The Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
In forgiving the paralytic and healing him, Jesus connects the forgiveness of sins to the life of the body.
Were it not for sin, not this man’s sin nor his parents’ sin, mind you, but were it not for sin and the Fall of humanity into sin, this man wouldn’t have been paralyzed.
All our ailments are of sin.
But all the Christian’s ailments are only momentary.
When we believe and confess the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting—that is, when we believe and confess the Creed—when we confess that eyes are meant to see, ears to hear, legs to leap, and tongues to declare—and not only that they’re meant to do so but on the Last Day will—we’re confessing the forgiveness of sins.
If your sins are forgiven—all your present ailments are momentary.
But I’ve come to the conclusion that people are offended at the forgiveness of sins.
People today would rather hold a grudge, skip church, and gossip than pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (cf. Matthew 6).
I remember from field work while at seminary a visitor who was offended that the pastor said, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I forgive you.” He was convinced that man doesn’t have that authority.
Yet today’s crowds are afraid and glorify God “who had given such authority to men” (Mt. 9:8).
So what do you have? Man’s forgiveness or God’s?
When you confess your sins, when your pastor forgives you, do you believe that his forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? You should. It is.
Wives, when you forgive your husbands, do you believe, does he, that your forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? You should. It is.
There’s a difference in the office held, yes, but not in the gospel.
More to the point, people are offended that forgiveness means your favorite sins won’t be present in the resurrection.
What sins are fashionable today?
Homosexuality won’t be present in the resurrection. Gender dysphoria, little league sports with practices and games on Sunday, bad hymns won’t be present in the resurrection.
That little bit of offensive speech that you’re okay with, and oh, my Lord, the gossip. We’ll hate to lose that.
Jesus heals the paralytic by forgiving him. Where there is forgiveness, there is perfect life and salvation.
But here’s a question that comes up all the time:
If Jesus is God, if His forgiveness heals, and if our forgiveness is God’s forgiveness, why are there still disabled bodies? Why are there still stubborn foot sores? Sick children? And brain cancer?
If the forgiveness of sins means healing for the paralytic, why are there still disabled Christians?
Or is it worse than that?
Do we really have God’s forgiveness, since what we have is so different from what Jesus gives and the paralytic receives? He takes up his bed and goes.
To reasonable questions like that, I say with Dr. Luther (and I realize this isn’t a direct quote):
Reason is the devil’s whore, the greatest enemy that faith has. It never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
She, reason, is and ought to be drowned in Holy Baptism, where such questions are best understood.
The Baptized Christian isn’t promised an earthly life free from disability or hardship; but a life lived under the cross.
Jesus heals to show us Creation without sin, without injury. The Resurrection unto eternal life.
Every Baptized Christian may and does endure such pains that Jesus has before healed. But we, through Holy Baptism, look, against our reason, to the death of Christ, our death to sin, His resurrection unto life, where we, too, will walk with Him, and leap, run, see, and live with Him forever.
Today’s question is one more of authority.
In the verses before, Jesus heals a leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s in-law, and many more, He calms a storm, and casts out demons from two demon-possessed men.
We can safely say that healing is His business, and business is good.
He heals the paralytic.
And then, He heals the suffering woman, the dead girl, the two blind men, and the mute man with a demon.
The Pharisees say at the end of the chapter, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (Mt. 9:34), that’s their explanation.
But St. Matthew quotes Isaiah, teaching us how to see these things: “[Jesus] healed all who were sick. And this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases’” (Mt. 8:16-17).
This is the work of the Christ, His authority exercised. His Kingdom come:
To heal the sick. To bear our cross to a bloody death. To save His people from their sins.
That’s what He does.
That’s what Jesus’ bloody sacrifice and death has accomplished.
That’s what the faith of the Baptized Christian clings to.
All have sinned and fall short. All are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. And this is to be received by faith (cf. Rm. 3:23-25).
So that you know, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
And he did.
Jesus heals to show us Creation without sin.
The Resurrection unto eternal life.
He heals to inaugurate His kingdom.
When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
This is true in Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who has authority to forgive sins and does.
And it’s true in another way.
By forgiving you, Jesus gives you authority to forgive. He’s given you authority to assure others of the forgiveness earned in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
He’s also given you the authority—the responsibility, even—that you will forgive those who sin against you.
This is our cross to bear. This is how and when forgiveness offends us.
To refuse to forgive people until they’ve suitably apologized and repented is to deny that the blood and righteousness of Jesus avails for all sinners everywhere.
Forgiveness at its most offensive is forgiveness for all.
It’s easy to forgive those you love and who love you.
It’s even sometimes easy to forget the sins that you commit.
But how do you do forgiving those who spurn and hate and plot against you?
“God forgive ’em, cause I sure won’t.” Is that how it goes? Or do you just ignore it until it goes away.
Does it ever truly go away?
To refuse to forgive until they’ve suitably apologized and repented is to deny that the blood and righteousness of Jesus avails for all sinners everywhere.
God has reconciled the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.
Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
His one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. And this is to be received by faith.
Jesus has authority to forgive sins.
And He does. He has. That was His cross to bear.
You, dear Christian friends, have that authority as well.
That’s your cross to bear.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
This is forgiveness at its most offensive.
Thanks be to God for it.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!