Matthew 9:1-8 | ‘Forgiven’ | The 19th Sunday after Trinity Sunday | 9 October 2011
Your Biggest Problem
What is the most troubling thing in your life right now, at this very moment? What do you think about when you wake up in the middle of the night? What is your biggest problem? You can make a list of two or three things if you’d like, if you can’t figure out which of your problems is the biggest.
For some of us our troubles might not be obvious: we have an issue with a co-worker that we don’t know how to handle, or we don’t have the time we need to get everything done in the day, or there is festering guilt about a sin that the devil won’t let alone. These are subtle, and the chances are the person sitting next to you doesn’t know about them.
For some of us our troubles are very obvious, and public: someone in our family is sick or dying, there’s problems with work, or problems finding work. There are big things that everyone knows about.
Matthew doesn’t mention it, but Mark and Luke indicate that they pealed back the ceiling and let him down from the roof. When I imagine it I see this man’s body there on the floor with his limbs in awkward positions, head bent, but eyes looking up at Jesus.
Everyone knew what this man’s problem was: he couldn’t move. Everyone knew why he was put there in front of Jesus: Jesus would fix him, heal him, give his body back to him.
This is so obvious to the people there and to us that the words of Jesus are almost offensive. Looking down at this man sprawled out on the ground Jesus says, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”
What, Jesus? Sins are forgiven? What about his body, there, broken on the ground? Do you know what happened to this man on the ground, what happened to his body when Jesus forgave him? Nothing. Nothing happened. His body was still sprawled in the dust, completely motionless. His eyes, no doubt, were fixed on Jesus, but his body was pinned to the ground.
We learn something here. Remember your list of problems, the subtle ones and the obvious ones? Jesus is re-doing your list. He puts, above everything else as your number one trouble, this: sin. You are a sinner. You have sinned against God and against your neighbor.
We heard in the Old Testament the Ten Commandments. If we wonder if we are sinners we simple need to review these. God gives Himself to us as our God, and yet we go looking for safety and security in our things, in money and possessions. We worry about tomorrow; we are afraid of what other people think of us; we trust in ourselves. God gives us His name and commands us to pray, but we don’t, we forget about God when things are good and we forget to thank Him when things are bad. God gives us His word, He unfolds for us His great lave and mercy in the Scriptures and we let the book sit there, we don’t read it and study it and memorize it and teach it to our children and talk about it with each other. God has given us parents and other authorities, and we chafe under it; we look down on the authorities over us. And that’s just the first four commandments. The Scriptures command us to love the Lord with all of our heart and all of our soul and all of our mind and all of our strength, and to love our neighbor as our self, but we hardly every manage to get past loving ourselves.
We are sinners. That’s our problem, our biggest and most pressing problem. We might not know it or feel it, but Jesus does. “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”
Not only does Jesus show us what our biggest problem is, He shows us where to go to find help. Jesus is the hope for sinners. Jesus is the place to find forgiveness. Jesus is the One who takes God’s wrath from you and brings to you that Father’s love.
Jesus Puts Himself to the Test for You
But still we’re in this over-crowded room with a forgiven paralyzed man stuck on the floor. Now there was some stirring, not in the man’s body but among the Pharisees, they start to grumble among themselves about what Jesus said. After all, it is only God who can forgive sins. This is fairly explicit in the Old Testament, God and God alone forgives, and here Jesus is saying He is forgiving. “This guy is blaspheming” they say, “Claiming to be God.
They are right that Jesus is claiming to be God, they’ve just missed the fact that He is. But now Jesus is going to put Himself to the test. This is just amazing.
But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
You want to know if my word does what it says? You want proof? You cannot see that my word of forgiveness does what it says, but I’ll prove it to you.
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.” And he rose and went home.
God’s Word is different than man’s words. Our words describe reality. God’s words create reality. “It’s light in here.” That’s what we say, if it’s light. “Let there be light,” God says in the dark, and there is light. “You’re a nice guy,” I might say to you, if you are nice. But if you were a jerk my words would be silly. “You are forgiven,” is what God says to you, a sinner, and you are forgiven, you are righteous, you are holy. God’s Word makes it so.
That’s what the Gospel is, it’s what the absolution is. When you hear, “You are forgiven,” this is not a description of how things are, it is a making things so, it is a living, active word. It is taking all of your sins and casting them as far as the east is from the west, into the depths of the sea, onto the shoulders of Jesus. In the midst of all of our troubles and problems, this problem, this number one thing on the list: your sin, that’s been taken care of, that’s been covered, covered with the blood of Jesus, covered with the robe of His righteousness that He wrapped around you in your baptism, taken care of in the Absolution that you hear. This is wonderful.
And there’s one more thing about this word of forgiveness: Jesus has not only put this word into your ears, but also into your mouth.
Today we have LWML Sunday, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. This is a wonderful institution given to support the mission work of the church, but what is that mission work? Well, you know how your number one problem is sin? So is your neighbor’s. So Jesus has His church in the world to forgive sin. Jesus scatters His Christians all around the globe so that authoritative word would be spoken: “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.”
(There’s a bit more sermon here if you listen to the audio.)
We rejoice this day, that we have heard the Lord’s word of forgiveness and life and salvation. Amen.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller | Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO