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Trinity 19 – Matthew 9:1-8

by pastorjuhl ~ September 25th, 2008

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

When was the last time you woke up and had every ailment disappear overnight? I’m talking about more than a headache or upset stomach. I’m talking a bum knee or poor eyesight. Have you seen anyone rise from the dead lately? Between medical technology, visions, and so-called sightings from the beyond, our culture is fascinated with miracles. Holy Scripture is full of miraculous healings, dead people rising from the grave, and wonderful visions from heaven like Jacob had in Genesis chapter 28 or the healing of the paralytic in Matthew chapter nine.

From our perspective, raising someone from the dead comes in very handy. Weekly healings during the Divine Service would certainly bolster attendance. People could follow the path of crutches, wheelchairs, and walkers all the way through Momence to our doorstep to receive what we offer!

That’s not the sort of gift Jesus offers here. Jesus offers you and me healing, but a healing of another sort. Jesus offers healing that satisfies our sins and destroys death. His healing comes in the most humble and unexpected of ways.

The scribes and Pharisees weren’t expecting Jesus to forgive the sins of the paralytic. When Jesus absolves the man, they accuse Him of blasphemy. Blasphemy is misusing God’s Name. Blasphemy is also taking something that belongs to God and ascribing it to one’s self. Jesus was sentenced to death as the punishment for blasphemy. The authorities crucified Him because Jesus said He was the King of the Jews. According to the scribes and Pharisees Jesus took on authority that didn’t belong to Him. Jesus was playing God, and playing God is blasphemous.

Jesus responds to the charge of blasphemy with the perfect question. Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”? The answer is easy. It’s much easier to declare someone’s sins forgiven than to ask a paralyzed man to get up, take his bed, and walk home. Talk is cheap. It’s not that hard to forgive sins. They’re just words, after all. It’s not difficult to speak. Anyone can say it. But can you or I heal a paralyzed man?

This is why Jesus asks the question which is easier? We might think it’s easier to speak words of forgiveness, but it’s far more difficult to believe the words spoken. You and I probably don’t think much about it, but perhaps those unfamiliar with the Divine Service may find it off-putting to hear the Pastor absolve sins at the beginning of the Service. It may be even more off-putting to know that there are stated hours of Individual Confession and Absolution offered here. Forgiving sins is something that God usually does. Some might think it blasphemous for a pastor to forgive sins, even when he forgives sins solely in the stead and by the command of Jesus Christ.

Forgiveness has almost fallen into the category of cheap grace. We take it for granted. But consider what happens when someone withholds forgiveness. When we apologize for doing something wrong to our neighbor and our neighbor responds with silence, we are left hanging. All our neighbor needs to say is “you are forgiven”, but he or she won’t do it because they are mad or they don’t know the power of forgiveness.

What if God withheld His only-begotten Son from us? What if our heavenly Father was so jealous of His Son that He would not allow Jesus Christ to become man, die for our sins, and rise from the dead for our justification? We would be stuck in our sins forever. There would be no talk of heaven, for heaven is out of our reach because we are not sinless. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world would be a pipedream.

Forgiveness is no pipedream. Neither is the healing of the paralytic. Neither is our Lord’s healing application of forgiveness, life, and salvation. But we sometimes treat forgiveness as if it was no big deal or, worse yet, something unworthy of everyone we know except our own self. We expect forgiveness from our neighbor, but refuse to forgive our neighbor in return.

That brings us back to the scribes and Pharisees. A man forgiving sins was blasphemous, but more blasphemous was their rejection of the Forgiver in the flesh. Even though they witnessed Jesus heal the paralytic and the people’s response of marvel and glory, they would not believe that God gave such power to men. We do the same thing when our Old Adam grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, especially the deceitful lust that miracles don’t take place among Christians anymore.

I ask again: When was the last time you saw a miracle? It was a few minutes ago when I spoke the words of Absolution. It will be in a few more minutes when I speak the Words of Institution. These are miracles every bit as great, if not greater, than the miracle of Jesus healing the paralytic. The Divine Service is a miracle. God draws us into His House to forgive our sins and give us life and salvation through Holy Preaching, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion. Jacob says, surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it. God does miracles every weekend at Our Savior Lutheran Church. When we see with the eyes of faith, you see clearly the miracle God does for us here is greater than any earthly blessing or physical miracle. Word and Sacrament Ministry is the greatest miracle of all.

All of our problems, hurts, pains, and sorrows are as one in God’s eyes. They all flow out of the terrible disease all of us have called sin. We long for the symptoms of sin to disappear. When we go to the doctor with an illness, we don’t usually care about the long-term consequences unless it’s a serious illness. We usually want the pain to go away quickly. When the Lord, our Great Physician, goes to work healing us, He won’t be satisfied with simply making today’s aches and pains disappear. He is the Physician of the soul. He is the only one who takes away both the short-term and long-term consequences of our illness.

The short-term consequence of sin is temporal death. The Christian under the grace and peace of Jesus Christ need not worry about what will happen when we close our eyes for the final time. We will be forever with the Lord because He is forever with us by grace through faith. Jesus clothes us with the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness in our Baptism. The new man cannot die, for he is a new creation.

Because the new man is a new creation, the long-term consequence of sin is eternal separation from God. The Christian under the grace and peace of Jesus Christ has had arrangements made to miss eternal separation from God. When our Lord returns on Judgment Day He will raise the dead just as He raised the paralytic man and give all those found in Him a new body and a new soul. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. There will be no more paralysis, no more cancer, no more bad knees and bum shoulders. We will be as we were in the Garden before our first parents fell into sin. We will walk Home to Paradise with Jesus, the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.

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

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