St. Matthew 9:1-8 The First Sunday after Michaelmass, 2016 A.D.
Passage: Matthew 9:1–8
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
The man is paralyzed, helpless. He cannot come to the Lord Jesus Christ or believe in Him. Others must carry him. He cannot even raise himself up to receive what the Lord gives, he is bedridden, helpless. There is nothing he can do to change his horrible condition.
"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." He who reads the hearts of men, He who sees the lust, corruption, hate, greed and idolatry in the hearts of His fallen creatures, looks on this miserable group offering up a paralyzed man - and He has mercy. It is a pitiful processional, a sin-ridden march that brings not treasures or valuables or things of beauty to offer up to the Lord, but rather the most pathetic, undeniable proof of man’s fallenness.
And yet in this group that can do no more than beg, the Lord sees the faithful, those in whom His Word has worked, willing to scale buildings and tear open roofs to gain access to Him who is the object of their faith, the only One who can truly heal. And heal He does.
"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." Certainly many there, and many today, would have asked for physical healing rather than the forgiveness of sins. But the Christ sees what plagues the man eternally. That is more important than his temporal disability. The greater healing is accomplished.
The teachers of the law react immediately. A man who forgives sins? Surely this man blasphemes, for only God can forgive sins. The One who created man, the One who placed the East and the West at the creation of the world, He alone can remove sins. So by His Words this Man, this Nazarene, claims Divine powers. He makes Himself God.
Indeed. He is Jacob’s ladder, the God Man, the Seed of Jacob from Jacob’s flesh, who bridges heaven and earth, the Son of Man upon whom the angels ascend and descend. No, man could not achieve heaven. But in love, in mercy, unwilling to let His chosen perish, Christ bridges heaven and earth. He came down to earth and to save fallen man by the forgiveness of sins. He takes on the flesh of man, your flesh, to redeem you.
For you too have suffered from paralysis. You have become numb to your sins. Sins that were unspeakable only a few decades ago are now manifest publicly, and not only are they not condemned, they are promoted as good and right. We live in a society that encourages perversion, a fallen world which catechizes your children and gradually erodes your morals.
That is proof that sin has so completely infected you that, like a paralytic, you have lost feeling in the member most affected by sin - your heart. Numbed by your sin, your conscience dulled by the doctrines of the fallen world, you have become convinced that your sins really aren’t that bad. You have come to believe that if God is truly loving, He will simply overlook your sins.
But that is a fatal mistake. It is the wild imagining of fallen, distorted reason. God is holy. Sin cannot stand in His presence. No matter what the perverse world finds acceptable, no matter what pundits and activists and political candidates promote and support, sin will meet with punishment. Sinners will be judged, not according to the evil fantasies the world makes up, not
according to what seems popular or garners votes, but all men, you, O Sinner, will be judged according to the clear Word of God. So all men are like that paralytic - without excuse before God, helpless. You could not come to God. You were paralyzed in sin, indeed dead in sin. So in love God came to you. He came to sinners and paralytics, to idolaters and Pharisees, to politicians and activists. He came to those that hated Him. He came to those who would murder Him.
He suffered worse torment than the paralytic man, for as He was nailed to the cross no one came to his aid. He was carried, lifeless, not to healing but to the tomb. He willingly died to pay for the sins of the whole world, even the sins of those who crucified Him. He died that their sins might be forgiven. He died that your sins, all your sins, be forgiven.
He who created man became a man in order to die, in order to redeem His creation, in order to build the Kingdom of Heaven through the forgiveness of sins. As the witnesses watched the healing of the paralytic, the kingdom of heaven was surely among them.
“…they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.” The God Man Jesus Christ had authority on earth to forgive sins. That is the authority to give life. But He did not keep this authority to Himself. He gave it to His disciples when He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." So today when a Called and Ordained servant of the Word, by virtue of his Office, proclaims the forgiveness won by Christ on the cross, that forgiveness is real.
The forgiveness you receive this day in this Mass is real – as real as the forgiveness the paralytic received from the Lord Himself. The healing you receive is just as real, although it cannot be seen. The forgiveness you receive in this House of God is as true, as valid, as efficacious, as immediate, and as Divine - as if Christ Himself speaks it.
The Promise is the Word of God, the glorious Gospel. That Word creates faith, and by that same faith you receive Christ’s forgiveness. It is easier to miraculously cure a paralytic than to forgive sins. Physical healing is the lesser miracle. The Lord works a greater miracle in you.
To His forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins, the Lord added a visible element,. He also healed his physical paralysis. He did so that the witnesses might see and believe that the sins of the faithful are forgiven. Our Lord does the same in the forgiveness of your sins. To His Holy Word He adds water in the Sacrament of Baptism.
In the Sacrament of the Altar, you receive the visible, tangible elements of bread and wine, with the Body and Blood of the same Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, the signs of bread and wine pointing to the Sacramental Presence of the Christ who instituted the Meal.
And where the forgiveness of sins is, where the Holy Sacraments are, where the very Word of God is, there is the Holy Spirit, and there is the One, Holy, catholic and Apostolic Church. And in this one true Church you receive not the hope of eventual forgiveness, but the confidence of forgiveness and salvation here and now. You receive the justification won for you by Christ’s resurrection.
"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you... Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.” The same Lord that healed the paralytic, the Lord that heals you, has gone before you to prepare your house, that heavenly home which you have now by faith, but which you will enter on the last day. And healed, as you journey on the way to that eternal home, you pause today to be fed by your Lord, as He bids you eat His body and drink His blood.
God’s Word is here. His Sacraments are here. Forgiveness is here. Christ is here. "Surely the LORD is in this place; How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.