Rev. Marcus T. Zill
St. Mark 2:1-12
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
There was a buzz. It was a sold out packed house. Standing room only. Jesus was back in town. The people were flocking to hear him – curiosity seekers, skeptics, zealots, the paparazzi, and of course, young people in Higher Things t-shirts. They were all there because Jesus was there.
Jesus – the one who casts out demons, who heals with the touch of his hand and a word. Yes, he tried to keep the fanfare down, but the word had already spread all over Galilee. They wanted signs and wonders. So what does Jesus do? He preaches His Word.
But wouldn’t you have liked to see a miracle too? But Jesus is on a mission and Jesus doesn’t have attention deficit disorder – He gets right to the point and He always stays on point– and the point is forgiveness.
Most people would think the physical healing of this paralyzed man was the most extraordinary thing here. But the greater miracle is what occurred right before that.
Now we don't know for sure what caused this man's paralysis. But whatever it was, he had to be carted around by four of his friends to get anywhere. You can imagine the anguish he went through physically and mentally because of his condition, and even the spiritual questions that ran through his mind: Why is this happening to me? Is this God's punishment against me for my sin? Has God abandoned me?
But this man and his friends had heard about Jesus and the miracles He had performed. They had to get to Him, even if it meant climbing on top of the house, and digging a hole in the roof. They risked the mockery of the crowd and the anger of the homeowner. None of that mattered. They were focused solely on one thing: receiving the help that only Jesus could give.
Jesus sees their faith, their determined trust in Him, but He does a rather surprising thing, He says to the paralyzed man dangling in front of him, "Son, your sins are forgiven." He absolves him. Next. What? That’s it!?! They were expecting a healing, a miracle. And all He does is absolve him? Really?
Well, forgiveness is not what we expect (or seek) from God, either. We want answers, solutions, miracles. Pills and programs? Sure. Spiritual ATM’s? Sounds great. Religion that offers quick answers, good feelings, and easy fixes? Even better. But forgiveness? Plus, downright blasphemous they thought. Jesus knew what they were thinking. “Who does this Jesus think He is? God? Only God can talk like that. Only God can forgive sins. Yes, absolution is an outrage to our religious sensibilities. Of course – it’s also the whole point.
Luther said. If all we had was forgiveness, we’d have everything. Life and salvation. Like a good physician, Jesus isn’t content to treat the symptoms, he goes for the disease, the root cause of all that ails you - Sin. And He reaches for the cure. Forgiveness. And He can’t wait to give it to you.
When we come before God today – He does the same thing – every time - he gets right to the point: Forgiveness. That’s what happens every time you gather in His Name. Jesus comes and says to you, "I forgive you all of your sins."
But who does the pastor think he is? That's what the teachers in Jesus' day were saying about Him. "He's blaspheming! How arrogant! Only God can talk like that. Only God can forgive sins." Little did they know that Jesus is God in the flesh with the full authority to forgive. And little did they know that it is the will of Christ that His human voice continue to be heard in the church through His ministers who speak His forgiveness in His name and by His authority.
Deep down, though, don’t you struggle to believe that forgiveness can be that easy. You have to earn it, right? But notice what the paralyzed man did here. He did absolutely nothing! He was carried by others on a board, lowered to Jesus. St. Mark doesn't record a single word from the paralyzed man. Could he even talk? There was no prayer, no confession, no promises. He wasn't even really there to be forgiven; he was there for Jesus to fix his legs.
This man is a perfect picture of each of you. You can do nothing before God. You are paralyzed in sin and death. You have to be carried to Jesus, like babies brought to Baptism. You can't move. You are even worse than paralyzed, you are dead.
However, in the words of Isaiah, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance…He will come and save you.” And your Lord Jesus has come and He says to you today, "Your sins are forgiven." Literally, "your sins are loosed." The chains are off. Your sins are Jesus' burden now. And you can't have them anymore. They're His, and He died with them. He submitted Himself to the paralysis of death in your place to save you. And He rose from the grave in victory over your sin and sicknesses and even over death and the devil himself.
Remember what the Catechism says: "Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation." Don’t take these words for granted.
Dear loved ones, repent of your own desire to see the “super duper spectacular” that has not been promised you in this life while taking your eyes, and your ears, off of those routinely miraculous words of your Savior meant for you in this life: “Son (daughter), your sins are forgiven.” You are Coram Deo. So confess your sins. Be a real sinner before God; because you are receiving real forgiveness from God. Real forgiveness - from a real Savior - for real sins.
In order to show that His absolution was real, Jesus looks down at the paralyzed man lying there on his stretcher and says, "Arise, pick up your bed, and go home." And Jesus' words do what they say. They always do. The man stood up, and immediately he took his pallet in full view of a whole house full of people and walked out. And notice that we still don’t hear a peep out of him because he isn’t the point – Christ’s forgiveness of his sins is!
Yes, the real miracle that occurs here is not simply the temporary healing of the paralytic, but the eternal forgiveness of sins which the paralytic receives through the simple, but extraordinary words of Jesus – words that bring the paralytic unending life and resurrection.
Don't foolishly think that God isn't still performing miracles today, for you. He does through the preaching of the Gospel. That is the point.
What Jesus did for that paralyzed man that day in the crowed house in Capernaum, He does for you. He forgives sin. And He raises the dead. It is His authority to do so. And He loves to do it.
And now He forgives you. “Son (daughter), your sins are forgiven.” And when you have forgiveness you have everything.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Created: August 18th, 2011