On Earth As It Is in Heaven
Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
Commemoration of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Pastor
October 7, 2018
We pray as our Lord has taught us that our Father’s will be done. What is His will? It is His heavenly will. His will is eternal and perfect. His will is that we be in eternal communion with Him. Because of our sin we are separated from Him and under eternal condemnation. That means His will is our salvation.
And how has our Lord taught us to pray that our Father’s will be done? Thy will done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray His heavenly will be done here on earth. To be sure, as we are taught in the Catechism, “The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.” We don’t pray His will be done so that it will be done, we pray so that it will done among us also. We pray His heavenly will be done among us here on earth, in our lives.
His will is our salvation. How does He carry out this will here on earth, in our lives? He does it by forgiving our sins. The four Gospel accounts tell us of many times Jesus healed people of their diseases, pointing us to the greater healing of restoring us to that eternal communion with the Father. Throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we are shown how this eternal healing comes about. It is through the forgiveness of sins.
What is forgiveness? Think of a massive debt you owe and there is no realistic way you can pay it back. If the person who has the right to the money cancels your debt, that is forgiveness. You now owe them no money, you are free of that debt. How could you ever repay such kindness? You can’t. This is a gift that is given to you.
You owe a debt to God. You are in sin and your life each day on earth has been filled with sin. We heard last Sunday: you are to love the Lord your God with all your being and your neighbor as yourself. You have not lived completely for God but for yourself and you have sinned against others instead of loving them selflessly. You owe God something you can never deliver on.
God’s will for you is your salvation, so He saves you. He forgives your sins. It is as if you had never sinned. You owe Him nothing. You are free. You have no debt to God, you are no longer separated from Him, you are no longer eternally condemned. This is forgiveness, this is how God saves you.
Jesus is showing you in the Gospel reading that you do not have to wonder. You do not save yourself. God is the one who forgives. No one can forgive but God alone. Now people certainly forgive others. But when people forgive others they do so under the authority of God. If you sin against someone and they forgive you it is because God has given them the power to forgive you. Since they are a sinner as you are they have no power or authority to forgive. They are forgiving you under God’s authority.
When Jesus sees the men bringing a paralytic to Him He sees into their hearts. He sees their faith. He says to the man, “Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.” There were scribes there, men who were experts in the Word of God. When they saw this, they were offended. They said among themselves, “This man is blaspheming, no one can forgive sins but God alone.” They spoke the truth in this regard, that no one can forgive but God alone. What they spoke falsely was that Jesus was blaspheming. They did not believe in Jesus. They believed He was simply a human being like everyone else.
In irony, Jesus addresses their unbelief by doing what only God can do. He sees the evil thoughts that are hidden in their heart. “Why do you think evil in your hearts? Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Rise and walk’?” Jesus has healed many people already. He has shown who He is by curing people of diseases instantly. But more importantly, especially for those religious leaders who knew the Word of God well, He was showing that He was the fulfillment of the promises of the one to come, the one who would bring about salvation for His people.
Jesus knows these men are rejecting His claim to be that one. Is it easy to go up to someone and say, “Your sins are forgiven”? Anyone can say the words. You can say it and not have to prove you are God, as you are claiming to be. But how about saying to a paralytic, “Rise and go your way”? If you say that to him and he remains paralyzed you have just proven the opposite of your claim, you are showing the world that you are notGod.
So Jesus tells them, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralytic, “Rise and go to your home.” Guess what happened? Exactly what He said.
Now guess what happened when Jesus had said to him, “Your sins are forgiven”? Exactly what He said. Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins. This is God’s heavenly will being done on earth. This what our Lord has taught us to pray, “Thy will be done one earth as it is in heaven.” God alone forgives, and in His Son, He forgives sins on earth.
What was the reaction of the people? They were afraid. They had a profound sense of awe and alarm in the presence of One who had the right to forgive sins. On the Last Day you will see God face to face. In the Bible when people were in the presence of God they didn’t feel warm and fuzzy inside. They were afraid. They knew that no human can stand before God and live. Recognition of your sin brings you to that conclusion.
Here these people were in the presence of one who could forgive sins. They also recognized that His coming to them in healing diseases and in forgiving sins was a good thing. Even in their fear they glorified God. The Gospel reading says they glorified God that He had given such authority to human beings.
In certain aspects of your life you are in authority over other people. When you are in authority over others you have power over them. You do not need to ask permission of them to act. With this power comes responsibility. Those who seek good for others act according to this responsibility. People often abuse their authority and wield their power over others for their own wishes even to the harm of others.
But forgiveness of sins, that is a good thing. That God brings that down to earth is reason to glorify Him. You need forgiveness. Your prayer you have learned from your Lord is exactly the prayer you need. That God the Father’s will is done for you here, now, on earth. His heavenly will is done not just up there, but down here, where you are, in your life. This is why you were Baptized.
How would you answer this question, who Baptized you? Would you say God? Would you say the pastor who Baptized you? Perhaps you might say your parents since they are the ones who brought you to the church to be Baptized. Those baptized as an adult might say themselves since they chose to be Baptized. For the moment, though, don’t think about the need to name a specific person who Baptized you. Think instead about the power behind it. Who has authority to Baptize?
The answer is God. Jesus instituted Baptism. He charged His apostles to Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He has the authority. He gave this authority to His apostles and they extended it to the holy Christian Church. When you were Baptized by the pastor, he said, “IBaptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” How in the world did that pastor have the authority to do such a thing? Because the Church calls men to the ministry to carry out Jesus’ authority.
This is the authority to forgive sins. Your sins are forgiven when you are Baptized. They are forgiven when the Word of God is preached. You are forgiven when the called and ordained servant of Christ forgives you all your sins. They are forgiven when he gives you the body and blood of Christ.
You may or may not suffer physically as the paralytic did. But be certain of this, what your Lord says is true. Your sins are forgiven. This is what He says through His apostle as we heard in the Epistle reading: “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Being forgiven of your sins, this is the living out of your Baptism, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.