Collect of the Day:
Almighty and merciful God, of Your bountiful goodness keep from us all things that may hurt us that we, being ready in both body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish whatever You would have us do; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever Amen.
This morning, I want you to ask yourself this question. What is it, this very morning, that is troubling you the most? What pain are you now struggling through? What loss? What problem are you facing which is unresolved and discouraging?
Well, this morning we see a man with a pretty significant need too. A troubling situation for himself, for his loved ones, for his friends. This poor man is paralyzed. His legs aren’t working. He can’t do much for himself. He needs help even using the bathroom. He needs help getting from place to place. He can’t do much of anything for himself. How painful and discouraging this might have been. But thanks be to God, he’s got some good friends. The sort of friends that bring you to Jesus, trusting that He can help.
Well, Jesus sees their faith. And He says to the paralytic, “Take, heart my son; your sins are forgiven.” Now I want you to stop and just look at this miracle with fresh eyes. You’ve got to admit it’s a bit strange. Because our text this morning does not say, “Behold, some people brought to Jesus a sinner.” It doesn’t even say that they brought to Jesus a man who was sick because of his sin. It just says they brought to Him a man who was paralyzed. And what does Jesus do? Well, He just starts preaching forgiveness of sins!
So what’s strange about Jesus’ words? Well, let’s put things in perspective. Let’s say you are afflicted with pneumonia, or some devastating illness, cancer even. You go to the hospital. You get evaluated and checked out. And then you go to your consultation. And the doctor does something strange. He gets up from his desk. He places his hands on your head. He traces upon your forehead the sign of the holy cross and says, “Son, daughter, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.
Well, I would imagine that experience would take you by surprise. Hey, I’m here because I’m sick! What’s forgiveness of sins got to do with it! Well, those folks in our Gospel today were surprised too!
Because Jesus gets His hands on a paralyzed man and says, “Take heart, my son [that is, be of good cheer], your sins are forgiven.” So what’s sin and forgiveness got to do with a paralyzed man?
Well, we must know this: Sin is ultimately at the root of all human suffering and need. The sin of Adam and Eve, and every sinner since, has brought the curse of sickness, disease, and every physical suffering upon the whole human race. Death itself results. So every discomfort, every pain, every malady, every corruption is a result of this sin-sickness inherited from Adam.
We learn from the Sacred Scriptures that sin and sickness are inextricably linked. It is sinners who get sick, and only sinners who get sick. That’s each and every one of us.
But this is the thing. When our Lord comes to His sin-sick people, He’s not just interested in doing a little fix-up job now and then. After all, He’s in the salvation business – to redeem body and soul from death and hell. To heal and bring life and immortality to those rendered paralyzed by sin, and dead in their trespasses. Yes, He likes to get right to the heart and center of things. To the root of the problem – to forgiveness and salvation and that which restores fellowship with God. He’s interested in restoring the whole person – both body and soul for all eternity.
So what is Jesus doing in the miraculous healing this morning? Well, He’s preaching to the root cause of every need we have. Every trouble we’ve got. Jesus is inviting us to believe in Him. And His authority to heal and restore – in short, to forgive sins. To believe and take hold of this word of absolution that is anchored in the death and resurrection of Christ our Lord.
Now I’ve got to tell you something. I’ve never met a Lutheran pastor whose folks weren’t occasionally annoyed with his sermons. Come on, Pastor. Forgiveness of sins, I know that already. So come on. Let’s get to the good stuff. Something that will really help me – you know, help me, with real life.
But that sort of thinking gets things all wrong.
And I’ll tell you why! I want you to think again, think again, about whatever trial it is that you’re currently going through this morning. Whatever burden is on your mind, whatever situation is most troubling. I want you to remember God in heaven could easily look down, give you a nod, and do a fix-up job with every complaint, every dissatisfaction, and every problem you’ve got. But that’s not the way He’s going to do things. And we should be glad about that.
Nope, instead He uses it all. Every affliction, every trouble, even sickness, even your own sin to draw you instead to Him – to repentance, faith, and life. All so that He can give you the greater miracle, which is the forgiveness of sins. Which is the very heart and center of salvation. It is that which restores fellowship with God. And restores us in both body and soul for all eternity. It is also that which teaches us how to live in this life, forgiving and loving our neighbor.
Therefore, think back upon whatever misfortune, trial, or trouble you are going through right now. Whether it’s a financial hardship, or marital trouble, or sickness, or cancer, or whatever it is, even the death of a loved one. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that you will ever experience or suffer through which does not have its answer and fulfillment in the forgiveness of sins.
That man in today’s Gospel. Jesus simply says to him, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” That man leaped up, probably went home singing and dancing. As the Small Catechism puts it: where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.
That’s why the called ministers of the Gospel won’t stop preaching the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. It is the very Word of the Gospel that bridges heaven and earth. It is a Word which saves marriages, destroys death, and even raises the bodies of our loved ones on the Last Day. This forgiveness of sins stuff is real-life stuff. Real-world stuff. And provides us real help – the best help.
Christ our Lord, the day of His resurrection, says to the Emmaus disciples on the road, that from now on, until the end of this age “repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” So yes, this forgiveness is our greatest need, and it addresses all our other needs as well. Our Lord sums it up best when He says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
So don’t say, “Pastor, that forgiveness stuff, I already know that. Let’s get on to the good stuff now.” Instead, say, “Teach me again about the good things Christ has done for me. Tell me again about His Cross and Passion. Tell me again about His goodness for me, and the life of forgiveness that is mine by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Tell me again so that I might learn to bear my cross cheerfully, to love my neighbor, and like the faithful ones in today’s Gospel, bring them as well to Christ my Lord.”
Above all, tell me Pastor, that my sins are forgiven before God in heaven, and how even I, a sinner, will pick up my bed on the Last Day, and truly go home. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: LSB #708 “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart”
Author: Martin Schalling, 1532-1608
Translator: Catherine Winkworth, 1827-78
1 Lord, Thee I love with all my heart;
I pray Thee, ne'er from me depart,
With tender mercy cheer me.
Earth has no pleasure I would share,
Yea, heav'n itself were void and bare
If Thou, Lord, wert not near me.
And should my heart for sorrow break,
My trust in Thee can nothing shake.
Thou art the portion I have sought;
Thy precious blood my soul has bought.
Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
Forsake me not! I trust Thy Word.
2 Yea, Lord, 'twas Thy rich bounty gave
My body, soul, and all I have
In this poor life of labor.
Lord, grant that I in ev'ry place
May glorify Thy lavish grace
And help and serve my neighbor.
Let no false doctrine me beguile;
And Satan not my soul defile.
Give strength and patience unto me
To bear my cross and follow Thee.
Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord,
In death Thy comfort still afford.
3 Lord, let at last Thine angels come,
To Abram's bosom bear me home,
That I may die unfearing;
And in its narrow chamber keep
My body safe in peaceful sleep
Until Thy reappearing.
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ, my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end.