Sunday, October 27, 2019

Festival of the Reformation (observed)

Matthew 11:12-19; Romans 4:19-28; Revelation 14:6-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” That’s a first century Judaic way of saying, “There’s no satisfying you. There’s nothing that can be done to make you content.” Jesus says that’s what the Jews of His day were like: They were like discontent and unsatisfied children. When John the Baptist came preaching to them, they thought he had a demon because he fasted and abstained from wine. And, when Jesus came preaching to them, they accused Him of being a glutton and drunkard, cavorting with tax collectors and sinners. However, Jesus says that such discontent and dissatisfaction with both John and Himself are indicative of a much more serious problem – the people and their religious leaders were inflicting violence upon the kingdom of heaven, attempting to take it by force.
What Jesus is speaking of is much less physical violence against John and Himself – though they violently opposed them and murdered them both – but Jesus was speaking of their violence against the Word of God. Both John and Jesus came preaching the Law and the Gospel of God, but like the prophets before them, and the evangelists after them, the people were discontent and unsatisfied. They reacted violently against the Word of God and the preachers of His Word. They sought to take God’s kingdom by violence, according to their own wisdom and judgment of what is right and wrong, good and evil. They would not tolerate God’s Word. They closed their ears and shut their eyes tight, making themselves to be spiritually deaf and blind. They set their wisdom and word above the Word of God. “The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it,” then, now, and always. 
This is the work of Satan, who continually inflicts violence upon the kingdom of heaven by inflicting violence upon the Word of God. Satan began his attack in the garden, tempting our First Parents to doubt the Word of God asking, “Did God really say?” Then he attacked and murdered those preachers of the Word, the Prophets, Apostles, Evangelists, and Martyrs who undauntedly called men to repentance through their faithful and persistent preaching of Law and Gospel. Satan tempts men to prideful self-righteousness, resulting in their resentment, fear, anger, and hatred of the LORD and His Word of Truth that continually shows our sin, guilt, and iniquity and stains our conscience and enslaves us. Willfully men close their ears and eyes and hearts to the Word of God still as Satan snatches the Goodly Seed from their hearts so that they do not and cannot believe. Generation after generation of men forgot the Word of God and sought to justify themselves by their works. Whereas Satan inflicts violence upon the Word of God by distorting it and tempting men to doubt it, men inflict equivalent violence upon the Word of God by trusting in their works to justify themselves. For four hundred years before Christ the Word had not been heard in Israel. No prophet called men to repentance nor proclaimed the Gospel of the Messiah. By the time the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ, there was but a remnant of faithful watchers upon the earth.  
Over millennia, men have forgotten the Word of the LORD. Today, we do not teach it to our children. We do not bring our children to Jesus. Generations come and go and the Word of the LORD seems now an alien word, a myth, a bigoted and hateful word, foolishness and something of which to be ashamed and to discard as the primitive superstitions of an unenlightened people. That is where we are today. That is where we were in Luther’s day. That is where we were throughout the four hundred years of silence before the coming of Jesus. We do not remember the Sabbath Day or keep it holy, and so we forget. When men hear the Word of God today they hate it, and they hate you who keep it, they hate Jesus, and they hate God. Is it any wonder that our congregations are in decline? Is it any wonder that our culture and government are embracing evil and godlessness? Is it any wonder that our schools teach that there is no God but that you are gods, or the government is god?
And so, today we do remember. Despite our sin and accommodation to the fallen world and our own sinful flesh we strive to remember. Today we remember the Word of God and we keep it sacred and holy amongst us. Today we remember the many reformations the Church has undergone throughout the millennia. Luther was hardly the first to cry for reform, and, God help us, he will not be the last. Ecclesia semper reformanda est – The Church is always being reformed. How do we remember? We remember by keeping the Sabbath Day holy. We remember by gathering here at this place and time to hear the Word of the LORD and to receive His gifts. And, how do we keep the Sabbath Day holy? We “fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” The Word of our LORD is our life, apart from which we die. The Word of the LORD is the bread of which we eat and live, a spring of living water of which we drink and never thirst. The Word of the LORD is not practical advice for living, though it is good and helpful for you. The Word of the LORD does not promise you happiness or success or prosperity or health, but faith, contentment, and strength to persevere and endure. For, this world and this life is not the fullness of your life, but it is the first baby-steps of your life that will never end. The things that you believe in this life and the works that you perform in this life matter, not as works that earn and merit you forgiveness and justification, but as fruit which are the proof and confirmation of your forgiveness and justification. Those who try to earn or merit the kingdom by their works despise the Word of God and attempt to take His kingdom by violence.
