1 1 October 2017 Trinity 19 Christ Gives Us Forgiveness Our Ticket Home Matthew 9:1-8 by Rev. Michael G. Lilienthal Hymn: So Truly As I Live, God Saith, ELH #417 Let us pray: Jesus, precious Savior, cheer us with your Word and ensure us that we are perfectly clean, perfectly healed, and on our walk homeward. In your name. Amen. Dear children of God, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. When we read the account of creation in Genesis, something interesting stands out. God said, Let there be light, and there was light (Gen. 1:3, ESV). Likewise, God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And it was so (Gen. 1:14-15, ESV). In fact, every day of creation, God said it, and it was so. However, on the sixth day, the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Gen. 2:7, ESV). It was with great care that God made man and from this moment forward, God took great care of us. After man fell into sin, God still took care and God s care extended beyond creation and preservation of our life, and then he provided also the care of healing, forgiveness, redemption, and salvation. Therefore, we respond with praise and thanksgiving, walking in the way that God provided. This outline of God s providence is depicted in the Gospel lesson for today, the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, by the apostle St. Matthew:
2 2 Matthew 9:1-8 Matthew 9:1 8 Jesus got into a boat, crossed over, and came to his own town. 2 There people brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, Take heart, son! Your sins are forgiven. 3 Then some of the experts in the law said among themselves, This fellow is blaspheming! 4 Since Jesus knew their thoughts, he said, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up and walk? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he then said to the paralyzed man, Get up, take your stretcher, and go home. 7 The man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. These are your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us in the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen. As Christians, we recognize that we are marching on toward our eternal home, but we recognize that, in our nature, we are trapped and bound, dead in sin. So how can we get home? We cannot move! But we are given that home by Christ s gift of forgiveness this is the first step on our walk toward heaven. Because of this forgiveness, we already have new life, and so, when we come to the end of this earthly life, we have the hope of a new and full eternal life. Let us recognize, then, how Christ s forgiveness is our ticket home, in the first place, how God has given us all things in Christ, and in the second place, how we belong to God in Christ. I. God Has Given Us All Things in Christ The objection of the Jews is laughable: This fellow is blaspheming! Well, we might say, can God blaspheme? And their whole point falls apart. But Jesus doesn't respond on such a level. Instead, he uses this as an opportunity to teach.
3 Christ Gives Us Forgiveness Our Ticket Home! 3 Which is easier? Jesus asks. We expect, when we read in the Gospel account of a man with a physical ailment, that Jesus will heal that ailment. But he didn t heal the paralytic not right away. When the Pharisees and Sadducees and experts in the law saw Jesus perform miracles of healing, they were fine with that they didn t like that Jesus was gaining power, but the miracle-working wasn t objectionable in itself. But when Jesus told this paralytic, Take heart, son! Your sins are forgiven. Whoa, what? This fellow is blaspheming! They were there looking for an occasion, any occasion, to take as an excuse for action against Jesus. Blasphemy would certainly be such a pretext. But for a person to commit blasphemy is to speak evil against God, to take something that belongs to God and give it to someone else. Luther says, regarding the Second Commandment, You shall not take the name of God in vain : The greatest abuse [of God s name], however, occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to the conscience, when false preachers arise and peddle their lying nonsense as the Word of God. See, all this is an attempt to embellish yourself with God s name or to put up a good front and justify yourself, whether in ordinary worldly affairs or in sublime and difficult matters of faith and doctrine. Also to be counted among liars are blasphemers, not only the very crass ones who are well known to everyone and who disgrace God s name unabashedly but also those who publicly slander the truth and God s Word and consign it to the devil. 1 You see then that true blasphemy is to declare that something which belongs to God in fact belongs to someone else, such as to declare that God s truth is a lie, or to erect an 1 Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, I.55-56, in Theodore G. Tappert, trans. and ed., The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 372.
4 4 Matthew 9:1-8 idol and declare that it is the true God. So, I ask you, who in this text was blaspheming? Was Jesus taking from God something that belonged to God alone? Or were the experts in the law declaring that something that was God s work was the work of evil? This is why Jesus asks them, Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Now, it would be right to assume this was blasphemy if, in the first place, Jesus were only a man, or if, in the second place, God did not wish men to forgive one another s sins. In just a few verses, Jesus would call the tax collector Matthew and would then sit and eat with tax collectors and sinners, and there would rebuke the Pharisees, Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice. In fact, I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners (Matt. 9:13). This was God s whole purpose, you see! He sent his Son, to be born of a woman, so that he would be born under the law, in order to redeem those under the law, so that we would be adopted as sons (Gal. 4:4-5). For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:17). Jesus came to provide forgiveness of sins. This was declared even before he came, as Jesus quoted from the prophet Hosea. And so, as Jesus would say, Can the attendants of the bridegroom mourn while the bridegroom is with them? (Matt. 9:15). Jesus is here! He is here to give the wealth of heaven! Forgiveness, life, and salvation are given by God through Christ! Jesus coming is cause to rejoice, not to mourn. But for these experts in the law, religion is all that stern-faced, stiff-lipped seriousness; one ought to be concerned with his works, whether he is obeying all the commands of God well enough, keeping the sacrifices
5 Christ Gives Us Forgiveness Our Ticket Home! 5 well enough, fasting appropriately, or else there can be no salvation. But Christ came not to demand anything he came to give forgiveness. And he certainly has the power to forgive! He has been given authority on earth to forgive sins, and he proves it by doing what is harder (now trace the course of events closely here): Jesus then said to the paralyzed man, Get up, take your stretcher, and go home. The man got up and went home. Notice how Jesus said it, and it was done. The same thing occurred in the beginning of the world: God said, Let there be light, and there was light (Gen. 1:3, ESV). Jesus proves by this act that he is very God himself, and not only God, but a man to whom God had given authority to forgive sins! Jesus Word here is the Word that God spoke. If God s Word can create the world, can create man, can God s Word not also save man and forgive his sins? And we, too, have cause to rejoice like those crowds, for Jesus declared, Amen I tell you: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt. 18:18). So the crowds were right when they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. The paralyzed man and his friends asked nothing from Christ. They only wanted their friend close to him. The man was in deep need in his mind, we may be sure, his sin was weighing heavily. Without his needing to ask, Jesus gave him such blessings: forgiveness, healing, and even the ability to forgive others! So the man, receiving these gifts from Christ, was able to get up, pick up his mat, and go home.
