Our Lord Jesus Christ does not care only for the soul, but also for the body. It is not that He has redeemed the soul, but is willing to let the body perish. He is not content to create a heaven filled with disembodied spirits. No, He wants resurrection and perfection of our earthly bodies in glory. He wants us to live as we were meant to be from the beginning, with both body and soul cleansed and freed from sin forever.
We have needed this cleansing because both body and soul are sinful. We can see the results of this sin in both soul and body. Sicknesses come upon us, even tragic and serious afflictions such as the paralysis of a man that we see in the Gospel text. Eventually, our bodies die, reaping the harvest of the sins we have committed over our lifetime.
When Christ came, He had no need to suffer our sicknesses and pain. The life of the sinless Son of Man could have been completely free of illness and suffering. Yet He came to take our lives upon Him, so He also took upon Him our diseases and infirmities. He is not insensitive to our condition, since He has experienced it Himself. He can sympathize with our weakness. More than that, He even took upon Him the death that His holy life did not deserve. He did not have to suffer death at all. He suffered it nonetheless, out of love for us.
For He looked upon us and was moved by compassion. He saw us paralyzed by sin, unable to do anything useful before God. We were even worse than paralyzed, since we were delusional paralytics. We believed that we were perfectly fine by ourselves, even though we could do no good works before God. A physical paralytic knows his condition because it is very obvious. We spiritual paralytics could not see that we could not walk in paths of righteousness, nor could we lift our hands to help our neighbor in a way pleasing to God. Our counterfeit works, although they appeared real to us, were not real works in the sight of the Judge of all mankind.
But the paralytic who was brought to Jesus knew his condition. He knew not only his physical disability, but also his spiritual malady. The text says that he had faith. He did not merely have faith that Christ was a healer who could remove the paralysis. He also knew that he was a sinner, and depended on God's grace and mercy to redeem Him.
Christ heals this paralytic in both body and spirit. He gives the man absolution that erases all the man's sins forever. Then He also heals the paralysis so that the man is able to walk perfectly well. See how great a miracle it is - the man fully regains the use of his limbs. He does not have to relearn how to use them, nor does he have to exercise them for a time to reverse the weakness of atrophy. No, the man is fully capable of walking the moment Jesus speaks His mighty Word.
We also have our paralysis removed. The Absolution of Christ has been spoken upon us no less than it was spoken upon the paralytic. The very voice of Christ has declared us forgiven from all our sins, from the moment of our conception to the moment of our death.
This forgiveness gives us more than merely cleansing from sin. Where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation. Therefore we know that we shall be freed from the dreadful effects of sin upon our body. Since we are absolved by Christ, we shall see our bodies resurrected to eternal health.
Sometimes in this life, Christ gives us healing from the things that afflict us. Sometimes, He allows us to remain in our afflictions. But we know that whatever we suffer now is only temporary. He will, eventually, speak to us in the grave and say, "Arise and walk!" And we will do just as He says, for His Word is mighty and effective, even over death.
The Absolution of Christ has already given us eternal life in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. But we await the final consummation and healing of all our ills on the Last Day.
In this life, our spiritual paralysis is already removed. We are able to walk spiritually in paths of righteousness because the Lord has caused us to rise out of sin to live before Him. We are pleasing in His sight because of His death, and therefore we are able to do works of service that are real and good.
Always, we should keep this distinction straight. It is not our actions in themselves that please God. If the very same works were done without faith, no matter how good the works looked to us, they would be useless and unclean in the Father's eyes. Likewise, it is not the actions that earn the forgiveness of sins. On the contrary, we love much because He has forgiven us much. He Himself, through the power of His Gospel and His Spirit that always accompanies it, causes us to do the works that are pleasing.
So we are like the former paralytic. He got up and walked about, apparently under his own power. But it was the power of Christ that worked in his legs, causing him to move. We also do deeds of mercy and compassion. Yet it is not our goodness that is seen, but the goodness of Christ working in us.
So the Gospel does both. It forgives our sins on account of Christ, which is justification. It also lifts us out of our paralysis and sets us in motion, which is sanctification, the work of the Spirit to make us do good works. Without the Gospel, the good works wither and become stunted. They become dead works because they are done without faith.
But you are fully alive by God's grace. He has shown mercy to you and made you alive and active by His Word of forgiveness. He gives you good works to do, not under the slavery of the Law, but in the wonderful freedom of the Gospel.
So listen carefully and pay attention to the voice of your Savior as He forgives you. He is the One who took your flesh and redeemed it. He is the One who cared so much about your body and soul that He had to redeem both. So He took both upon Himself, as He became Man, possessing both human body and human soul. He had to take both in order to redeem both. He had to suffer in both upon the Cross. He suffered both physical and spiritual anguish far beyond our imaginations. Because He has done this, He has accomplished your healing, both physical and spiritual, both now and in the life to come. For what Christ does is always perfect, and He has saved you perfectly.
He even caused you to be brought to Him. He did not wait for you to come to Him, which would have been a long wait. The paralysis of sin prevented you from going anywhere, least of all to come to Christ, your Savior. Therefore He made sure that loving people of faith would carry you to Him. Then He stood over you, paralyzed and helpless as you were, and He spoke to you. "Your sins are forgiven," He said. Through that simple Word, He gave you complete forgiveness of every sin, salvation from death and the devil, and eternal life. So much power packed into so few words! Yet Christ has done it, for His Word is infinitely powerful.
Who would complain that it was not Christ in the flesh who did this? Christ did not appear visibly to you in the flesh given to Him from Mary in order to save you. No, He spoke to you through another man's flesh. Because He desires that the Gospel be freely spoken everywhere, He has given His authority to forgive to men. He has opened the flood gates so that salvation can flow like a mighty river to all.
So the Word you have heard spoken here is mighty to save you. Do not doubt this Word, for it is the very Word of Christ, as sure and certain as if spoken by God in heaven. God Himself has declared His mercy to you, the same mercy that His Son revealed and acted out upon the Cross, the same mercy that flowed in red rivers down His body on Calvary. This same mercy has entered your ears and declared you forgiven by the authority of God.
And the Spirit will always preserve you in the faith that seizes the promises of Christ, so that you may walk in confidence in the grace that you have received.
In the Name of this One true God, and to His glory, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
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