Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 19 - 2017

1 October 2017

Text: Matt 9:1-8 (Gen 28:10-17, Eph 4:22-28)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

All our advances in medicine and technology, all of our solutions to the problems that plague mankind, all of our milestone achievements are, at best, a masking of symptoms.

The world is messed up.  Our lives are messed up.  We are messed up.  And we cannot actually fix a single thing.

But Jesus can.  Jesus did.  And Jesus does.

For example, the paralytic in our Gospel. Even with our technology today, it is rare that paralysis can be repaired.  But even if he would have had surgery to reconnect his nerves, and had he been able to recover from atrophied muscles, and assuming he could get therapy and learn to walk again – the root cause of the problem still exists: sin.

Sin – that of our ancestors as well as our own – has given us a world in decay.  This is the answer to the age-old question: “Why is there evil in the world?”  As if we really need to ask such a question.  The answer is “Because we like it.”  What can you expect a world of seven and a half billion poor, miserable sinners to be like?  And so we find people suffering from every imaginable ailment – some self-inflicted, others not – but all the result of sin.  “For the wages of sin is death.”

And this is why there is Christmas, dear friends. And this is why there is Good Friday.  And this is also why there is Easter – for our Lord was born, and died, to defeat death.  And he doesn’t defeat death by putting a band-aid on the wound or by treating symptoms.

Jesus comes to defeat death by forgiving sin.  And this shocking revelation from God will enrage those who are so invested in appearances and symptoms, like the scribes and Pharisees, that they will attempt to defeat Jesus by arranging His death – which ironically becomes the means of the payment for the sins of the world.

For “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.’  And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’”

Jesus saw the faith of the friends of the paralytic, their belief in Him, that He could and would show mercy to this man trapped by his own body because of sin.  “Take heart,” he tells him.  That is, “Have courage.”  That is, “don’t worry.”  That is, “Don’t despair.”  Jesus doesn’t come with medical tools, but with His Word and the authority of God to forgive sins.

The scribes, by contrast, lack the faith of the paralytic’s friends.  They accuse Jesus of blasphemy.  Jesus calls them out for the “evil” in their “hearts.”

To question the authority that Jesus has to forgive sins, to question Jesus when He breathes on His disciples, and tells them, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven,” anyone who thinks this is blasphemy, is guilty of “evil” down to their very hearts – in contrast to the heart of the paralytic, the courageous forgiven heart of faith displayed by him and by his friends in receiving Jesus’ gift.

And here, dear friends, is where our Lord turns words into deeds, where He puts the flesh on the skeleton of Holy Absolution, where new life is literally poured into the disease-ridden body of the man, who is then renewed by the Word of Jesus Christ. 

Directing the challenge to the scribes, to His accusers, to those with contempt in their hearts, Jesus puts the question: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk.’?”

Jesus has not come to treat symptoms.  Nor does He simply describe forgiveness.  Rather, He delivers it.  He declares it firmly and with authority by means of His Word.  And he brings it in its fullness!

And so that the scribes, and so that we, “may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He commands the paralytic: “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  Jesus says, “Rise” – the same word used to describe our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead, the same word used by Christians to greet one another the world over: “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!” – the same word used to describe our own resurrection from the dead that assuredly follows our forgiveness by the Lord’s cross and by our baptism and faith, “Rise!” commands our Lord to the sin-burdened flesh of the man, “Rise!” invites our Lord to the forgiven soul of the man, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  For just as our Lord said, “Your sins are forgiven,” He also said, “Rise” and “go.”

“And he rose and went home.”  His sin was removed.  His disability was withdrawn.  His flesh was restored.  And the crowds were “afraid.”  They had never seen such a display.  They had seen doctors cure diseases, and they had seen priests declare atonement – but they had never seen the effects of sin truly removed by direct command of the Word of God. 

“And they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”  God gives this authority to men, through the Man Jesus, by means of His authority that comes from the Father. 

Indeed, dear friends, do you want to be cured of death?  That is what Jesus does.  He dies so that we might be released from the curse of our own sins.  He says to us: “I forgive you all your sins,” and in baptism, He says, with authority, “Rise and walk” – walk “in newness of life.”  And even in death, according to the will and promise of God, He will call to us just as assuredly as He did to this paralytic: “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”  For we will rise from death and will go to our eternal home: a new heaven and a new earth in a new body unencumbered by sin, disease, or death.

And though we appreciate all that medicine and technology give to us and ease our burdens, only Jesus actually addresses the problem: sin.  Dear friends, in Christ, you are forgiven, made new, and invited to “Rise” on the Last Day. 

Jesus says to you, “Take heart, My son, My daughter, your sins are forgiven.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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