Seventh Sun. aft. the Epiph
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
February 20, 2000
(Lots of people prefer God to be far off and impersonal. Some find it more comfortable to have a god who is disconnected from our lives and who only deals with major, world scale issues. It is comfortable to have a removed sort of god if one wishes to live as one pleases, without accountability and without restraint. We hear people say, “I’ll get religious when my time is closer.” Which means, “Get lost for now God, I don’t need you right now.” Or we’ve heard God referred to as the “Big Man Up-stairs”, which means, of course, that He’s not down-stairs with us. All-in-all, our natural, sinful nature prefers some distance between us and the Almighty…It’s just more comfortable that way! In the Gospel lesson today, our Lord shatters such foolish thinking that our heavenly Father would be content to stay away from His children. He has come to be up close and personal for it is our sins He has come to dismiss for the very precise reason that He desires that we be in fellowship with Him now and forever! Let us examine this up-close-and-personal Lord!
HOW PERSONAL CAN GOD GET, TO SEND HIS SON INTO OUR FLESH AND INTO OUR WORLD?
We celebrate Christmas precisely because God did not stay away from us!
Had He remained away, His children would have perished eternally.
We would have had no hope of life now or forever.
There would have been no alternative for the salvation of mankind
Every human design for self-acquired salvation is utterly doomed to abject failure!
And So Jesus was born as a human child in the usual messy human way.
There was absolutely no “fudging” in His humanity…He was as human as you or me!
He felt the frustrations of being human as we do.
He was tempted as we are tempted and more so.
Now, in a common man’s clothes, walking the dusty roads of Israel, the Lord comes to Capernaum to His home.
Most scholars agree that Jesus had moved his mother to Capernaum and so was in His own home for a brief time.
It didn’t take the crowds long to find Him and literally surround Him, filling His house with humanity.
Interestingly, there is no talk of healing or demon exorcism…the people are crowding around Him to hear Him teach.
But some are there of less than honorable motives.
The Pharisees and teachers of the Law are there from Jerusalem to find fault.
Evidence of wrong doing must be collected for the plot to kill Jesus is already underway.
Now, four men bearing a paralytic friend attempt to approach the Lord that their friend might be healed.
Unable to enter the house, the move to the roof and begin to remove the tiles to lower him to the Lord.
A bit of humor is here…imagine sitting in your own house teaching the people and suddenly noise and sunlight from above enters the room!
Surely a smile must have crossed Jesus’ face at the sight!
Certainly also, the Lord must have marveled at the faith of the five men as they know that if only they can get their friend in front of Jesus, he will be healed.
THIS IS GOD WHO CHOSES TO EXERCISE HIS PERSONAL AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE OUR PERSONAL SINS WITH HIS PERSONAL SACRIFICE.
But the healing that is to occur is greater than the five men anticipate.
Having seen the great faith of the five men, Jesus calls the invalid man his son and declares that all of his sins have been dismissed!
Not just sins in general, this man’s specific sins…his personal sins!
God is not distant, He is not uncaring about our personal plight, His mercy is applied individually to each of us.
In order to accomplish this feat of personal forgiveness, Jesus must make an incredible and very personal sacrifice.
No animal sacrifice will serve as a substitute, it is His holy, divine, and human blood that must be shed for the sins of humanity.
No nice, clean philosophical concept will accomplish what He has personally come to fulfill…this work requires scourging, thorns and the slow suffocation of crucifixion.
No tidy system of self-improvement will extricate man from the totality of our corruption…Our sins must be paid for to the very last one.
This will required His death…nothing short of the death of the divine will have the power to bring life to the world…this is up close and very personal!
The fault-finders in the crowd are offended by such forgiveness being offered.
The begin with a correct assumption: Only God can forgive sins, but they proceed with a false assumption: This man is a blasphemer.
Their evil intentions preclude them from considering that this sin-forgiver is the Messiah who is speaking the truth.
So they issue their vicious thoughts, but Jesus responds with right thoughts, words and actions.
Reading their thoughts, Jesus asks if it is harder to heal than to forgive.
Both the words of forgiveness and the words of healing require divine power and are completely equal in their effect.
Both require the action of God.
THIS IS GOD WHO DEMONSTRATES HIS HEART BY HEALING THE PERSONAL AFFLICTION OF THE PARALYTIC.
Now our Lord makes the connection:
For the express purpose that these scoffers will understand that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, so without waiting for a response to His question, He immediately heals the shriveled limbs of the man.
No one says the results of the words of forgiveness: the sins piled up on the man’s soul vanishing into nothingness.
Everyone saw the effect of the second act: the man rises, picks up the palate on which he was carried to this place, and walks with perfectly healthy steps to his home.
It is the man’s personal sins which are absolved…it is the man’s personal paralysis which is cured….It’s all very personal.
In our baptism, the Lord has spoken words of forgiveness for our personal sins.
Those words spoken were not less miraculous than those spoken to this man, and they are every bit as effective!
Spiritually, we may walk away from our baptisms as spiritually clean as this man did from the house of Jesus.
Should we also not stand continually amazed at the forgiveness we have received?
Have we become so “used” to the idea of being forgiven, that the wonder of it now seems commonplace?
When we come to the Lord’s table, are we taking the body and blood of Christ without thinking about the precious sacrifice that was made, or the forgiveness that this truly brings the forgiveness of sins that only His body and blood can bring?
When we pray when we are ill and we are restored to health, have we forgotten that whether it be through a Word spoken by Christ or through His gift of medical knowledge that the credit for the healing belongs to Him?
You see, my friends, Christ still speaks to us…to our personal sins…to our personal ills.
He is not a deaf, blind, mute God!
He is not aloof, far off and uncaring!
He is close…He is eminent…He is our Elder Brother…our personal Savior who is personally involved in our lives in every circumstance of life.
Since He is not confined by time and space, He has all the time in the universe to care for us personally!
Praise God for His presence in our lives! Praise God for His healing! Praise God for His love!
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