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Trinity 19 – Matthew 9:1-8

by pastorjuhl ~ October 7th, 2010

Henry Thomas Busse is baptized this weekend.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

“I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “This is My Body…This is My Blood.” You have heard these words from infancy to today. You are taught these words do what they say. However, do you believe these words do what they say?

There is speculation whether or not society has left behind post-modernism for another -ism era. Nevertheless, post-modernism is the sibling of rationalism. Rationalism believes if you can’t understand something or if something doesn’t make sense, then you don’t believe it. Take the healing of the paralytic in Matthew chapter nine. A rationalist studies this text and might come up with several good sermon ideas. Perhaps none of them would have to do with Jesus speaking words that do what they say. Perhaps instead the rationalist would take the opportunity to remind his congregation to get their flu shot or get a yearly physical examination. After all, one can’t be too sure Jesus actually healed the paralytic. One can’t be too sure that everything in God’s Word actually happened. One may even choose to believe Jesus is not the Savior of mankind.

When it comes to defending the inspiration of Scripture, we Lutherans defend God’s Word with gusto. Our synod fought to retain the pure teaching of God’s Word against those who dared question Scripture’s authority. Somewhere in the carnage of the “Battle for the Bible”, the war for the efficacy of God’s Word was nearly lost.

Since we don’t use the word “efficacy” that often, a definition is appropriate. Efficacy is a “capacity for producing a desired result or effect.” When you take medication, you expect the medicine to work. When it works, the medicine is efficacious. What your doctor said it would do, it does.

When Jesus says to the paralytic, Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven and Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house, that’s exactly what happens. The man’s sins are forgiven. The man rises, takes up his bed, and goes home. Our Lord’s word has a capacity for producing a desired result or effect.

The multitudes following Jesus marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. That’s when trouble begins for sinners like you and me. If God gives such power to men, how come there are no more healings like the ones Jesus performed? If God gives such power to men, why are there still hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and cancer centers?

You could also take the approach that it is blasphemous for God to give such power to men. How dare God give authority to pastors to forgive sins! Only God forgives sins! How dare the pastor pronounce absolution over me! What gives him the right to bind and loosen sins! That belongs to God alone, not some uppity preacher!

How quickly you forget, and how quickly even pastors forget, that when the pastor speaks God’s Word in a performative, efficacious manner, as I did to Henry Thomas Busse in Baptism Saturday, or as I do in the general Absolution, or as I do when I sing the Words of Institution in Divine Service, that it is not David Juhl who delivers forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Jesus Christ delivers these means of grace. Pastors stand in His stead and by His command. They are under orders to speak these words. They are under orders to bind and loosen sins on behalf of the Christian congregation. When the pastor speaks these words, it is as if Jesus Christ Himself speaks these words in our midst through the man whom He sends on His behalf.

What comfort these sweet words of grace bring! No longer do you wonder whether the word the pastor speaks will “stick”. Jesus Christ stands behind these words that work through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus speaks to the paralytic, when Jesus speaks to you every Lord’s Day in preaching, in Absolution, in the Lord’s Supper, you can’t help but echo the words of Jacob after seeing the vision of a ladder extending from heaven to earth. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!

The phrase “house of God” in Hebrew is “Bethel”. Bethel is a special word to me because it is the name of my home congregation. You might consider every congregation where Christ is proclaimed purely in His means of grace as Bethel. Hundreds of cars pass by here every day. Do those in cars ever stop to marvel at what goes on inside these walls? Or are their thoughts like those of Jeremiah in Lamentations: Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Let Jacob answer the question: How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!

Jesus is spoken here. Jesus’ forgiveness is spoken through His called and ordained servant. When the pastor speaks, rest assured He speaks not his word but Christ’s Word of forgiveness and healing. There is no other place in the world than in this house and others like it around the world where God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, delivers the ultimate antidote for death and sin.

When you cry out with the Psalmist: O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You!, He answers not by pointing you to something you need to say or do to bring assurance of pardon. The Lord answers you by speaking the Word of forgiveness. Your response is Amen. I believe what you say. I believe what you do for me in Your Word actually happens. When the Psalmist writes, Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!” the Psalmist brings comfort because Jesus is eternal comfort.

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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