How do we remember? We remember by receiving God’s Word, and His Word made visible, touchable, and tasteable in the Blessed Sacraments, the Word made flesh, Jesus. Our Lord Jesus commands us to make disciples by baptizing and teaching all He has commanded. However, Christians have forgotten this Word of the LORD and seemingly despise it. They declare people to be Christian simply because they feel that they are, or say that they are, even while they willfully and defiantly live and act in disobedience to His commands and teach others to do the same. No, in place of a steady diet of holy things, things that are truly good for us and give us life, we have indulged ourselves upon garbage, a sewer of entertainment and corrupt media, not to mention the indoctrination of the public school system which actively seeks to destroy belief in God, in the Christian faith and its doctrines, in biblical morality, values, and ethics. We do not bring our children to the altar of Jesus, but we bring them to altars of football and soccer, of television and video games, or just sleeping in, and we wonder why they don’t believe in God, why they don’t behave like Christians, why they view pornography and engage in pre-marital sexual acts, and experiment with drugs, and have short attention spans and will not tolerate anything that demands patience and attention and analysis and critique, anything that does not gratify immediately but takes work and effort. We wonder why they don’t come to church, when we their parents don’t bring them, when we their parents don’t come to church. We wonder why people leave and others do not come. It is because we, as a people, even as a people who consider themselves to be Christian, do not remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, but we despise preaching and the Word of God and crave and lust for the words of men.
And so, we despair and wring our hands and contemplate lowering our standards, modernizing, and becoming more friendly and welcoming to a culture that stands in direct opposition to the Word of God and His commandments and hates and despises them. God has given us an Ark, but we choose to stand outside its doors cursing His Name and drown in the flood of His wrath. Or, perhaps the problem is messenger? That is what Satan would have you believe. He causes your ears to itch and tempts you to find a false prophet who will scratch them preaching, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Well, there is an easy and surefire way to tell if your pastor is a false teacher, but it requires your not despising and inflicting violence upon the Word of God. Check what he preaches and teaches against the Word of God – the real and true Word of God, and not some baloney you’ve heard elsewhere or made up yourself. The question that faces every Christian individually and every congregation corporately is this: Does the Word of God claim authority over me, or do I claim authority over Him? If your answer to this question is the former, then you are a Christian and God’s child. If your answer is the latter, then you are no Christian and you have made yourself to be your god.
This is my God (point to crucifix) – Christ crucified. This is your God. This is the God of all true Christians. Now, how does this look to the world, to man’s reason and vaunted wisdom, and to the culture? Weak, sad, pathetic, pitiable, humiliating, a disgrace. Well, as the world views Christ, so does it view you, O Christian. Satan tempts you to do violence to the Word of God, to do violence to Jesus Christ and Him crucified, to remove the offense and speak not of it, to hide it away in shame and speak of more seemly things. But, you are called, O Christian, to confess Christ before the world with the promise that He will confess you before His Father in heaven. But, if you deny Him before men, He will deny you saying, “Depart from me, you wicked; I never knew you.”
