Sunday, October 4, 2015
Homily for The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 19)
Matthew 18:9:1-8; Ephesians 4:22-28; Genesis 28:10-17
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Those having the God-given eyes of faith to see this fact are not scandalized or offended by Jesus, but those who do not believe accuse Him of blasphemy. Therefore, when Jesus saw the faith of the friends of a paralyzed man, He dispensed with unnecessary words but plainly stated, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” In other words, He didn’t heal the man’s paralysis, immediately. Yet, there is no mention that the friends of the paralyzed man were scandalized or offended in any way. However, the scribes who were standing nearby were offended. They said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
Knowing their hearts, Jesus said to them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Notice that He did not say, “Why are you so insensitive, callous, or mean,” but He intentionally called their thoughts evil. But, why were their thoughts evil? Their thoughts were evil because they called good evil and evil good. The scribes called God’s forgiveness spoken by Jesus, the Son of God, evil. This is nothing other than to call Jesus evil and His Father evil. Therefore, I ask you, who was doing the blaspheming?
Still, consider the compassion and the mercy, even the love our Lord still had for His accusers, the scribes. Though they did not believe in Him and they accused Him of sin and blasphemy for speaking the Truth, Jesus mildly rebuked them and lovingly taught them, inviting them to believe and understand. He said, “Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – He then said to the paralytic – “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Jesus did this for them, the scribes, because He loved them, so that they would believe.
But, why did He not heal the paralyzed man at first? Before the faithful, Jesus addressed the man’s greatest and underlying sickness, sin. Among you, the faithful, though you pray, though we all pray, the sicknesses you and your loved ones suffer are not always healed. And yet, there is not doubt that our sin-sickness unto death is healed and taken away. Blessed are those who love not their lives even unto death. You must learn that the true sickness that leads to death and eternal separation from the grace and mercy of God the Father is your sin. If nothing else you suffer were healed, but you were forgiven your sins, certainly you must rejoice and be glad! To not hold this belief and perspective on your life both temporal and eternal is to expose your secret idols and false gods. The proper and godly belief and perspective confesses that all that you have and all that you are, even your life itself, belongs to the LORD, and that you are the recipient of His gracious and loving gifts to steward and manage in service of others and to His glory.
Such a perspective is neither miserable and depressing nor prudish, and neither is it a morbid deathwish, but, rather, it is true Christian freedom and life, beholden to no one and no thing by your God, Creator, LORD and giver of your life. Those who freely have received must freely give without resentment or begrudgingly to the glory of God. “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” While this is never an easy faith and perspective to hold because of your sinful flesh and fallen mind and will, it is the faith and perspective of the new spiritual man within you born of water and the Word in Holy Baptism, who both desires to do the LORD’s will and is capable of doing it, not for merit to justification, but in response to grace, mercy, and love you have received from God the Father through Jesus Christ in His suffering, death, and resurrection.
However, you should believe and know and take comfort in this important fact and Truth: Your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ “has authority on earth to forgive sins.” More than that, in His incarnation, He took on your flesh so that He might suffer the temptations and sorrows, sufferings, and even death that you suffer, all while being perfectly faithful, obedient, innocent, and righteous, as a human man, for you. Therefore, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
In His incarnation, Jesus became the bridge between heaven and earth. Since, in your sin, you cannot ascend to heaven, God has descended to earth in the God-Man Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God became what you are – sinful and unclean – so that you may become what He is – the very holiness and righteousness of God. “He, who knew no sin, was made to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” This fact and Truth was prefigured in Jacob’s dream of a ladder set up on earth, with its top reaching into heaven. Upon the ladder were angels ascending and descending. At the top of the ladder was the LORD God speaking, once again, His covenant promise that He had made to Jacob’s Father Isaac and Grandfather Abraham: “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Jacob recognized and confessed the significance of this saying, “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.”
Jacob called the place Bethel, which means “House of God,” for he understood that the holy LORD God had reached out and touched earth through His ministering angels by means of the ladder that had its feet upon the earth and its top in heaven. That ladder prefigured Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. For, in Jesus, God has visited His people, not only by ministering angels, but personally as our brother and friend. And, where God is, so there are “angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” That is why Jesus “has authority on earth to forgive sins,” for, only God can forgive sins, and Jesus is God in human flesh as a man. Thus, for Jesus, it truly is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” than it is to say, “Rise and walk.” Likewise, blessed are those who have been given the eyes and ears of faith to believe that, in Jesus, God has kept His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for Jesus is the promised offspring of the patriarchs in whom all the families of the earth have been blessed.
You have received so much more than the mere healing of your bodies’ illnesses, you have received the forgiveness of your sins which brings eternal life and salvation. Since you are Jesus’ friends, even His brothers and sisters, you must not be scandalized or offended that the primary healing your Lord chooses to give you is the forgiveness of your sins, for you must know that this is the one thing needful for us all. Truly, this gift that you see you have is your encouragement and strength of faith to persevere through all trials, temptations, and tribulations, knowing that the Lord has secured for you life and salvation in His sacrificial death and resurrection and that He is the ladder and bridge between heaven and earth, and the very Way and Gate into the Father’s kingdom.
The crowds were astonished when Jesus healed the paralyzed man. They were afraid, and they glorified God. But, the great Truth that they walked away with that day was the Gospel, the Good News, that God had visited His people in forgiveness and mercy and they did not perish, and, that God had given this authority to forgive sins to the man Jesus Christ.
But, to give such authority to Jesus is to give it to all men, for Jesus is not simply a man unto Himself, but He is all flesh, He is all men. He is the New and Greater Adam, the Father of us all, David’s Lord; and He is our brother and our neighbor, David’s Son – Son of God and Son of Man. He is Emmanuel, God with us. And, He has come to grant us forgiveness, release from the paralysis of sin and death. He has come to bring us spiritual healing now and physical healing now in accordance with His will, but perfect healing and life in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.
Christ has come to you this day and has raised up your New Man once again in the forgiveness of your sins; and, your forgiveness is as certain on earth as it is in heaven. Now your Lord says to you, “Come, eat my flesh and drink my blood, and live; for, whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.” This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven! For, the Incarnate Son of God Himself is present in Word, Water, Body, and Blood; and, where Christ is there is forgiveness; and where there is forgiveness, there is eternal life and salvation.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.