Michaelmas 2, 2021

Almighty, everlasting God, who by Your Son, Jesus Christ, graciously caused the paralytic to be healed in body and soul: I beseech You of Your boundless mercy to be gracious to us also, and forgive us all our sins, strengthen our faith by your Word and Holy Spirit, and so direct us that we may not by sin and weakness cause hardship for others, but may continue in Your fear, and so be released from wrath and punishment temporal and eternal. Amen. [LPC #117]

God’s grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Your sins are personal. They are between you and God. He knows about them. You know about some of them. But now God sends someone else to talk to you about them. He doesn’t always alert you about this. You suddenly have someone there talking about something personal. It’s no longer private. You resent it. You rebel, “That’s between me and God!” You’re right. So why do people at a church presume to talk about your sins? I expect many of our neighbors wonder about this. It’s one of the reasons they don’t like the idea of a church that takes sin seriously. No man has the right to stand between me and God. No man but Jesus.

Let’s hear how He taught this to some resentful, rebellious scholars long ago.

Matthew 9:1–8

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 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.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 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.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by your truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed:

Take heart, your sins are forgiven. Can I say that? To you? All of you? That’s the practical question that Jesus answers today.

In our day when anyone can tweet or post information for millions to see, words have become cheap. Decades before the Internet the saying already existed: “talk is cheap.” Now it’s clear to many that most of the things people say are practically worthless. It’s the same as inflation: too much money in circulation causes the money you have saved against a rainy day to decrease in value, even though you have the same number of dollars as before. Too many words and opinions offered for your consumption creates an inflation of words. People end up listening to the voices that confirm what they already think, and the line blurs between opinion and fact. So when Jesus said, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” we might not even notice, or if we do, we might think, “talk is cheap.” I’m pretty sure that’s what happens most often outside these walls.

Talk may be devalued and inflated, but it is still something that happens. A person makes a claim, asks a question, prays, defends, attacks, ponders, makes a commitment, gets married, swears an oath. Such things are done by speaking words. Some actions we take are done with words, and they can be important. If we can do important things with words, what do you suppose Jesus can do?

The scribes (experts in Scripture) took Jesus to be no different from any other rabbi, and essentially the same before God as any man. He was famous and sometimes popular, but Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have taught us that those things don’t guarantee high quality. So they thought, “This man is blaspheming.” Number one: they see that He’s a man. Number two: their thoughts accuse Him of trying to steal God’s honor and privilege by claiming the authority to step in between the paralytic and God to forgive his sins. Do you see how they took what He said? It wasn’t just information, like thousands of truth claims people make every day. Jesus’ statement was action, a deed. It wasn’t cheap talk, but a thing He did to the paralytic. He forgave his sins. To see a man supposedly doing what God alone can do was shocking to the scribes. Blasphemy.

For us who have spent some time within these walls, it might not seem so shocking. It’s right there in the Common Service, in the Church’s liturgy. In fact, it happens in different ways with different words at different times. It’s so common and customary that we might even have trouble hearing it. The challenge for you might be different than for the scribes. Do you see Jesus’ statement the way they did? They understood it as something that was done, not just something spoken; a deed quite out of the ordinary for life on earth.  Do you hear those words the same way?

It’s easier for us to see Baptism as something done, even as an act of God. The same with the Sacrament of the Altar, where Jesus even said “do this in remembrance of me.” The thing Jesus accomplishes by means of the sacraments is the same thing He did to the paralytic. He takes away the guilt of sin, and creates peace between the paralytic and God.

The paralytic had a conscience. So do you. His suffering was not only in his body, but in his mind, emotions, and spirit. Like you. He knew that the root of his suffering was not the paralysis. His conscience told him that this was just a disorder caused by his sinful condition that separated him from God. You have the same condition with different disorders. It affects your body, mind, emotions, and spirit. God has a perfect design for you that He called “very good,” but your sin and disorders prevent you from enjoying or experiencing it fully. You are much like the paralytic.

We need friends as much as he did. Do you see what they did for him? They brought him to Jesus, where Jesus would speak the words with the power to do what was needed. We’re not told whether he wanted to go. We assume he did. But in the disorders resulting from his suffering, who knows? Depression can make you not want what is best for you. And our sinful condition also limits the human will. But whether he wanted it or not, his friends brought him to Jesus. That’s good friendship. We need such friendship from each other.

Why did Jesus heal the paralysis? Because that’s what He does. Having mercy and healing people set Him apart from every other rabbi, even from the high priests in Jerusalem. Healing is based on the favor of God, and that favor is given in the forgiveness of sins. So Jesus wants us to believe in His authority to forgive sins, and healing the paralytic is evidence of that authority. God alone can make either thing happen. Therefore, Jesus has the authority of God. Therefore, His forgiveness is real.

Those who know the Bible may wonder about other healings performed by the prophets and apostles. What should we conclude about them? They also had the authority of God, so that what they wrote is God’s Word. They wrote about Jesus, who forgives sins straight out. They also tell about how Jesus carried our burden of guilt to His cross, so that His sacrifice satisfied all the requirements of God’s law against sinners. Your sin was imputed to Him, and His righteousness is imputed to you. He also established an office of ministry for His Word. He puts pastors in that office to this day, so that we may meet with you together or individually and take the action He took in our Gospel: Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria