Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sermon for 10/14/12--Trinity 19

A Man Forgives

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  

Jesus forgave and healed a paralyzed man. The scribes were outraged because only God can forgive sins. But the crowds were amazed, and they glorified God who had given such authority to men. What amazed them, even more than seeing a paralyzed man suddenly able to walk, was that a man could forgive sins. With that forgiveness, every accusation of the Devil against the forgiven man is dropped. That's what forgiveness does. It turns everything around. It rescues us from eternal punishment, cancels every accusation, destroys all evidence for our judgment and transfers us from the darkness of eternal despair to the everlasting life and light of God Himself. The Jews thought only God could do that, but here was a man doing it! Of course, as we heard last week, Jesus is true God and true man. But this is the same authority Christ then gave to His church. 

The center, the big deal of the Christian faith is the forgiveness of sins purchased for us with the blood of Jesus. The paralyzed guy and his friends come so that Jesus can heal him and make him walk. But Jesus gives him something extra. He forgives the man's sins, granting him everlasting life. Jesus is all about forgiving sins. Sins bring condemnation. They are the reason we are separated from God. But Jesus came to forgive sins, to cancel debt. This forgiveness comes at the price of Jesus' blood. On the cross, Jesus has our sins. Every last thought, word, deed and curse upon us is taken by our Lord and washed away by the blood He sheds. Every last accusation of the Devil is turned aside. Every punishment of sin is lifted from us because Jesus is now the lightning rod of God's judgment. By His death, Jesus takes away sins. By His resurrection He triumphs over death. Sin has been overcome. 

And then Jesus makes sure that this forgiveness is delivered to us and bestowed upon us. How do we get this forgiveness? How does what happened at the cross become ours? Praise be to God who has given such authority to men! By the hand of your pastor, you were washed at the font with God's Word and water. By the mouth of your pastor your sins are forgiven every time the absolution is spoken either publicly or privately. By the hand of a man, your pastor, Christ places His body and blood into your mouth for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. The same thing Jesus says to the paralyzed man is the same thing you pastor says: Your sins are forgiven. When your pastor, called and ordained by Christ, preaching and teaching Christ's word, forgives you your sins, then have no doubt that they are forgiven. How can this be? It is so because God has given such authority to men! The forgiveness your pastor speaks to you is Christ's own forgiveness. What Jesus won at the cross, it's your pastor’s job to deliver and give to you. Our Lord doesn't keep you guessing as to whether you sins are forgiven. He speaks His word of forgiveness plainly through the mouth of your pastor who says, “In the stead and by the command of Christ, I forgive your sins.”

But there's more. The authority given to men to forgive sins is given to you, too, because you are a new creation in Christ. You have the same power, from Christ Himself, to lift the burden of sin from others. Think about this carefully! Parents, when your children are crushed by the wrong they've done, scared that you don't love them, worried that they're out of the family, forgive them! Lift from them the burden of wondering whether their sins have made your and God stop loving them. Husbands and wives, when your spouse is troubled that whatever they've done or failed to do means you have every right to stop loving them and throw them out the front door, then forgive them! Lift from them that burden of their sins which brings them to despair. Lift them up with such forgiveness as you have received, that they are comforted. Pay close attention to people around you. You will see that most are struggling with the burden of their sins. Something they've done. Something they've failed to do. The devil can get at consciences so easily, fooling people into thinking their sins are enough for God to stop loving them and have nothing to do with them. As a baptized child of God, do your job! Exercise the authority Christ has given to cast down Satan and rescue sinners: tell them that their sins are forgiven. Forgive them if their sins are against you and deliver to them the forgiveness of Christ. When someone sins against you and they tremble to seek your forgiveness, give it gladly! And rejoice that Christ has given such authority to you! Receive the forgiveness Christ has for you so that in confidence you may forgive others with that same comforting gift. 

Christ's word of forgiveness, spoken to us by men, truly rescues us from our sins and makes us, like the paralyzed man, leap up and glorify God. And just as the paralyzed man could now walk and go home, so now we, forgiven of our sins, go home to be with Christ. Let us glorify God, who has given such authority to men! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.                

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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