This time last year it was 500 years since Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, also known as the Castle Church, effectively beginning what we now commonly call the Reformation. Contrary to what many believe and claim, Luther was not protesting anything at all. Indeed, the subject of all 95 Theses was the singular practice of the selling of indulgences by which believers were told they could purchase the forgiveness of sins for their loved ones in purgatory. This idea that you can justify yourself by your works, by following the world’s word and wisdom or your own, is violence against the Word of the God. You cannot take the kingdom of heaven by violence and force. You cannot earn or merit it by your works. But, you must receive it as it comes to you from your merciful Father through His beloved and righteous Son whom He has put forward as a propitiation for your sins and for the sins of the world. Ecclesia semper reformanda est, the Church is always being reformed. I say to you that our church must be reformed still, and that reform starts right here, right now, in repentance, which is faith, and by remembering the Sabbath Day to keep it holy –not despising preaching and His Word, but holding it sacred and gladly hearing and learning it. “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word; curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the kingdom from Your Son and bring to naught all He has done.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 21)

John 4:46-54; Ephesians 6:10-17; Genesis 1:1 – 2:3

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There is a great temptation and pressure upon Christians today to think of the creation account of Genesis as figurative, metaphorical, or mythological, containing, perhaps, an overarching theme or lesson, but certainly not to be understood as literal, factual, and historical truth. And, sadly, too often, Christians today, influenced by the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and Post-Modern thinking, capitulate and agree and are quick to jettison the traditional understanding of Creation for renderings more compatible with the theory of Darwinistic Evolution and “billions of years” dating for the earth and the universe. Of course, that is for adults over the age of thirty or so. For their children in the public school systems, however, and, sadly, in even many parochial schools, they will simply have never have learned any differently unless you have taught them the truth yourselves.
Too many Christians believe that they are not losing anything essential by jettisoning a literal interpretation of the creation account and imbibing of the waters of the well of Darwinistic Evolution. After all, they will argue, a day to the LORD is as a thousand years, and a thousand year a day, right? Well, yes, that is true. The Holy Scriptures do indeed teach this. But, this passage does not say that a day IS a thousand years, but that to the LORD a day and a thousand years are no different. Thus, what this passage serves to teach is that the LORD sees all time at the same time, that He is outside of time, which He created, and that He is all knowing, unchanging, and ever-present – that is to say, the Lord is God.
You see, the creation account of Genesis communicates much, much more to us than merely the particulars of how all things came to be. The creation account of Genesis is God’s first Word of revelation about who He is, what He is like, and what we can expect from Him going forth. The first thing He reveals to us is that He is, quite simply and plainly, the beginning, the source, the origin, and the sustenance of everything. “In the beginning, God…,” period! What was before the beginning? What was before God? The claim of Genesis is, nothing. Is that preposterous? Well, it is no more preposterous than the Big Bang. Be you Christian, agnostic, atheist, or other, we all observe the same evidence. What colors our interpretation of the evidence are the presuppositions and worldviews we hold. The problem with those who insist that the Big Bang and Darwinistic Evolution are the only possible interpretation is that they hold to a presupposition and a worldview that will not allow for anything to exist in the universe that is not comprised of matter, atoms and their constituent particles. That means – no spirit, no supernatural, no soul, no God. Can that be proven? No, of course not. There were no eyewitness testimonies of the Big Bang. There is no way to reproduce and test the Big Bang or the formation of the first cell. And, so, those committed to Darwinistic Evolution and those holding to a strictly materialistic and naturalistic presupposition and worldview have no more certain ground upon which to stand than do Biblical Creationists. In truth, they have less, because Biblical Creationists do have an eyewitness testimony of creation – the LORD God, the Creator Himself.
So, let us consider just a few of the crucial and essential things our LORD God reveals about Himself in the creation account of Genesis. First, as I have already spoken of, the LORD God is the beginning, the source, the origin, and the sustenance of everything that is. Second, He created and He sustains all things by His spoken Word. These two things the Evangelist John writes of in His Gospel saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” This is Scripture interpreting Scripture. Over four thousand or more years later, how did John understand the creation account? John understood the creation account literally, just as it plainly and naturally reads. Further, John makes it clear that the Word of God, by which He created all things, is Himself God; and a few verses later John states that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us.” Here, John is referring to the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, becoming the man Jesus. And so, third of all, we see the fullness of our Holy Triune God revealed in the first three verses of Holy Scripture: In the beginning, God created, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters, and God spoke His eternal Word saying, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
Fourth, let us consider the question, “Why?” Why did God create anything at all? Surely, God has revealed the answer to this question as well in the account of creation: “In the beginning God created….” God created because He is a Creator. God’s creative work, and His creation, is a revelation of who He is and what He does. Thus, everything that is is a revelation of our Creator God, just as a son is a revelation of there being a father. There could be no son without a father; likewise, being a father necessitates there being a son. God’s being a Creator necessitates there being a creation. “In the beginning,” God did what God does…, He created.
