Online Worship for Epiphany Two, Sunday January 17, 2021
Sermon for Epiphany Two – Sunday January 17, 2021
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Matthew 9:1–8 (NKJV)
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 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.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who bore our burden of sin on the cross,
Who alone can remove our guilt from us,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
It happened in the village of Capernaum, a fishing village on the northwest bank of the Sea of Tiberias, also called the Lake of Galilee. It was perhaps the year 30AD, and four men trudged through the streets of the city carrying a common burden. Their burden was a fifth man, a paralyzed man on a pallet, a makeshift bed (Mark 2:3).
When they arrived at their destination, they discovered a problem. When they came to the house in which Jesus of Nazareth was speaking, it was full of people. As is often the case with crowds, no one was willing to give up their vantage point; so, the four men and their burden were on the outside looking in.
They made their way up onto the roof of the house. They cleared away a portion of the roof and gently lowered their burden into the room below in to the presence of Jesus.
We all have our favorite Bible Accounts for different reasons. This one is one of my favorites and it should be one of yours too. For you see, what happened in Capernaum has lasting meaning for sinners like you and me to this very day. There were five men with one burden…a burden that only one person could bear up and take away.
Nearly every Sunday we confess, “I believe in the Forgiveness of Sins.” May God the Holy Spirit grant that these words may never be thoughtless or empty words, but the expression of a childlike faith, personal confidence in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.
We begin with the prayer of Jesus Himself: “Sanctify them by your truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth.” Amen.
Next Sunday in our Bible Class we will take up a study of the Gospels, the four historical books that tell the life of Jesus.
It is of note that this account is recorded in three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). While the Evangelists Mark and Luke tell us how the paralyzed man came to be in a crowded room with Jesus, The Gospel of Matthew cuts to the chase, telling us simply that an unnumbered group of people brought a paralyzed man to Jesus, lying on a bed.
The Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus saw more than the paralyzed man and his bed. Jesus of Nazareth was more than the son of Mary, He was also the Son of God. He could see past the façade of the human appearance into the heart. All of the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus saw in their hearts what no man can see. Its stated so matter-of-factly that we probably don’t see it for what it is – a miracle.
Jesus saw that each of the five men trusted in Him. Yes, all five. There is no good reason, no hint that we should leave out the paralyzed man himself. Jesus knew – as God – that these people believed in Him. Jesus knew that the man lying on the bed was sorry for his sins and trusted in Him for forgiveness. Jesus immediately did something about it.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
The Paralyzed Man wasn’t only a burden to the other four. He had his own burden to bear…being paralyzed didn’t exempt him from being a sinner and feeling guilt.
Moreover, it was commonly believed in those days (as it is still believed in our world today) that sickness and disease are the result of specific sin. If a woman was unable to have children, or a person came down with leprosy, it was assumed that they were being judged by God for some sin. It was what Job’s wife and friends assumed when his life seemed to fall apart in a day. It was what people thought about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with the sacrifices and the 18 people upon whom a tower fell in Siloam (cf. Luke 13:1-5).
Jesus own disciples bought into this idea from time to time. On one occasion they came upon a blind man and asked Jesus (John 9:2, cf. also, Luke 13:1-5):
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus explained, as only God can, that the man wasn’t born blind because of some sin committed by him or his parents. This had specifically befallen him so that in healing him God would be glorified (John 9:3-7).
It still happens today that people look at the external circumstances of other people and assume that they must have done something wrong to deserve it.
While some sins have consequences that remain even after being forgiven (e.g. Sexual Diseases, cf. Romans 1:26-27) it is dangerous business to assume that we know the reason why God has allowed something to happen. We don’t know if this man was born paralyzed or whether it was a recent development. Still, as a paralyzed man, this man knew what people commonly thought. He had plenty of time to mull things over in his own mind…which is often a bad thing.
If you were to suddenly become paralyzed, being unable to move wouldn’t be your only burden. Everyday, you would have opportunity to ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” “Did I do something to deserve this?” “Is God angry with me?” In time, your paralysis would only be a small part of the problem.
In our ignorance…we see only the physical problem of the man. Jesus, saw beyond the physical to the spiritual. He saw the man’s guilt. He saw the man’s sin. He saw his greatest need with a clarity that we never could. He addressed the greater problem first:
“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
There is tenderness and comfort in these words that just doesn’t seem to come across in the English. Jesus didn’t use the typical word for son, but actually referred to the paralyzed man with a word that means ‘child’ as in ‘my child.’ He told him, your sins are sent away…as in…they won’t ever be found again, they are gone for good.
Jesus didn’t attach any strings. He didn’t say, ‘If you say you are sorry, I’ll think about it.’ ‘If you try hard to be a good person, I’ll put in a good word upstairs.’ He didn’t say, ‘There is a coupon today and you can get half-off your sins.’ He didn’t say, “Eventually, if people pray enough, you’ll get out of purgatory.”
Jesus didn’t do anything to confirm or prove it. He didn’t touch the man or hug him. There was no visible evidence to confirm that what Jesus said was true. He simply said, “Your sins are sent away.”
In fact, if you’ll notice, Jesus was the only one who said anything. If the someone in the crowd or the man himself or one of his friends said something…it isn’t recorded.
