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Trinity 19 – Matthew 9:1-8

by pastorjuhl ~ October 16th, 2012

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

            Seeing Jesus raise a paralytic from his bed is a big deal. It’s not every day that a man who cannot walk rises and walks home. The bigger deal behind the miracle is that THE SON OF MAN HAS AUTHORITY ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS.

The healing of the paralytic was icing on the cake. The true scandal was earthly authority to forgive sins. That scandal remains among us today. Consider this: A man in funny clothing not seen on the street stands before you, raises his right hand, and forgives your sins “in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ.” We have been properly taught that forgiveness comes from God alone. God is able to forgive because of His Son Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, how does some guy wearing a white gown with a scarf around his neck covered up by a poncho get off with telling us that he forgives sins?

That question is analogous to what some of the scribes and Pharisees say to themselves in Matthew chapter nine: this man is blaspheming. The charge of blasphemy against Jesus turns up repeatedly in the Gospels. These men say Jesus blasphemes because He takes upon Himself something that should not belong to Him. It is an outright denial that Jesus is Lord. Here we see certain scribes and Pharisees mumble charges of blasphemy when it is they who are the blasphemers.

Back to our question: how does some guy called “pastor” get off with forgiving my sins? The answer lies not in the man, but in the God-Man for whom pastor is a sort of “stand-in.” It’s easy to accuse pastors of blasphemy because they stand on the front line of the spiritual battle between good and evil. They have to speak very difficult words. Sometimes they speak Law words, binding sins to a person because that person will not repent of their sin. Sometimes they speak Gospel words, loosing sins from a person because that person repents of their sin.

Whether the pastor speaks a Law word or a Gospel word, someone is going to be angry at whatever he says. Penitent sinners who cry for mercy receive a Gospel word, but some wish the pastor to “give ’em hell.” Impenitent, smug sinners who shove their impenitence before the world and call it good receive a Law word, but some with the pastor to turn a blind eye or pretend nothing is happening.

Who is the blasphemer now? You are the blasphemer when you call evil good and good evil. You are a theologian of glory when sin becomes grace and grace becomes sin. When you hear the words of Absolution spoken every week, you are quick to apply them to yourself. You know you need forgiveness. However, you also know you will leave Divine Service, walk out those doors, and do the same thing when you get home…and you’ll love it.

Then again, you will see your neighbor across the aisle or down the pew who hungers for righteousness and believe there’s no righteousness for them except self-righteousness. You will believe they don’t deserve forgiveness. You know their rap sheet. You think you know they are putting on an act. But what if you are wrong? What if they struggle with a particular sin and want to stop? Haven’t you enough to worry about without trying to arrange the affairs of your neighbor?

Saint Paul says it best in the Epistle: Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. The confession of sins each week is ripping off the mask that we wear that hides the real me from the me I want people to see. It is putting off the old self. Receiving Absolution, “not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven”, is like having the Lord Christ take away your mask, wash your face and your whole body clean, and lifting you up from the bed of paralysis, in order that you walk home healed.

Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it…. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. The words of Jacob in the Old Testament reading testify to the joy received here. What looks like a simple brick building that barely receives notice as cars speed by on Second Street is actually the gate of heaven. The Lord is here, as He promises, to heal penitent sinners from the sickness of sin. The Lord is here to apply His blood-bought forgiveness upon you. Jesus is bold to say take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven to you because He has forgiven your sins and the sins of the world. The application and appropriation of His death and resurrection are given to you here. The Gifts are not doled out in order that you go home and try to figure out how to apply them. The Gifts are given here as a potent prescription for your sin and death.

Jesus sends His servants, His pastors, to holy ground like ours to apply forgiveness to you in a personal way. Here is where you do not receive a mere assurance of forgiveness. You receive the real deal here: forgiveness of sins through hearing the Holy Gospel, receiving Holy Absolution, and eating and drinking the Holy Supper. Here you receive Holy Baptism, washing your sin away and uniting you with Jesus Christ, the firstborn from the dead.

You enter broken and paralyzed. You leave whole and free. Pastors may not be able to heal paralytics, but because they are put in the Holy Preaching Office, the Office of the forgiveness of sins, they are able, in Christ’s stead, to forgive sins for Jesus’ sake. THE SON OF MAN HAS AUTHORITY ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS. He gives this authority to men, who apply it to you. Take heart, beloved; your sins are forgiven.

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

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