Your Sins are Forgiven
St. Matthew 9:1-8
October 10, 2021 anno Domini
(Read vs. 2 c) There are no better words in all the world. With those words your death is dead. Your conscience is scrubbed clean. Your orphan years are over. God is your Father. You are an heir of eternal life, with a place at the Lord’s table and a room in the heavenly mansion. You are no longer a slave to sin, death, and the devil. You are a free son of God, free to live righteously, free to laugh at death, free to resist and beat the devil. You are Eve, given hope, even though she sinned. You are Abraham promised blessings in His old age. You are Jacob visited by God even though you are a cheat and a liar. You are Lazarus raised from the dead and Saul led out of darkness and murder into the light to see Christ and live.
There are no better words in all the world, but you don’t want to hear them, and you don’t want to speak them. Neither did the people in Matthew 9.
(Read vs. 3) The Scribes were the secretary pool of the Jewish council. They copied the Scriptures, kept the minutes, wrote down the decisions. They knew God’s Word well, and they knew that sin was God’s business. When Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven,” He was claiming to be God.
That’s reason #1 we don’t want to hear forgiveness. It brings God into our lives. Our sins are always against God. When Eve disobeyed her husband and ate the fruit in the garden, she wasn’t just sinning against Adam. That wasn’t a big deal really – Adam, being a man, would probably forget it in a few days. She was sinning against God. When Adam put his wife out in front of him and blamed her for his sin, he wasn’t just sinning against his rib, He was sinning against God who had made the woman for him, to protect and provide for.
Confession and forgiveness are hard even though they appear easy. Let’s say there’s this guy, we’ll call him “Bruce” and he says something hurtful to his wife or doesn’t do what he promised to do, and now, rightfully, she’s hurt and angry. What does Bruce do? He says, “I’m sorry” and she says, “I forgive you” and they live happily ever after or until Bruce sins again. But “sorry” doesn’t cut it as a confession. How is Bruce sorry? Why is he sorry? Is he sorry he got caught? Sorry he forgot? sorry he’s disappointed his wife? Sorry she’s going to be cold to him for a few days? Real confession is this, “I have sinned against God. I did not do what I promised, and I have hurt you, my wife.” In the confession of sins in Divine Service 1 we don’t even say we’re sorry. We confess that we have sinned against God, by not loving him or our neighbor. We confess we deserve eternal punishment and we beg for mercy by asking for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not God’s okay to your sin. It’s not God’s “I have dementia” and won’t remember it anymore. It is God paying the price for your sin out of His own pocket. You owe Him. You sinned against your wife, your husband, your mom or dad, your boss or workers. You sinned against your body when you got drunk, when you watched porn, when you overate. Your family is not your own to do with as you please. They are God’s gift to you. Your body is not your own. It is God’s created gift. By your sin against God, you are like that servant who owed his master 10,000 talents which is 200,000 years wages. Pretty much what the US debt is today. There’s no way out for you, the only way to stop the bill collector is to die.
In His mercy God dies for you. He forgives you. That’s why the Son of God took on human flesh. Jesus came for one reason, and He shows that reason with the paralyzed man, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus could say that because He was God. He could say that because He was going to the cross to take away the sin of the world – paralyzed man sin, Bruce sin, your sin. He could say that because He is the price of our forgiveness. God’s blood was spilled for your sin. God’s life was offered for your life. I don’t know how to explain it, but God died to save you. And He is more valuable than 200,000 years wages, but you know what that means to a forgiven sinner like you – you are worth more than 200,000 years wages. You are worth the blood and body and life and death of God Himself in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. Take heart, your sins are forgiven. There are no better words in all the world.
Reason #2 that we don’t want to hear forgiveness is that we don’t think that’s our real problem. Consider that paralyzed guy. Why were his friends bringing him to Jesus? To heal his legs or mend his spine or fix whatever was wrong with him that caused his paralysis. They weren’t coming for forgiveness. Their friend needed legs, not forgiveness. St. Matthew doesn’t record their thoughts for us, but we can imagine. “Forgiveness? What’s forgiveness going to do for him? He can’t walk. He can’t get a job. He needs four of us to carry him anywhere. We cut a hole in the roof and went to all this work and all you’re giving is forgiveness? Come on, we came for healing.”
You lost your job. You’ve got cancer. Your spouse died. You’re alone. Your marriage is a mess. Your kids are a mess. You can’t stand those people over there. You despair of the direction of our nation. Forgiveness? What good is forgiveness at a time like this? for me?
In Biblical times the Pharisees and other religious people speculated that your trouble was tied to your sin. People with dropsy had committed adultery. Maybe lepers touched things they weren’t supposed to touch. Blind people looked at things they weren’t supposed to see. Maybe the paralyzed man drove his chariot when he was under the influence. Were the pharisees right? Are our troubles tied to our sin?
What’s the Lutheran answer? Yes and no. If you’re an alcoholic, you might get liver disease. If you eat too much you might have heart problems. If you watch porn your marriage will suffer and might end. But there is a lot of trouble not specifically tied to any particular sin, but to our sinfulness.
Here’s why you need forgiveness first and foremost. It takes care of your sin (not just your individual sins, but your sinfulness, your sinful nature). Your sins are forgiven. Those words of Jesus take your sins away, but also create a new man within you, a child of God, a believer who desires to be obedient. And that new man will win out over the old man. Once you believe in Christ’s death, once you receive forgiveness – the old man starts losing and the new man starts winning. Once you’re forgiven you are living forever – cancer cannot stop that. Once you’re forgiven you will rise bodily to live forever – that means your sore back and knees are on their way out. Your eyes are going to see perfectly, and your ears will hear every note and syllable in the resurrection.
When Jesus healed guys like the paralyzed man He was showing us what the Kingdom of God looks like. He was giving us a picture of the resurrection and helping us to practice for it. If your soul is healed with forgiveness your body naturally follows. If your sin is taken away, so is death and damnation. If all Jesus gave that man was his legs he would have been happy only for the moment. With forgiveness He had joy and his legs for all eternity. That is why the best words you will ever hear are “take heart, your sins are forgiven.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.