As with being a father, being a Creator implies certain necessary truths: love, care, sustenance, protection, and preservation. Surely, sinful human fathers at times fail in these capacities, but not our holy, good, and righteous God. And so, in the LORD’s revelation of Himself as a Creator from the beginning we have a revelation of His Fatherhood, and of His love, care, sustenance, protection, and preservation. He will never leave you or forsake you.
Truly, there is much at stake in jettisoning a literal understanding of the account of creation. Not only is the LORD’s unique creation of individual species and His endowing them with the ability to reproduce their own kind at stake, along with the LORD’s establishment of humankind having dominion over all that He has made, but our faith and trust in the LORD God Himself and His creative Word is at stake. This is to say that the creation account of Genesis is the foundation upon which the Holy Scriptures are built and stand. The rest of the Scriptures flow out from and hearken back to creation. The rest of the Scriptures affirm and confirm creation. Scripture interprets Scripture. The truth is confirmed by truth. 
So, what has this to do with today’s Gospel account of an official’s faith? Indeed, everything! For, the official’s faith is in the creative power of the Word of God which is itself established in the opening verses of Genesis. The official confesses Jesus to be the Word of God incarnate by whom the heavens and the earth and everything that exists were made and are still sustained. The official came to Cana, the town where Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine, because He believed that Jesus could heal his son who was near death. The official wanted Jesus to come to his home and heal his son. But, Jesus took this opportunity to direct the man’s faith to God’s creative Word as opposed to signs and miracles. Truly, the signs and miracles of creation are all that anyone should ever need! Thus, Jesus simply told the man to “Go,” with the promise, “your son will live.” The man went in faith at Jesus’ Word and, before he returned home, was met with the news that his son had recovered at the precise moment Jesus said “Your son will live.”
Christ’s Church is suffering from a crisis of faith – faith in the creative Word of God. But, apart from the Word of the LORD, we have no defense from the Enemy’s attacks. All that armor St. Paul describes in the Epistle lesson is defensive armor, designed to protect you against the devil’s assaults. The only offensive weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of the Lord. This is why Satan attacks your faith in the Word of the Lord. He knows all too well that if he can shake your faith in the Word, then he can get you to believe all his lies and deceptions.
“Did God really say?” is still his question to you. Did God really say He is the beginning, the source, the origin, and the sustenance of everything? Yes, He really did! Did God really say He created everything that is in six days? Yes, He really did! Did God really say He created each species of plant and animal unique and distinct, having the capacity to reproduce its own kind? Yes, He really did! Did God really say that He would send the Seed of the woman to crush the seed of the serpent’s head? Yes, He really did! And God has kept His Word. God always keeps His Word.
God’s Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and made His dwelling amongst us as a man. God’s Word was conceived, born, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. God’s Word is present with you and for you now, Word and Water, Body and Blood, to forgive your sins, strengthen your faith, clothe you and equip you with the defensive armor of God that you may withstand the flaming darts of the evil one. The Lord bless you and keep you steadfast in His Word.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 20)

Matthew 22:1-14; Ephesians 5:15-21; Isaiah 55:1-9

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
God is holy, and God commands that you must be holy as He is holy. But, what does it mean to be holy? For God to be holy means that He is not like you. God is wholly other than you; His holiness is the state of His being. And, for you to be holy is not what you think, it is not to be moral. Holiness is not morality, and sanctification is not moral improvement or self-improvement. Holiness is a state of being in which you share something of God’s holiness, for only God is holy. Your Holy God makes you holy in the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. The pre-requisite for sharing in God’s holiness is purity, being cleansed of stain of your sin guilt – it is to be justified, before being sanctified. Only God is holy. Thus, when He commands that you must be holy as He is holy, He is not commanding something for you to do, He is commanding something for you to be. In fact, He is declaring something about you that is true – you are holy – because God has made you holy in the atoning death and resurrection of His Son. In Christ, you are clean and you are holy, you are justified and you are sanctified. And this is entirely God’s work, done for you, done to you, in Jesus Christ your Lord.
To shed more light upon this truth, let us consider these very familiar words of Jesus: For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Now, this is not merely a description of God’s great affection for you, His love for you, though it is that, but, first and foremost, this is an explanation of the very way in which God has loved you – God has loved you like this: He gave His only Son for you. God gave His Son, not for His chosen people, not for the moral and the upright, not for the faithful and the good, but, God gave His Son for the world – that the world, and everyone in it, would be holy as He is holy.
