Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
The Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon Text.:. Mark 2:1-12
Here we have the whole Christian life summarized in 12 verses. For this man, however, it all takes place in one day. For us it is stretched out over our lifetime. He is brought to Jesus; He forgives his sin; the man is raised up. This reality is also described in the explanation of the 3rd article of the Apostles’ creed.
At first, we see crowds. In the house no room; there is not even room outside the door. There is no easy approach to Jesus. Our eyes are moved quickly from the crowd to four men with a man lying upon a cot. They seek entrance but none is found. The men go to the roof and there begin to dig a hole through the roof. A hole large enough for a cot to be lowered through. Upon that cot a paralytic. A man incapable of moving; a man incapable for doing for himself. He was utterly dependent upon others, even to live. These four men bring this man to Jesus. In front of everyone, this man is lowered to where Jesus was. Lowered not only physically, but lowered emotionally even spiritually.
For what reason was this man brought to Jesus? He was sick; he was a paralytic. His home, by virture of his sickness, was this cot-this stretcher. He was confined due to his sickness to exist on his eventual death bed. Ah! They brought this man for healing; that he would possibly be cured from his paralysis and get off his death bed and live once again.
Jesus saw their faith (notice the plural). Only Jesus can see faith. Those crowds saw the deeds: bringing, digging, lowering...so did Jesus. The crowds can only see outward action not what is in the heart. (This is also true for us). He is being lowered so that Jesus can physically heal him. So it seems. Next, Jesus makes a remarkable statement: "son, your sins are forgiven." That’s not what is expected. This man needs physical help and Jesus speaks about forgiveness.
There is a deeper problem and its not a new. Jesus sees the real problem. In fact, it is a problem that goes back to the fall of Adam and Eve. We see it displayed when Adam and Eve hid in the garden. They hid because they were afraid. They were afraid to acknowledge that they had sinned. And when confronted, they blamed someone else. Ultimately, they blamed God.
Like this paralytic, we are incapable of coming to God. We seek cover away from God’s presence. There is not even a desire to gather among others much less to be before God Himself. He had no strength, no ability. What was left to him was to die physically broken and spiritual destitute with no one else to blame than himself. "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, My Lord, or come to Him."
And so we are brought, carried by others, in front of all, to the only location where life is given: To Christ. All other avenues have failed; literally dead ends. Jesus speaks and gives what is absolutely necessary: Absolution: Your sins are forgiven.
Yet amidst such heavenly gifts being given, there were some questioning and doubting His words. How can He say such things, "Your sins are forgiven," only God alone can forgive sins. True enough! "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Do you not remember that Jesus saw their faith? Do you not remember that Jesus knew what they were thinking in their hearts? Here are qualities that God alone possesses. But you know that Jesus is true God. You have no difficulty with what Jesus said. Or do you? "I believe that when the called ministers of God deal with us by His divine command, in particular when they exclude openly unrepentant sinners from the Christian congregation and absolve those who repent of their sins..., this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us Himself." The heavenly gift of forgivenness is given by our Lord to the Church. That gift is conveyed and bestowed through the Office of the Ministry. Christ’s words in the text for this morning are no different than the Holy Absolution given this morning: Your sins are forgiven. Christ is present here. Not in some abstract or general sense, but precisely where He has promised: "The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’" This man received what was truly needed: Forgiveness.
Last week Jesus pointed to Himself as the Sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Moses by inspiration had recorded the sacrifical system all pointing to the greater One: Jesus the Christ. When Jesus came to John he declared: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Jesus makes atonement by the shedding of His blood. His innocent suffering and death redeems, purchases us from all sin, death, and the power of the devil. By that fact, forgiveness is certain. That certainty is now given and bestowed by Christ in His church on earth. "In the same way, He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith."
To those thinking otherwise Jesus says: "Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘raise up, take your cot and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...’" For the teachers of the law and the crowds, what difference would they have seen in this man receiving forgiveness? Forgiveness, after all, is received by faith and not sight. Week in and week out we come into Christ’s presence. Christ and His forgiveness remains central, yet we walk out not seeing anything different, no change. At least, now yet. Nevertheless, we think: how seemingly useless, maybe even a waist of time. Until we look a bit closer at the text.
Christ tells the man to get up. But the word for "get up" is in fact the word for resurrection. This man is resurreceted by Jesus from even a more profound deadness than simply the body. By all outward appearances, this man seemed alive. How more wrong could we be? His resurrection from the cot displays the profound reality that he is a new creation brought about by the life-giving words of Christ. For where there is forgiveness, there is life and salvation. We see ahead of time, what this man receives, is what we already have...by faith: the resurrection of the body.
Day in and day out we lay down upon our cot; we rise up after a quiet night of slumber. Daily we die to sin in our baptismal waters; daily we arise from those waters a new creation. Maybe Jesus telling this man to take his cot home was to daily recall for him the place of his death to sin and the place of his resurrection.
Amazed were the crowds as they exclaimed: "We have never seen anything like this!" Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Fearful at first were the apostles but soon that fear turned to joy. Christ’s resurrection from His stone cot is the certainty of our forgiveness and with that the resurrection of our body from the dead. This man experienced in one day this reality. For us that reality is certain but stretches over a lifetime. Listen to the last two lines of the explanation of the 3rd article: "In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ." This is most certainly true.