Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. (Psa 32:1)
Text: Matthew 9:1-8
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. And behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 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.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God who had given such power to men.
“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Christ didn’t take these words away with Himself when He left the earth. If He had, then they would be gone from us forever. What am I saying: taken with Himself? As if Christ had left us! No, just as these are living words that never pass away, so our Lord Jesus Himself is here among us with these words until the end of time. When repentance and forgiveness of sins are preached in His name, then the repentant soul believes and finds peace in Jesus’ blood, since it is the Lord Himself who speaks these words: “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” If He were not there and if His divine voice did not sound forth in our preaching, then it could not drive out sin and the devil from the hearts of His hearers. Let every minister of the Gospel remember that the Lord Himself is with him when He sends us to preach, so that he “speaks as the oracles of God!” In the same way the Lord is with the words of forgiveness in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
And for those who feel burdened by their sins and do not dare to take the comfort offered them when they hear the general proclamation or read the Word themselves, He has given private absolution, in which we proclaim to the anxious soul that confesses sin and prays for grace full forgiveness by the Lord’s Word. When David confessed his sin, Nathan said: “The Lord also has put away your sin, you shall not die” (2Sa 12:13). These were God’s own words, and who can doubt that it came true as the Word says? When Jesus said to the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven you,” weren’t they really forgiven? The Word is just as true when it is spoken to you in absolution, for it is the same Word that Jesus spoke, God’s own Word that He has given His Church to speak to poor sinners, in which He Himself is present, though unseen, – unseen, because faith is necessary for our salvation. Or isn’t it true that He gave His disciples this full power: “Go therefore and preach the Gospel to every creature,” and again: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”?
“But do all who are absolved receive forgiveness of sins?” We say that everything comes by faith. Whoever does not believe is already condemned, for he makes God a liar. Those who in their own heart refuse this grace and only yearn for the world, and those who in their heart say “No” and with the scribes in our text call absolution by men blasphemy, they don’t receive that forgiveness at all. But precisely because faith alone can receive grace and because it is so dangerous to despise such a gift of the Lord and to deny this saving truth of God, therefore we ought in our heart to instruct one another about it and by revelation of the truth encourage one another to believe. If you still do not feel your sin with regret and pain, then I beg and encourage you by the love of Jesus that you must repent and come to the knowledge of the truth. For whoever does not know his sin with such godly sorrow that he must go to Jesus and receive mercy, has no life, but belongs either to the Pharisees or the Sadducees or the many unthankful people. But if you acknowledge your sin, and pray for grace, then you no longer have to look here and there to your own works or feelings to come to faith and peace, but let yourself be brought to Jesus just like the paralytic, and hear the comfort of forgiveness in the Word He spoke which is repeated to you by His servant. You don’t believe that the word that we speak is the Word He spoke with His own mouth? But then where does the word of forgiveness come from, which was heard, is heard, and will be heard in His Church until the end? Where does it come from? You say: “Well, I don’t know if He really wanted to say it to me.” Then I would ask you one question: Who stirred up the prayer for mercy in your soul? Do you dare say that it is anyone but He? And yet you say that perhaps He has forgotten you or your prayer, which He Himself has worked, or that He might not listen! O foolishness and lying unbelief! Let me ask you one more thing: Of all those who came to Jesus because of their sin, can you find one whom Jesus refused? But He should refuse you? He Himself says: “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (Joh 6:37). Yet you may say He might cast you out? Away, shameful unbelief, that speaks contrary to the truth!
Thank God! The truth shall remain true: The Lord Jesus is here in His own Word with the forgiveness of sins for all poor souls, and on that Word we will build, and defy sin and death and the kingdom of Satan. On His Word and nothing else we will rely and let Him be right in everything.
But help us, Lord Jesus, for You know the unbelief of our hearts. Don’t let go of us. Draw us to Yourself. Give us the grace of Your Holy Spirit to believe in You and to find rest in the Word of Your truth. Amen.
With Your dear blood You paid the price
For ev’ry tribe and nation,
And made the perfect sacrifice
To spare us from damnation.
Let us no longer live in sin,
Repentance e’er neglecting,
Our heritage in heav’n,
With unbelief objecting.
And even if my sins are more
Than sands upon the seashore,
And Satan presses me so sore
With tribulations e’er more,
In faith I tread him under foot
By Jesus’ priceless treasure
And God’s pleasure;
I conquer in His blood
That has no bound or measure.
Kingo: O Jesus Verdens Frelsermand L 540:2-3 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Ich ruf zu dir (ELH 255); alternate hymn: So truly as I live, God saith ELH 417