This is the doctrine of objective justification – That is to say that the reason that you are pure and clean before God lies entirely outside of you in the objective death and resurrection of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Lamb of God, died for the sins of the entire world. This is the doctrine of Universal Atonement – That is to say that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection was for the entire world and for everyone it. There is no one who has not been cleansed in the blood of the Lamb of God. Therefore, there is reconciliation with God the Father, there is forgiveness, there is cleanness from sins, there is purity and there is holiness for everyone. This is an objective fact for you, for everyone you know, and for everyone that has ever lived or will ever live. 
But, do not be confused, that Jesus Christ died for all, that all are cleansed in His holy blood, does not mean that all will join in the marriage feast of the Lamb and His Bride the Church, for, as Jesus said in the parable, many are called but few are chosen. That is to say that, though all are invited through the blood of Jesus, all are atoned for, cleansed, and made holy through the blood of Jesus, many still refuse to come to God, many still refuse to receive His gifts. In the parable, some persecute and kill the Lord’s servants sent to call them to the feast. Others try to come on their own terms, by their own worth and merit and they are cast out into utter darkness. Still, all were invited, the prominent land owners and business men first, then the commoner, then the strangers, sojourners, and outcasts from the highways and the byways. All were invited, all have been cleansed, purified, and sanctified in Jesus’ blood; still, so very many refuse. So, if you find yourself in the kingdom of heaven, that is entirely to God’s credit and glory, not yours; but, if you find yourself in darkness and damnation, well, that is entirely your fault.
For, that is what the kingdom of heaven is like. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. They were invited, that was a fact, by the king’s love and grace; all they had to do was come and receive the gifts the king desired to bestow, but they refused. Some were simply disinterested. Others were too preoccupied, to busy with work, possessions, and play. Others were belligerent, angry, and violent; they mocked the king’s servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. They were in God’s grace, but now they have incurred God’s wrath. Jesus says that they were not worthy, but that is only because they despised the Lord’s gracious invitation. They counted their own affairs of greater value than the Lord’s invitation. Therefore, they are judged according to their own works and merits and worth, and they are condemned. The King orders the destruction of those murderers and the burning of their cities. They will be as stubble.
But, then the king sent his servants, amazingly,  to gather both the good and the bad and to invite them to the feast, for, the good and the bad, alike, are holy in Jesus’ blood, and the wedding hall was full of guests. Yet, there was one man who did not have a wedding garment. Now, you must remember that none of these guests was prepared to attend a great wedding banquet; just moments earlier they were out and about their business, presumably in their normal day to day attire. So, it was the king who provided his guests with the proper wedding attire upon entering his hall. This, in fact, was a custom in Jesus’ day. Then, how is it that this one invited guest does not have on a proper wedding garment. He was an invited guest. The king addresses him as friend. He was provided clothing just like all the other guests, but he refused to wear it; he rejected the king’s provided clothing. Again, the king is angry; He commanded his servants to “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Perhaps the weeping and the gnashing is due to the fact that the souls there were invited guests, they had everything, and they willfully chose to reject it because of their pride, envy, sloth, or whatever. It was their own damned fault.
For, God is holy, and God commands that you must be holy as He is holy. And, God has made you holy in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. You are invited to the wedding feast and you have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness that covers all you sins. If you refuse God’s gracious invitation and do not come to Him, if you reject the garment of Christ’s righteousness, then you stand only with what you have to offer, your sin-tainted works, your sin-corrupted flesh and blood. God is holy, and God commands that you must be holy as He is holy. And, God has made you holy in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. But, you are not holy on your own. And, to accept God’s invitation and His garment of righteousness is not a choice that you make or a work that you do, but, it is the way things are, a true and present reality, by God’s grace, mercy, love, and holy will. The only choice that you make is to say “No”, to reject God’s grace, mercy, and justification. God has already judged you holy and righteous in Jesus Christ, to reject this is to stand in His condemnation and wrath. All persons in the parables that end up being judged were first chosen.