Praise God, right!? Well, not everyone believed it. The Holy Spirit reveals that immediately the Scribes present were offended, they believed that Jesus was promising something He had no right or authority to deliver. They believed that only God can forgive sins…and they were right about that…the problem was that they didn’t believe that Jesus was God.
But they didn’t say anything; they kept it to themselves. They thought to themselves in their hearts:
“This Man blasphemes!”
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said,
“Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Can you imagine their shock and surprise when Jesus turned to them and corrected them for what they were thinking? The Gospel of John (John 2:24-25) reveals that Jesus knew what was in the heart of man. Jesus is fully human and fully God. As God He knew all things; but he didn’t always use His omniscience. On this occasion, he did.
Honestly, the fact that Jesus revealed that He knew what they were thinking ought to have moved them to individually ask another question: “If Jesus knows what I’m we are thinking, doesn’t this prove that He is God?”
They didn’t believe that Jesus could forgive sins, because they didn’t believe Him to be God. They were about to be given more proof.
First, Jesus asked them a question; even offering two pertinent options:
5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?
Jesus DIDN’T ask which was easier TO DO. The fact of the matter was that both forgiving someone sins and healing paralysis required the authority and power of God to achieve.
Jesus asked which was easier TO SAY. He asked the scribes, respected human beings, which statement was easier to say.
It is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” After all, who can dispute it? Who can argue that there are still sins remaining to be forgiven? There is no number of sins being tabulated and visibly listed above our heads like in a comic strip. There is no spiritual host to turn and point to the big board and say, “Survey says…oh, sorry you’ve still got sins!”
On the other hand, if Jesus said, “Arise and walk” to the paralyzed man…and he didn’t the results would be catastrophic! Everyone would see that Jesus word was without power and authority. It was most definitely easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you…from a human point of view.
Jesus didn’t give them an opportunity to answer…but turned from them to speak again to the paralyzed but recently forgiven man.
6 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.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
Jesus put Himself to the test in front of those who accused Him of sin. It would have been crazy, even self-destructive if Jesus had been what his enemies imagined, a self-delusional human being. He was a human being; but he was also the Son of God. There was no pill, no touch. Jesus simply told a man who was paralyzed. ‘Get up, pick up your bed, go home.’
If the man did nothing…Jesus promise ‘Your sins are sent away’ is proven empty.
If the man remained paralyzed…Jesus would be proven a fraud and blasphemer.
The man did as he was told…enabled by the word of Jesus. The same Jesus, today, still forgives sinners in the same way -- by word of mouth. The glorified and ascended Jesus still has this same power and authority as the Son of God, the Redeemer of Humankind.
In the case of the paralyzed man, Jesus healed the soul and then the body. He reminds us that one’s relationship to God is more critical than one’s relationship with the body, the tent in which we dwell. He reminds us that our message as Christian missionaries first concerns reconciliation with God, through forgiveness. He reminds us that if the soul is not reconciled to God then the body – whatever its health or ability – is destined for hell.
Jesus doesn’t always heal the body. However, He does promise to heal the soul. He promises that anyone who comes to Him will not be cast out or sent away (John 6:35-37). This He alone can do because He bore our sins in His body on the cross so that we might be forgiven.
Jesus doesn’t only forgive sinners; he authorizes His forgiven people to proclaim His forgiveness to others. In the Catechism we call it the ‘Office of the Keys’ (cf. Matthew 16:19-20). The same Jesus promises to this very day to stand behind his people with His forgiveness, which He purchased and won on the Cross. We are to tell those who confess that they are sorry for their sins and trust in Jesus (like the paralyzed man) that their sins are forgiven.
After Jesus arose from the dead, He authorized his people of every age, saying (John 20:23):
23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
When you called me to be your pastor, you called me to do this very thing. You called me – a sinful man – to tell you, when you confess your sins and faith in Jesus, that your sins are forgiven. You called me – a sinful man – to tell those who continue in sin among us that their sins remain, and are not sent away. This message isn’t only given to me, but also to you.
Listen carefully and know that I do not dispense my own personal forgiveness…you have no need of that unless you sin against me personally. I am only a man, one called to proclaim that Jesus died for sinners, and that those who sorrow over sin and trust in him stand forgiven.
If I were offering to forgive sins myself, it would be blasphemy, because the authority and the power does not reside in me. I didn’t live for you, die for you and rise again. The one who sent me did.
When I announce absolution or forgiveness, I only proclaim to you what Jesus won for you. The words may come from my mouth, but they aren’t mine. These words come from Jesus, the same Jesus who both forgave and healed a paralyzed man…and who rose again to confirm that our sins are forever forgiven.
This is for real – from Jesus – whether spoken in absolution or announced in the words of institution.
Therefore, bring your burdens to Jesus (not to me): Sins of word, thought and deed. Bring your pride and your hatred to Jesus, but do it honestly in faith. Bring your guilty conscience to Jesus and lay it all before Him. He will clean your slate, forgive your sins…no strings attached.
Confess boldly, “I Believe in the Forgiveness of sins”…not because you’ve seen it…but because you know and trust that He has the authority, the power and the willingness to forgive. He has made atonement for your sins and for the sins of the whole world. When you confess your sins to Him in faith, whatever they are - those sins stand forgiven.
Five men came to Jesus with one common burden – not the paralyzed man – but each their own sin. Good thing they came to Jesus…because He’s the only one who can bear that burden.