Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My first comment on our text for today: Here is another story of an attempt to trick Jesus by men who rejected His message. Why a series of these stories? To show that at the time of Jesus He had enemies, those who do not believe in Him. Today we sometimes think that is Christ would be with us in a visible way, there would be no enemies of Christ. But our text says no, at that time were those who did not believe in Christ.
Why not? As St. Paul says in our epistle (Ephesians 4.17-28), "Having theit understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart: Who being past feeling the conscience, were delivered to the shamelessness with greediness and all uncleanness " They do not want to know Christ.; They not want to hear the Word of God. They are looking for reasons not to believe.
But in this story they did not confront Jesus directly, but thought bad things in their heads. It did not matter, because Jesus knew what was in their minds and hearts. Therefore, Jesus had a question for them. The important question in this story is What is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise, and walk?
Friends of a paralytic brought him to Jesus on his cot. How did Jesus respond? "Your sins are forgiven." And the scribes thought "This is blasphemous." Because only God can forgive sins. Christ spoke as if God Himself forgave the sins of the paralytic. And He wondered, then, what is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise, and walk? It's a miracle when suddenly a paralytic gets up and walks. But what is the greatest miracle?
Of course, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus healed the paralytic. What happened? He lived for a few years more, perhaps suffered other diseases, he finally died. But he died with forgiveness of his sins. So, he is living in God's presence forever. What is the best gift? The health of the body for a few years or eternal life? Forgiveness of sins requires more power than to heal the body. God has the power to do both, but often uses doctors to heal the body. Next Sunday is the day of St. Luke the Evangelist, who was a doctor as well. Today and on that day we give thanks for physicians. However, only God has the power and authority to forgive sins.
Well, let's understand how God has given this power and authority to His Church. Says the Lord in our text for today, "But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the paralytic). Arise, take up thy bed, and go home". Jesus Christ entrusted His power on earth to forgive sins to the church. John 20.23 says, "If you forgive sins, they are remitted. If retained, they are retained". Jesus was speaking to the apostles, but this is the office of the keys that belongs to the entire church.
Therefore, we believe in confession and absolution. Thus reads the Book of Concord, the summary of Lutheran beliefs, in Article XXV of the Augsburg Confession:
"The confession has not been abolished by the preachers on our side. The custom has been conserved to not give the sacrament to those who have not been examined and absolved. We diligently teach the people the word of absolution is comforting and to be taken in high esteem. Not by the voice or word of man who utters it, but the word of God, who forgives sin, because the absolution was pronounced in place of God and by the commandment of God."
Therefore, we begin each service with a general confession. We confess our sins against God and our neighbor together and publicly, in preparation to receive the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament. Also in our Lutheran church we have the right of private confession, but this is not required, as in the Roman Catholic church. We do not have to list all our sins since the last confession. We only must confess that we are sinners and ask God's forgiveness before receiving the sacrament. This is the reason for our practice of confession and absolution.
And when a called and ordained pastor announces the forgiveness of God, in place and command of God, then, it has the same authority. When Jesus said, "But that you may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins," he used the title "Son of Man" which emphasizes His human nature. As true man, Christ had the power to heal the paralyzed and forgive your sins too. He has the authority as true God to forgive sins, but pronounced the absolution as Son of Man. And as the Son of Man He gave authority to other men, the apostles.
Today, the church, the owner of the office of the keys by command of Christ, calls men to preach the Word publicly and to administer the sacraments as Christ commanded. In private, if someone has done something against you, and ask your forgiveness as a Christian you have the power to forgive in the name of Christ. However, to announce forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ and his church is reserved for the servants called and ordained by the church.
This is called the Office of the Keys, because the church has the power, by the proclamation of Law and Gospel, to open or close the doors of the kingdom of heaven. In our reading of the Old Testament (Genesis 28.10-17), Jacob says "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and gate of heaven.” For in Bethel, a place in the desert, he saw in a dream a ladder to heaven with God the Father almighty above and the angels ascending and descending.
Also this place is the house of God and gate of heaven, because Christ is present in His body and blood, and by the confession and absolution paradise is open to us. But it is not open to those who do not confess and repent of their sins.
The forgiveness of sins is the greatest gift of God. The church will always have the power to proclaim the forgiveness of sins. For a while, to establish the authority of Christ and his church, Jesus and the apostles did miracles, such as healing the paralyzed, but this kind of wonder is not necessary for our testimony today. We have all that is necessary in the written Word and the sacraments. And we have the promise of eternal life, not just healing of the body. Therefore, we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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