Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
October 22, 2017
It’s remarkable that Jesus says to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your bed and go to your home,” and he can now walk. It’s perhaps even more remarkable, though, that Jesus was able to see into the thoughts of the religious leaders. They were speaking among themselves that Jesus was blaspheming, claiming to be God, and Jesus knew their evil thoughts.
But truly the most remarkable thing in the Gospel reading is that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. A paralytic had been brought to Him and Matthew says that when He saw the faith of those who brought him, He said to the paralytic, “Take heart, Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now if someone sins against you you are obligated to forgive them. But you don’t have the authority or the power to forgive the sins of everyone.
But here Jesus is acting as though He has that authority and power. He is saying to someone He has never seen before, who He doesn’t know, and doesn’t know what sins he has committed, Your sins are forgiven. Jesus knows that by doing this He is claiming to be God. And if the crowds don’t say anything, or perhaps simply don’t take great issue with it, the Scribes, the religious leaders that are there, most certainly do. This man is blaspheming, they say among themselves.
Jesus knows their thoughts. He knows the wickedness of their hearts. He rises to their challenge. Why do you think evil in your hearts? You claim I am blaspheming. So tell Me, which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or, “Rise and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, He then said to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your bed and go to your home.”
Had the paralyzed man continued to lay there, stunned that someone could be so cruel to him in his condition, the religious leaders would have been vindicated and Jesus would been shown to be a fraud. In fact, a blasphemer. But the man rose up and walked away. He was healed and therefore Jesus was the one vindicated. He was in fact God in the flesh.
Here we are shown something remarkable, the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. This paralyzed man was blessed to now live a life in which he could walk and make his way around of his own power. But he would eventually age and his physical abilities deteriorate. What was it that Jesus gave him that he most needed? It was forgiveness. The crowds were amazed and glorified God that He had given such authority to people.
I’m sure the paralytic was thrilled that he was restored to full health. But it’s not hard to think about what he thought when Jesus first said to him, Take heart, Son, your sins are forgiven. The things you are ashamed of can come easily to mind. Or perhaps it is when you are lying awake at night thinking about the things that you have done where you have let people down or caused them harm. A stray comment that didn’t put the best construction on a person’s actions but instead put them in the worst possible light.
Whatever problems you may have and difficulties you face, what you need is forgiveness. Repent of your sin and take heart. It is truly remarkable that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. And just to make sure you know it and have ample access to it, He forgives you in multiple ways.
It is remarkable that in the very simple action of speaking He forgives you. When the Word of God is proclaimed, the Son of Man forgives, right here on earth. There is a reason that God called prophets in the Old Testament to proclaim His Word, that is how the people received forgiveness. In the same way in the New Testament He called apostles to do the same thing. This calling of proclamation of the Word of God has continued on as God has called pastors to proclaim this message of forgiveness.
It is remarkable that God first brings forgiveness to you through water. It’s certainly not the water of Baptism that forgives you, but it is the Word of Christ connected with the water that forgives you. Jesus is the Son of Man and He has authority on earth to forgive sins. That is why He attached His Word to the water of Baptism. It is remarkable that living in your Baptism each day means each day you are forgiven. When you repent of your sins you are raised up to the new life you were born into in Baptism.
It is remarkable that Jesus gives you opportunity to receive direct, personal forgiveness just as the paralytic did. Individual Confession and Absolution is a blessing given to you to confess your sins to God’s called and ordained servant, to confess those sins that particularly burden you. In confessing these sins which trouble you you are given a remarkable blessing: forgiveness. You are forgiven your sins. You hear the words spoken directly to you in the same way Jesus spoke them directly to the paralytic.
It is remarkable that Jesus doesn’t forgive you only with His words. Although His words are enough, even more than enough. God brought creation into existence by His Word alone. And yet He uses the very stuff of His creation for His gracious work. We see at times that when He healed people He touched them. When you hear the Word proclaimed or the Absolution pronounced, you are hearing words. And you most certainly are being forgiven by those words.
But it’s remarkable that though that is enough, even more than enough, He gives you even more. He gives you even more than words and in doing so gives you even more forgiveness. In His Holy Sacrament, He gives you His body and His blood. He gives His body and blood to you, as He said, for the forgiveness of your sin. It is remarkable that He would come to you in such a personal way, the God of creation, stooping down to you to give you His body and to give you His blood for the forgiveness of your sin.
This is remarkable because Jesus, the Son of Man, who has authority on earth to forgive sins, took all the sins of the world upon Himself. He doesn’t just have authority on earth to forgive sins, because He is after all God—He has authority on earth to forgive sins because He has dealt directly with all of your sins, taking them all upon Himself, taking them all to the grave, being condemned in your place so that you are redeemed, forgiven, saved. He has accomplished your salvation in His suffering and death. You can count on it that He has authority to forgive every one of your sins.
So forgive. It is a freeing experience, to forgive. Freely you have received, freely give. Don’t hold a grudge. Don’t retaliate. Don’t tell someone you will forgive but never forget. Don’t dredge up past failures of others. Don’t think that the sins of others are worse than your own. Don’t withhold forgiveness.
You are forgiven. You have received the most remarkable thing of all, the forgiveness of all of your sins. See now the joy of sharing that forgiveness around. What right do you have to withhold forgiveness from someone when your Lord has died for them and all their sins? If they refuse to repent that is on them. But if you refuse to forgive them it is on you.
This is why the Lord is so remarkable in all the many ways He forgives you, because you need a lot of forgiveness. Rejoice in your Baptism. Live in your Baptism. Wake each day making the sign of the cross to remember your Baptism and that you have been redeemed, you have been forgiven. Rejoice in the amazing invitation your Lord gives you to hear the Gospel proclaimed each week, the very proclamation of the forgiveness of all your sins. Ponder your sin and failures, meditate on how you have fallen short of the glory of God, and prepare your heart and mind for the blessed gift He gives you in His Holy Meal. Though you can never overcome your sin, your Lord gives you something that can. It is Himself. His body, His blood. For you. For your forgiveness.