Your Sins Are Forgiven

Matthew 9:1-9

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Matthew 9:2-3  And behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.  And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  St. Matthew tells us in our reading this morning that when Jesus came home to Capernaum, some people brought to Him a paralyzed man hoping that Jesus would heal him of his paralysis.  This man was pretty bad off.  He was confined to his bed.  He couldn’t move at all.  He had to depend on others to move him around and provide for him.  He was clearly one who would benefit from a miraculous healing.  God’s Word teaches us that we are to help those in need, and so we would expect our Lord to help this man

But when Jesus saw the paralyzed man what did He do?  Surprisingly He did not immediately lay hands on the man and heal him.  Instead He said to the man, “Son be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.”  Why did Jesus say this to him when he so obviously needed to be healed physically?  Why did Jesus seemingly ignore the physical problem altogether and tell the man to be happy because his sins are forgiven?  It would seem that the man would probably be happier if he could walk again, doesn’t it?

But we think on a very earthly level.  We usually understand only what we see; and all too often we don’t even do that very well.  Our Lord, on the other hand, sees and understands all things.  And this is why He said what He said.

Jesus saw that the man was suffering from something far worse than paralysis.  Jesus knew that the man was disabled in a much worse way – by sin.  Sin is much more serious than any physical problem because, while physical disabilities may make life extremely difficult and even painful, they eventually will come to an end.  The disability of sin, however, not only hinders us from living life to the full, it also condemns us after death.  Sin makes eternity a place of miserable torment and suffering, far worse than any suffering found on earth.

In fact, if it were not for sin, other physical disabilities would not exist either.  In the beginning God originally created man without defects; mankind was completely healthy.  But when Adam sinned, all of creation was affected.  That which had been called “very good” by God was now tragically spoiled.  And the problems caused by sin were made obvious in physical ways: diseases, disabilities, floods, earthquakes, violent storms, wars among men, desolation of the lands and eventual death to all that has life.  This is the effect that sin has had on the world.

So, when Jesus said to the paralytic, “your sins are forgiven,” He really was getting to the root of the problem; not that the paralytic had committed any worse sins than anyone else, but that his disease was a result of sinfulness in general.  Jesus, in healing him of his sinfulness, truly blessed the man at the most basic and important level.  For when your sins are forgiven, you have the promise of the full restoration of life in heaven.

Upon witnessing this scene, several of the scribes grumbled within themselves, thinking that Jesus had blasphemed.  They believed Jesus was telling lies about God.  They knew that only God Himself could forgive sins, and only He had the authority and power to do so.  So, when Jesus said to this man, “your sins are forgiven,” the scribes thought that He was acting without authority and making a mockery of God, lying about who the real God is.

Of course, they were dead wrong, for Jesus is the Son of God.  In fact, Jesus is God in the flesh.  And as God, Jesus knew the thoughts of these men, and said to them: “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?”

Of course it is easier to say “your sins are forgiven.”  Anybody could say it, but only God could actually make it happen.  So, to prove that He really could forgive sins, to prove that He really could not only say it but also make it happen, Jesus healed the man.  He said to the scribes, “’But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,’ then He said to the paralytic: ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’”  And surprise!  The man did just that – he got up and went home, walking on his own two feet.  In no uncertain terms this proved that Jesus had the authority not only to say something, but also to make it happen.  He proved that He had the power and authority to forgive sins.

It is a good thing that Jesus has the power and authority to forgive sins, for we suffer from the same disability as the paralytic; we are sinners.  Just like the paralytic, we often come to Jesus with many other problems.  Perhaps you suffer from some physical ailment or disability.  Perhaps you have lost your job.  Perhaps you suffer from depression or loneliness; perhaps you are having a hard time with some kind of personal loss.  Whatever the condition, you come to Jesus for help and for healing.

But we often forget the most serious problem: our sinfulness.  That is where we are most like the paralytic – helpless, totally dependent on some outside source or person, unable to do anything about it.  The other problems, after all, are so obvious, but sometimes the root problem, our sinfulness, is not that obvious to us.  This is easily glossed over in our minds while other problems seem to take precedence.

Just as with the paralytic, however, Jesus sees the root of those problems.  He sees your sinfulness and He knows your need for forgiveness and spiritual healing.  And, dear friends, Jesus gives you that forgiveness, for He has the power, He has the authority to do so – not just to say the words, but to make them happen.  What is His by Divine right, He also earned as a man by taking your sins upon Himself and going through the miserable torments that were meant for you.  By suffering and dying for you, He has earned forgiveness for you and for the whole world.

And He has not done this because you deserve it.  He has not done this because you are good.  On the contrary, what you and I deserve for our sins is God’s eternal wrath and punishment.  But God exacted that penalty in the body of His own Son, Jesus Christ, who was, as we confessed in the Creed, “crucified, dead, and buried” for you, in your place…that’s how He showed His love for you.  Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ suffering and death for you.

Forgiveness for all has been purchased by Christ.  And He delivers that forgiveness to you in very concrete and specific ways.

When your pastor says to you, “I forgive you all your sins,” they are forgiven.  When the pastor speaks the words of the Absolution, it is Christ Himself saying: “Your sins are forgiven;” it is Christ Himself working and delivering forgiveness through the words which are spoken.  And that forgiveness, as the Catechism says, “is just as valid and certain as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself.”  You need no further proof than the words of Jesus, for He has already demonstrated, as we saw today with the paralytic, that He has the power and authority.

When you are baptized, your sins are forgiven, for baptism gives forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

When you receive the bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, you are receiving also the real and true body and blood of Jesus.  And with that, you receive forgiveness.  For as we know, again from the catechism, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given us through the words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew tells us that after the multitudes had seen Jesus forgive the paralytic and heal him, “they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”  And indeed, they should have glorified God, as should we, for the forgiveness, life, and salvation our good and gracious God delivers to us here in this place week after week.  We glorify God for the Gospel preached, and for forgiveness delivered in Holy Absolution, Holy Communion, and Holy Baptism.

Dear friends, your sins are forgiven.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.