6 6 Matthew 9:1-8 We, too, are healed by Christ s declaration of forgiveness he won it on the cross, but it is given to us when the absolution is declared, I forgive you your sins, when the Gospel is preached, when baptismal waters are applied, when the body and blood of Christ touch your mouth, for they are given for you (Luke 22:19, 20), for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28). Christ s declaration of our forgiveness has guaranteed us our home in the heavenly mansions. Now we are traveling, our temporary resting place in our hands, on our way home, that destination assured, because Jesus has told us, Take heart, son! Your sins are forgiven. II. We Belong to God in Christ See what a blessed thing it is that Jesus declares for this paralytic and for us. St. Paul assures us that, by the Word of God s Gospel that is declared to you, you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we call out, Abba, Father! The Spirit himself joins our spirit in testifying that we are God s children (Rom. 8:15-16). This is, again, the reason Christ was sent: God sent his Son to be born of a woman, so that he would be born under the law, in order to redeem those under the law, so that we would be adopted as sons. So you are no longer a slave, but a son. And if you are a son, then you are also an heir of God through Christ (Gal. 4:4-5, 7). Therefore Jesus does not call this paralytic by the name servant, or even friend. Here it is son, son of Him who is the true personal God. He who was previously a child of Satan, a servant of sin, has in this name attained a dignity passing human understanding. 2 2 Joh. Ylvisaker, The Gospels (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1977), 194.
7 Christ Gives Us Forgiveness Our Ticket Home! 7 Jesus would similarly comfort a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years, so that when she touched his garment and was healed, he said to her, Take heart, daughter! Your faith has healed you (Matt. 9:20, 22). She, too, is called his daughter. We, too, by faith, are called sons and daughters of very God, and with that comes a great inheritance, his providence and protection, and all the rights that come from our station as princes and princesses of heaven. But do I have strong enough faith? Am I trusting enough? Do I believe well enough? These are the wrong questions to ask. What was the faith of this paralytic? It was only to come close to Christ. What was the faith of the bleeding woman? She told herself, If I just touch his garment, I will be healed (Matt. 9:21). In both cases, faith is only in Christ, in the one who offers gifts. Faith simply looks at the giver of gifts and trusts that those gifts are freely given. Faith is not concerned with whether there is enough faith. Faith is concerned with the object. The object of faith is Christ. Faith is the open hand that receives Christ s merits, Christ s righteous robes. By faith, we receive Christ, and, in a mysterious way, Christ also receives us. For when we have been given righteousness and life through the new Adam, Jesus Christ, this results in a change in our lives. As the paralyzed man, once given the ability to walk, did not remain lying on his bed but stood up and walked home, so we, when we became forgiven of sins, we shall no longer bind ourselves to death and sin, but be renewed. St. Paul says it this way: What shall we say then? Shall we keep on sinning so that grace may increase? Absolutely not! We died to sin. How can we go on living in it any longer? Or don t you know that
8 8 Matthew 9:1-8 all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, to make our sinful body powerless, so that we would not continue to serve sin. For the person who has died has been declared free from sin. And since we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he will never die again. Death no longer has control over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once and for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way also consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:1-11) Therefore, let everyone be warned! If we want to be Christians, we must also decide to be renewed every day; we must also lay aside the old man according to the former walk of life, who is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. May God grant that to all of us who are Christians for the sake of Jesus by the power and working of his Holy Spirit. 3 Perhaps there are many of us who truly wrestle but most weakly, who are more often conquered than conquerors. Oh, you beloved soul, who must confess this of yourself, do not let this cause you to despair; remember what God s Word says: [ Also, if someone competes as an athlete, he does not receive a crown unless he competes according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5)]. Therefore, let yourselves be kindled by the Word of the Lord to a new and greater zeal which today calls to you: [ put on the new self, which has been created to be like God in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24)]. 4 3 C. F. W. Walther, 19 th Sunday after Trinity, Epistle Postils, translated by Donald E. Heck (Horicon, WI), , Ibid., 435.
9 Christ Gives Us Forgiveness Our Ticket Home! 9 We can take comfort in this fact that despite our continual failings because how much easier isn t it to lie down on our comfortable bed than to walk on unsteady legs the great distance we must walk? despite the fact that we do and will return to sin throughout our lives, it is not our doing anything that causes us to be saved. It is everything that Christ has given to us his forgiveness because of his sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection to new life. That is the source of our eternal life, and our lives now; it is by the Word that continues to give us the same forgiveness, the steady flow of grace that is constantly poured out to you here in church, that we are ever more pricked into zeal for the new life this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Let us pray that the God who has given us such regal gifts, who has made us his own sons and daughters, would keep us in his grace, continually welcoming us back like the father of the prodigal son, and encourage works befitting our new selves as we walk the gracious walk toward our heavenly home. Amen. Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV ) copyright 2017 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked ESV are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.