Nineteenth Sunday After Holy Trinity
Title: Be of Good Cheer
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Savior Jesus Christ. (Amen)
It is written: So Jesus got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Jesus a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.
Let us pray: Creator Father, Your Son tells a paralytic to be of good cheer by forgiving his sins, which is much harder than healing his paralysis. O Lord, forgive our sins so that we may be of similar good cheer regardless of our physical fitness or fraility; in the name of Jesus. (Amen)
Jesus had most recently cured a demon possessed man in the country of the Gergesenes. It was that vivid scene when Jesus command a legion of demons to depart from the man and go into a herd of pigs. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water.
So Jesus got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city, because many people witness Jesus cast out many unclean spirits from one man. Jesus cast those unclean spirits into a herd of unclean animal; pigs to be exact. Those pigs ran off a cliff and died. Those people, who witnessed this exorcism, begged Jesus to leave their town. So Jesus left.
Then behold, some men brought to Jesus a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw the faith of those men, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” A few men believed in Jesus. What did they do? Those faithful ones brought their unbelieving friend to Jesus. The unbelieving one happened to be paralyzed, too.
This morning the Holy Spirit has brought us to Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who gathers sinners before Jesus. The Holy Spirit trusts Jesus to give you a clean conscience so that you may be of good cheer. You are baptized from unclean spirits by the Holy Spirit. You believe in Jesus so you don’t send Jesus away from you. Rather, faith clings to Jesus. Baptism and faith give you a clean conscience.
To use a rough example. Imagine if the windows of your house were smeared with mud. You wouldn’t know if the sun was shining or if it was overcast. Day after day, that would be depressing. But, with clean windows you can see the sunshine and you can also feel the sun’s warmth on your face.
To press a rough example, so it is with your conscience. Muddied with unbelief, you have a dirty conscience. You cannot see that the Son of God loves you. You cannot receive His grace and mercy. Why? Because you have a dirty conscience.
Only God can forgive your unbelief.
Only God can give you a clean conscience.
Only God can forgive you your sin.
Which makes the next verse understandable to us. It is written: 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”
It is an accusation heard in this congregation from time to time. At the beginning of the service, some people hear me say, “I forgive you all your sins” and are offended. Only God can forgive sins. How can that pastor say, “I forgive you.” Even, how can anyone say, “I forgive you” when we all know that only God can forgive sins?
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then Jesus said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And the man arose and departed to his house.
The forgiveness of sins is key to a good conscience. Martin Luther, the Christian reformer, made a helpful distinction about the forgiveness of sins. It helps to know what God promises to do but also how He invites pastors and people into His work. Luther writes:
28...“The forgiveness of sins is of two kinds: The first is to drive sin from the heart and fill the heart with grace; this is the work of God alone. The second kind is the declaration of the forgiveness of sin; this you can do to those around you. But in this passage Jesus Christ does both. Jesus gives the Holy Spirit into the heart of the paralytic and externally Jesus declares forgiveness with the word, which is a declaration and public preaching of the internal forgiveness. 29 All men who are Christians and have been baptized, have this power (to declare forgiveness). For with this they praise Christ, and the word is put into their mouth, so that they may and are able to say, if they wish, and as often as it is necessary: Behold! God offers you His grace, forgives you all your sins; be comforted, your sins are forgiven; only believe and you will surely have forgiveness. This word of consolation shall not cease among Christians until the last day: Your sins are forgiven, be of good cheer.” Such language a Christian always uses and openly declares the forgiveness of sins. For this reason and in this manner a Christian has power to forgive sins.” 30 Therefore, if I say to you, Your sins are forgiven, then believe it as if God Himself had said it to you.” So far Luther.
Where does God give Christians this power to forgive sins? Jesus promises in Matthew 18, “I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Where does God give Christian pastors this power to forgive sins? Jesus commands His apostles in John 20, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
31 Now if there were no man on earth to forgive sins, and there were only law and works what a weak and miserable thing a poor troubled conscience would be. But now when God adequately instructs everyone, so that you are able to say to others: Your sins are forgiven you, then..”
The mud is removed from the window to your conscience. Then you can trust God’s Son, Jesus. Then you can receive the grace and mercy of God Himself. What a beautiful day today becomes!
...31 On this account we are defiant against unbelief and boastful against sin, so that we can say to our anxious and distressed brothers and sisters on account of their sins: Be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven. Although I cannot give you the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus (which only God can give), I can still declare them to you. And trusting this God given declaration, you have both the Holy Spirit and faith. Therefore those who believe these Words praise and glorify God, even as they do here in the Gospel. For...
8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard and keep you in body and soul with a clean conscience so that you may be of good cheer; through Jesus Christ, our Savior. (Amen)