Sermon - Trinity 19
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Text: Matthew 9:1-8
+Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Savior Jesus Christ+
The Pharisees hate Jesus for two reasons. First, Jesus makes pleasing God too easy. Second, Jesus makes pleasing God too hard.
The Pharisees are angered here today in the Gospel because Jesus just says to a man, “Your sins are forgiven.” That's too easy. What if this fellow had done some really bad things? What if he had cheated on his wife? What if he had stolen some widow's life savings? What if he had killed a man? It's just too easy. No one should get off the hook like that. And so the Pharisees are offended. Salvation with Jesus is too easy. It's cheap grace. Folks should work as hard as the Pharisees work to get on God's good side – there should be no short cuts. But it really is that easy. God really does forgive sinners.
Ah, but there's the other thing. The thing that makes salvation too hard for the Pharisees: they will have to repent and admit that they are sinners. For only sinners are allowed in the Church of Jesus Christ: as Jesus said, the Physician comes to heal the sick. But the Pharisees do not like the idea of lining up with the rest of the sinners. They like to think of themselves as a cut above. While most people ignore God's Word, the Pharisee's really try to keep it. While most folks reluctantly paid their offering to the Temple, the Pharisee's gladly tithed about 30% on their gross earnings. While most folks perhaps remembered to say their morning prayers, the Pharisees prayed out loud all day as they went up and down the street about their business. These guys take their faith seriously. They are doing their best. So they are offended when Jesus says it's not good enough. They are offended that they will still have to get in line with the sinners. The Pharisees are offended that they need God's pity and forgiveness as much as their neighbors.
And what of you, O Christian? There is a little Pharisee looking for room to grow in your soul. You get offended that guy three pews up dares show his face in church - because you know what he did. You secretly congratulate yourself on your relative holiness when compared with your husband. You think forgiveness is just too easy for all the folks at work or school. You chafe at the notion that you really need God's mercy as much as they do. Let us all, repent.
Salvation in Jesus really is that easy and it really is that hard. It is not easy to have your heart examined and confess your sin. This is what the word “confess” means: to say the same thing as God, to agree with God’s holy commandments especially when they accuse you. When your heart is examined by God’s Law and you confess your sins you are saying the same thing as God, agreeing with Him that your heart is corrupted with sin and evil. This is the first part of repenting: recognizing your sin. And once you are there, it really is not hard at all to receive salvation: for Jesus has had mercy on you. Jesus has assumed your human flesh and died for your sins and delivers His forgiveness to you with His Gospel and Sacrament. It really is that easy.
But still the Pharisee's cry out: This man blasphemes! For how can a man forgive sins? Well, the answer to that is right in front of them: Jesus, the man who is God. Jesus can forgive sins with a word because he has truly paid for them in deed with his very life and blood.
And with done, Jesus can do something else more miraculous still. For it was not enough for Jesus to proclaim the forgiveness of sins to those few people he met in his earthly ministry. It was not enough for Jesus to die on the cross to win forgiveness for the whole world. Jesus wants that forgiveness delivered to real people in real time. And so He commissions his ministers to go out in His stead with the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in John 20, “Jesus said to [the apostles] again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." 22 And when Jesus had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
And so we marvel that such authority has been given to men: to bring forgiveness to people by the authority of Christ. The God-man Jesus Christ sends out real flesh and blood men to bring his salvation to other, real flesh and blood people here in time in visible, tangible ways. So his ministers are sent out with the authority to forgive and retain sin, to baptize, to conduct the Lord's Supper. Such authority is not given to men because they are somehow better than others: just look at the disciples to see how often they sin and fail! But this is the Lord's way of reminding you how very real Jesus Christ’s incarnation is: Our heavenly Father doesn't send angels to baptize you or forgive you in absolution because he didn't come as an angel to save you. Our heavenly Father sends you a male called and ordained to do this, because Jesus came in the form of male to die for your sins and rise again.
So beloved, cling to the Lord's gifts of salvation that are delivered to you in the Church. For that is what this place is for: the delivery of God's gifts to God's people. Here in this place or one like it, you were baptized and brought into God's family. Here in this place, or one like it, you have confessed your sins and received absolution. Here in this place, again today, the Lord Jesus offers you his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of yours sins. Can it really be that easy? Yes, beloved the Lord has promised it. But it will also be hard. You will have your crosses to bear, your temptations and afflictions, your pride and fallen nature will try to get between you and Jesus. But cling to the Lord. Continue to hear his Word. Continue to hold fast to his free salvation. Continue to receive absolution and the Lord's Supper. For the Lord's grace is sufficient. He has given you these gifts to keep you close to him, and he will not let you go, in the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
+The peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard and protect you in body and soul through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. +