronounce to you, “You are forgiven.”  Sin and death – they are done with, Christ has conquered them.  And to make sure that we know this, that we do not forget it, to make sure that we view this world through the eyes of faith and not eyes of disbelief, Christ Jesus gives authority to men to forgive sins.  I have this authority as your pastor to proclaim them here, in this place.  You, you are baptized, you are a child of God – and the family heritage of forgiveness is yours.  You know what Christ has done for you, what He has done for your neighbor.  In your own private, personal lives you speak out his forgiveness – as parent to child, as friend to neighbor, as spouse to spouse, co-worker to co-worker… even as parishioner to pastor when Satan and sin weigh heavily on me.  Because the point is this – over and above everything, Christ Jesus has come into this world to forgive sinners.  He has destroyed sin and death, He has demolished Satan’s kingdom, and He has called us by the Gospel to His own family, to His Kingdom, to be part of His Church eternal.  That is His business, it is what He was about when He was doing all that we see in the Gospels, it is what He is doing today through His Church, through the members of His body.  We are the people of forgiveness – who see all things by faith, focused on love and mercy for one another, focused upon the forgiveness that Christ Jesus won for every last man, woman, and child on this planet.  And this is why we glorify God, this is why our hymns are what they are – that God has shown mercy and love to sinners, even poor sinners as us.  And nothing in this world, no problem, no trial, no struggle can change this wonderful truth.  Christ has died, Christ has risen, and you are forgiven for His sake.  In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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