10-10-21 Trinity 19

October 10, 2021
Passage: Matthew 9:1-8
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Jesus had just been asked to leave the land of the Gadarenes. That’s why he got into a boat and sailed across the sea to his town of Capernaum. In the land of the Gadarenes, Jesus had healed a demoniac, a man with a legion of demons tormenting him. The man lived in the caves. They had tried to chain him down, because he would attack anyone who came near him, but he broke the chains. He would go around screaming and foaming at the mouth and cutting himself, and no one came near him. But Jesus did. Jesus came to save the lost. So He alone approached the poor man and He alone saved him, cast all the demons from him. The demons begged Jesus to allow them to go into a herd of pigs, and Jesus allowed it. About two thousand pigs were there. And they all went crazy and rushed over a cliff and drowned in the sea below. So when the people came and saw it, they told Jesus to leave. Because they had lost their pigs. They counted Jesus as worth less than a herd of pigs. They counted the salvation of their fellow man worth less than pigs. So Jesus left them. They had no faith in him and no love for their fellow man. So Jesus left. Jesus won’t be found where people value the riches and pleasures of this world as their treasures. He’s made this abundantly clear – you cannot serve God and money, he says. Here is a picture of it. Jesus cost them pigs. Jesus must go. And Jesus will cost you things. He Himself says it, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Those who are not willing to give up things for Jesus lose Jesus. And this must be our constant prayer, that we never so love the things of this world that for them we would give up Jesus, that nothing, not health, not wealth, not reputation, not friends, not work, not play, nothing be counted of more value than having Jesus, hearing Him, listening to His absolution, eating His body and His blood, living according to His commandments.

Jesus went to His own town, it says. That is Capernaum. It’s called his own town here not simply because Jesus lives there, or paid taxes there, but because here Jesus is received. The Gadarenes were not His people for one reason and one reason only – not because of their race, not because of their grievous sins, not because of stupidity or poverty, but only because they would not receive Jesus and own His as Savior and Lord. Capernaum is His town because there the people throng about him; there they need Him and they know it. Apply this to yourself and to your life. This is what Jesus calls his own. That heart, that home, that city, that church where he is received. And there can be no greater blessing than for Jesus to claim your heart, your home, your church as His own. Jesus delights to be where we receive Him and seek after Him as our greatest need.

This is what the friends of the paralytic did. The history goes by so fast that we have trouble slowing down and considering just how much these men had to go through to get to Jesus. Hear it from Mark’s Gospel: “Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” Look at the contrast between the Gadarenes, who ask Jesus to leave because He cost them wealth, and these four men, who give up their pleasure, go through pains, carry their friend, and meet obstacle after obstacle, but will let nothing come between themselves and Jesus. The crowd is too big. The house is too high. The roof still stands between them and Jesus, so they tear it apart, and let the man down with ropes. Anything, everything, to get to Jesus. This is faith. It is willing to face any obstacle, any temptation, any loss of wealth or comfort, in order to have Jesus.

Why? Jesus sums this up beautifully in His words to the paralytic. “Take courage, child, your sins are forgiven thee.” With these words Jesus hits at our greatest need. And it’s very important that He does this with a paralytic. Unbelieving eyes and ears are offended at Jesus’ words here. The paralytic needs healing and Jesus can give it. But He doesn’t. He forgives instead. And this is key. This is what separates us from the world. Because we see with Jesus when we look at that pathetic sight, a man who can’t walk, a man whose entire life is an endless parade of pain and embarrassment, a man who can’t work, can’t feed himself, but soils himself and is a constant burden to his friends, we look at this man and see very clearly that his greatest need is not to be healed, but to have his sins forgiven. And not only this, we see it in ourselves. It is not enough to look at this man and say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” but to look and see and say, “There am I,” “That’s me,” – that the time will come when my body fails me, when I soil myself in death, and become a burden on my loved-ones who have to bury me, that this is the wage of sin, that I carry death in my body. Faith can’t just see misery in the paralytic, misery in the world around you, as if it is somehow alien to you. No, you see the wages of sin, the very sin that dwells in your heart and rebels against the God who is the author of every good thing. The paralytic’s greatest need is not to be healed. And until and unless we realize this, know it, are convinced of it, we’ll never see our need for Jesus either.

Jesus says, “Take courage, child, your sins are forgiven thee.” Look long and hard at this and realize Jesus is not giving the man less than he wanted. He’s giving him more. Jesus is not letting him down, He is lifting him up. A Christian cannot possibly desire something greater than this. This pronouncement from the mouth of Jesus cannot possibly be too little for us. The paralytic, whose faith brought him to the Lord Jesus, through every obstacle, through pain, through crowd, through ladder and roof, he cannot possibly be anything but elated, content, filled with unspeakable joy to hear these words from the God-man, His Lord, Jesus Christ – take courage, child, your sins are forgiven thee. All the misery of all the world, all pain, all disease, all violence and depravity and filth and poverty, all springs up from sin, from this inborn lawlessness of our hearts. So we suffer, so we die, so man separates Himself from His God and wallows in his own selfishness and ignorance. And with a word, Jesus takes it all away.

