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Which is easier?

Matthew 9:1-8

Pastor David Ernst

19th Sunday after Trinity
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Oct 14, 2012 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In our text for today, friends of a paralytic brought him to Jesus, and they put him in front of the Lord on his bed. It was obvious, they anticipated the healing of this man's disease.

What did Jesus say? "Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven." How odd! Certainly his friends thought that his first need was to be healed of his paralysis. He probably thought so, too. But the Lord had a different perspective.

Why do we suffer disease? Because we live in a world tainted by sin. God created a good and perfect world, without pain, danger, sadness or death. The first humans, Adam and Eve lived in a garden, with plenty of food, no disease and no need for clothes. But, because of their disobedience, God cast them out of paradise into a world where they and their descendants found illness and death. The first disease was original sin.

Sin, in the simplest sense, is every thought, desire, word or action contrary to God's law. In a broader sense, any sin of the moment is the result of original sin, which is the total corruption of all human nature. This we have inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, through our own parents. Original sin accuses and condemns us to physical death and eternal damnation, and leaves us all with no real reverence and love for God, spiritually dead.

Look, physical illnesses are not always the punishment for specific sins of the moment. Perhaps they are the natural consequences of carnal vices, for example, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or sexual immorality. So Paul says in our epistle (Ephesians 4:17-28). "This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, by the hardness of their heart which having lost all sensitivity, they delivered unto lasciviousness, to eagerly commit all uncleanness."

However, it is possible to suffer a serious illness not because of a specific sin of the moment, but just because we live in a fallen world and we can not avoid all the pain and sadness of the human condition. Moreover, we are all sinners condemned to physical death. So where is the joy and hope in a physical healing when recovery is only for a while? It matters not in the long run, we will weaken and eventually die.

But, with the forgiveness of all our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, not only of our present sins, also the inheritance of original sin, we have every hope, first of eternal life with Christ and also in this earthly life. For if in Christ we can live as children of God, then life in this has a purpose. What we start here will bear fruit in eternity.

Therefore, our Lord recognized first the spiritual need of the paralytic, the good news of the forgiveness of his sins.

But there is something more. When Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic, certain of the scribes said within themselves, "This man blasphemes." Why? Only God can forgive all sins, because all sins are crimes against God and also only God knows all the secrets of the human heart.

Look, God is just and cannot act against His own divine nature. To obtain complete forgiveness of all the sins of humanity, someone had to meet the demands of God's justice. Therefore, the same righteous God promised to send a Savior to suffer and die instead of us all. This Savior is Jesus Christ.

So Jesus said to them, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven, or to say, Arise, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins (He said to the paralytic), Get up, take your mat and go home." Then the man got up and went home.

In truth, it was easier to show his divine power in the physical healing of the paralytic, because for the spiritual salvation of all, Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross. As true man, He could fulfill the whole law of God in our place, and as the Son of God could announce the good news that we are all declared righteous by faith in Him.

And the Lord has given to the church the authority to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in His place and by His command. We may receive absolution from the pastor as from God himself, without hesitation, firmly believing that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven through Jesus Christ.

May the peace that passes all understanding be with you forever. Amen.

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