God is not like you, He is wholly other. God is holy, but He is not remote. God is with you, and He has invited you to this foretaste of His wedding feast now. For, the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith. He has clothed you in the baptismal garments of Christ’s righteousness and you are clean. And, now He feeds you with the choicest of meats and the finest of wines in the holy body and the precious blood of the Son of God become Man, Jesus Christ, your Savior. The invitation reads: Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 19)

Matthew 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.
Throughout the Old Testament, in many and various ways, God dwelt among His people. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had a special relationship with God. They enjoyed communion with God primarily through the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life and though abstaining from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Scriptures state that God walked and talked personally with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, though the first mention of this occurs shortly after their Fall, when they hid themselves in fear of God, knowing their sin, shame, and nakedness, and that they could no longer abide in God’s holy presence.
In Divine Mercy and Holy Love, God took action to right man’s wrong. He made a promise to the devil, to our First Parents, and to all mankind that He would send one from woman’s seed, one that would crush the devil’s head and break the curse that had enshrouded the world. From that point on, there was a sharp distinction between those who believed God, whose faith He counted to them as righteousness, and those who disbelieved. And, great, though imperfect, men of faith marked God’s faithfulness throughout the centuries and millennia, men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David.
In the days of Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, God dwelt amongst His people as a Pillar of Cloud by day and as a Pillar of Fire by night. The same Cloud and Fire that had enshrouded Mt. Sinai went before His people as they made their way to the Promised Land, enshrouding the Tabernacle when the people stopped and made camp and lifting up and moving on when they broke. It was the same Shekinah Glory, the presence of God, which filled the Holy of Holies in King Solomon’s temple, the Glory of God’s Real Presence, though veiled, in the midst of His people.
Because men could not come into His holy presence, God came to men in veiled forms. But, in the Incarnation, God took on the veil of human flesh and became a man: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling amongst us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
It is the Incarnation of the Son of God that is prefigured in Jacob’s ladder extending from heaven to earth. For, Jesus is the bridge between God and man. Jesus is the very gate of heaven. God’s holy angels rejoice to serve us for the sake of the Son of God become the Son of Man. Wherever Jesus is present, there God is present, and there the entire kingdom of heaven is present. For the baptized into Christ, that is everywhere! For, Christ fills all things and the whole earth proclaims the glory of the Lord! Where Christ is really present in flesh, blood, and spirit, there the angels of God ascend and descend, there life reigns over death, there darkness is dispelled by light, there is eternity now and forevermore! Truly we must confess and glorify God with Jacob, the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, with all Saints and God’s holy angels, “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
The Incarnation of the Son of God changed everything! This is why Jesus says to the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven”prior to healing the man of his paralysis. In the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh and dwelling amongst us as one of us, Jesus is forgiveness. Jesus is life, Jesus is salvation, Jesus is healing, and Jesus is the resurrection now. This He teaches by forgiving sins before healing. This He teaches by forgiving sins in place of healing. “Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” It is easier to say that your sins are forgiven, for they are! That is the fundamental reality! Any healing is but a physical sign of a spiritual reality. If the physical healing is not granted, that does not change the fact that you are forgiven. Yes, of course, healing is good, healing is desirable, but even the healed die in the end. Even those whom Jesus raised from the dead died again. But physical death is not spiritual death anymore than physical life is spiritual life. You have spiritual life because you have spiritual forgiveness through the Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Son of God and Son of Man Jesus Christ, and that is the Truth that no one can take away from you.
The scribes were right, no one has the authority to forgive sins except God. For a man to claim otherwise is blasphemy. But, Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. And, He didn’t become human to forgive sins, He is the forgiveness of sins in human flesh. Jesus Christ is Peace between God and men, He is the bridge, the ladder between heaven and earth. Thus, it is blasphemy to say that Jesus cannot forgive sins. Jesus is the Gospel, the Good News come into our world of spiritual paralysis. Jesus is the Good News that we are set free from all that, we are forgiven! The scribes, in their zeal for the Law, desiring to protect God, actually deny that God forgives sins. That is blasphemy!
But, Jesus doesn’t hate the scribes. And, they weren’t the only ones who were confused and wrong. So, Jesus gives them the sign. He says to the paralyzed man “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And, he rose and went home. The crowds were astonished! 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.
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 Immanuel, God with us. And, He has come to grant us forgiveness, to 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.