Every one of these words is pure treasure to the heart. Take heart, our translation says, literally, Take courage, be confident. You have no reason to doubt. The man who speaks these words is God Himself, who has taken on your humanity precisely to pay for your sins. If your heart doubts, if you feel cowardly and afraid because the thought of death fills you with uncertainty, then direct it to what is certain, what cannot lie, your Lord’s death for you. He didn’t die for Himself. He had no sin for which to pay. He has passed through death for you and so He has conquered it. He has borne your sin and if they were on Him they cannot be on you. He has risen from the dead and claimed all authority in heaven and on earth, authority over death itself, over sin, over hell. Be confident. Because He calls you child. He calls you a child of God, an heir with Him of everlasting life. He is your Brother. You are dear to Him. His Father is your Father and through Him you have full access to God. Because your sins are forgiven. In the plural. All of them, no matter how many they are, no matter how serious they have been, all of them covered by the blood of Jesus. Here is the fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder. Heaven is opened and here by the Spirit you see the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. Every grace, every good thing, all courage and power to fight against sin and trample over death and the devil, you see as heaven is opened to you and your Father smiles upon you and call you His child for the sake of His Son. This must be so, because His only Son has come down from heaven and speaks forgiveness to us.

From this all things follow. If for us God gave up His Son, we are dear and precious to Him and He will care for our every need. If we suffer, it is because He wants to draw us closer to Himself. It was the paralytic’s suffering that brought Him to Jesus. And so if not for that suffering he would never had heard those wonderful words, “Take courage, child, your sins are forgiven thee.” God is in control. If he gives you suffering, it is to lead you to Himself and to learn to value the forgiveness of sins as better than life. If you prosper, know that this is because God adds all good things to those who seek first His Kingdom. The paralytic first receives forgiveness. Then he receives health for his body. This is why the church must always meet, even and especially during pandemics. Pastors must always forgive sin and must always distribute the body and blood of Jesus to the poor of heart and sick in soul. It is from God’s mercy in Christ Jesus that all other good things come, including health. Let the sequence of events here be forever imprinted in our minds. First Jesus forgives. Then he adds bodily blessing. Bodily blessing without forgiveness is vapor, a lie, that will only fade away. But what comes from the forgiveness of sins ends not with death but with resurrection and everlasting life.

And we need also to see what the paralytic’s response is. What is everyone’s response, besides the godless scribes and pharisees. The godless still scoff at the forgiveness of sins. They claim it is blasphemy for a man to speak it. They refuse to acknowledge its power. Jesus proves the pharisees wrong by raising this man from his bed. He proves all the godless wrong by raising himself from the dead. Remember that. The Lord who said, “Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven them,” is the Lord who raised Himself from the dead. He is no one to be scoffed at or ignored. He has conquered your death and your sin and so he has every right in heaven and earth to forgive your sins and rescue from death. And He does it through his church, through men. The crowd got it right that day, when they said God gave such great power to men. He has. Jesus is the God-man. And he forgives your sins through the mouths of men. As little as the pharisees could scoff at Jesus’ raising that man from his bed, so little does the world have the right now to doubt the power of His words.

So forget all doubts and look instead at the beautiful response of those who recognize reality and delight in the forgiveness of sins. They do what Jesus says. First, the paralytic. Rise, Jesus, says, take up your bed and go home. And he rose and went home. Know that Jesus speaks the same words to you. You have been forgiven of every sin, no matter how grievous, no matter if it is that sin that you are afraid to utter out loud, it is forgiven. Now rise up from the mire and don’t go back. It is the pig who returns to the mire. The dog who returns to his vomit. You are no dog, no pig. You are a child of God. Christ has so called you, has so made you. Go home, Jesus says. Because the Christian life is lived at home as much as at church. Here your God forgives you. There you forgive one another. Here all sin was washed away. There you fight against your temper and your greed and your envy and your lust, knowing that Christ has lifted you up from these things and given you an example, that as He has loved you so you must love one another. He went home happy and content, praising God. So do you. Though the world be a total mess around you, let peace reign in your hearts because your heart is Christ’s and your house serves the Lord.

Join the crowds who saw this great wonder. They were afraid, not of death or sin, but of the God who became a man to destroy their power. They did not glorify a God who was stuck in heaven, but the God who had come down to earth to visit his people. They saw strange things, amazing things, and so we see today, that the God-man forgives sins, and stranger still, more amazing, that He feeds us with His flesh and His blood, that He makes us children of God, and because of this we will never die, but we will awake in His likeness, and see still more glorious things in the everlasting day. Amen.

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