Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our reading of the Old Testament (Genesis 28: 10-17) continues the theme from last Sunday, when we celebrated the day of Saint Michael and all the angels.
God's holy angels care about the needs of God's children on earth. Angels accompany believers and protect them in all their ways. This dream of Jacob was a wonderful revelation from God, with a confirmation of the messianic promise given by the mouth of Isaac, his father. The ladder was on earth, where Jacob lay, apparently alone and abandoned, but at the top was the almighty God, whose promises never fail.
Our Lord quoted this passage from Genesis in John 1:51. "And he said to him: Truly, truly, I say to you: From now on you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." So Jesus says to Nathanael. By associating Jacob's ladder With the Son of Man, Jesus is saying, "I am the ladder”. He is the only one who can serve as the ladder between the divine and the human, because the only being who is true God and true man.
Something far more beautiful than the ladder that Jacob saw in his dream has now joined earth and heaven: the complete atonement through the Savior's blood. The angels of God are delighted to serve the one who descended for the salvation of the world.
The title "Son of Man" is found in the messianic prophecy of Daniel 7: 13-14. The description clearly shows that the Son of Man is a distinct person from the Father, but the fact of his dominion and eternal power is a direct argument in favor of his divinity.
In our text for today, Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, as in the parallel verses, Mark 2: 1-12 and Luke 5: 17-26.
Jesus had returned to the western side of the Sea of Galilee, to the city of Capernaum, where he established his headquarters during his ministry in Galilee. As soon as he got there, the fact was known and crowds of people began to gather in the house and on the street. The four men who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus worked very hard. First, they had to take him to the roof of the house. Then they had to cut a hole in the ceiling just above Jesus to put the sick man in front of Jesus. Their faith in Jesus led them to do this.
The wicked scribes and Pharisees had come from Jerusalem to Galilee, a long journey, to catch Jesus. Mark 2: 6 tells us that the enemies of Jesus were sitting. We know it was a crowded room because the four men had to bring the paralyzed man down from the roof in front of Jesus. People respected these leaders and therefore awarded them seats of honor. But they had evil hearts.
It was not a rude interruption that they attempted here, but their objection, to the omniscient mind of Christ, was as open as if it had been shouted at the top of their lungs. They brought the accusation of blasphemy against the Lord, of an impious assumption of divine rights and powers.
His question to them: both being equally easy to say, which requires greater power and authority, which would prove the strongest argument regarding divine omnipotence, healing of the body, or healing of the soul? God could make a paralytic walk. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus had already forgiven the paralytic of his sins. The enemies of Jesus could not see that with their eyes. But they could see the man get up and walk. Only the Gospel can create faith. But miracles help people who are weak in their faith.
The right and authority to forgive sins implies the power and ability to heal mere bodily ailments. If Jesus had been guilty of blasphemy, he could not have had the authority to heal the sick by a peremptory order. The miracles of Jesus were essential features of his mission.
Furthermore, God, through Christ, has given his church the power to forgive sins on earth. It is the peculiar power of the church, by which the sins of repentant sinners are remitted to them. This is what Lutherans call The Office of the Keys, the fifth main part of the Catechism.
This authority functions as a key that opens heaven through the forgiveness of sins, or closes it through the retention of forgiveness. Of course, according to James 5:16, all Christians can confess their sins to one another. Before our brother we must confess all the sins that we have committed against him and receive forgiveness.
Also, Christian congregations, by mandate of Christ, call pastors to exercise the office of keys publicly in the name of Christ and his church. When the duly called ministers of Christ, by his divine mandate, absolve those who repent of their sins and promise to make amends, also when they exclude manifest and unrepentant sinners, we believe that this is so valid and true, also in heaven, as if our Lord Jesus Christ himself were dealing with us.
In this confession and absolution, we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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