[Genesis 28:10-17 / Ephesians 4:22-28 / Matthew 9:1-8]
Let’s face reality. If you were the paralytic and your friends had brought to Jesus, and He sees you, smiles at you, and says to you: “Child, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven,” you’d be totally disappointed.
Why? Because you didn’t come to Jesus get your sins forgiven. You came to get your life fixed, because it was broken. For the paralytic it was his body that wouldn’t work right. Maybe you’ve got one of those too. But there are other things. People come to Jesus, to His Church, still today because they want Him to fix something. Maybe it’s a lousy marriage. Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe it’s a rotten job situation – an unreasonable boss, dishonest employees, you name it. Maybe it’s wild and rebellious kids or maybe its parents who just don’t seem to really love and care about you. Or maybe like the people who carried this man, you’ve come to Jesus about someone you care about. Someone who means the world to you and you just want Jesus to heal them. Whatever it is, lots of folks come to Jesus looking for a quick fix.
And when you come to Him and He says: “Child, be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven.” You, like the paralytic and his buddies, can scarcely hide the disappointment on your face. “That’s it?” you think. “That’s all I get from Him? Why did I bother coming in the first place.”
You see, it’s not only the scribes who grumble at Jesus’ words. They thought he was blaspheming – and they thought that because they suspected that his words didn’t mean anything. Jesus was talking as though He were God and talk, as we all know, is cheap.
So Jesus puts the question to them and to us: “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven?’ Or to say ‘Rise and walk.’”
Which do you think is easier to say? Words are cheap, right? Action is priceless. You too think that the fix for whatever problem is eating at you right now is the harder thing for the Lord to take care of, and you suspect that maybe He’s just disguising His impotence to really help you by telling you over and over again: “Child, be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven.”
What use is a Church that only talks about forgiveness? You want a Church and a Jesus that will FIX the stuff that’s gone haywire! A Church and Jesus that has some relevance to your life right now. That’s what you need, so you think.
“Which is easier?” You know, as true God in human flesh, it was absolutely no big deal for Jesus to heal that young man. He could have done it with a word, a thought, a gesture. He’d done it for many others before. Think of it: He’s the One who created all things, including you. He keeps the stars in their courses. He holds the atoms together. He makes the sun shine and the rain fall. Doing a little fix up job on your body is no sweat to Him.
But forgiveness, now. You might think that’s nothing. He knows how wrong you are. You stop and think for one moment what forgiveness cost Him. He didn’t need to take on flesh and blood to heal paralytics. Through His prophets He’d long before healed the sick and even raised the dead. He didn’t become a human being so that He could give lessons in God’s goodness and love toward the human race, so that He could spend forever fixing whatever issues we bring to Him. That’s why when He so often did His miracles, His acts of kindness and love, He would say: “Keep it to yourself. Not a word.” Never worked, but He kept trying. You see, He didn’t want to be known as the “fixer-upper” guy – the one you ran to when your life begins to wildly tilt and your world turns upside down.
He’s got bigger fish to fry. And those fish are your sins. He came into the flesh to do the harder thing. To take into Himself the entire burden and load of your sin. To carry it in His body to the Cross and there to endure the righteous judgment of the All-Holy One against all human sin. His cross was all about His answering for your every sin. Having lived for you the perfect life, He proceeded to die in YOUR place, the death that was your due under the holy law of God. And He does it all so that He can speak a word of forgiveness to you – a word that is drenched in His own blood, signed, sealed and delivered by His own death.
Which is easier? To heal the fellow, He just spoke His word: “Get up.” And up he got. But to speak the word of forgiveness to him, to you, and to me, He would go to Golgotha. His forgiveness is anchored in His death – never forget the price it cost Him to give it to you.
But that still leaves you wondering why that’s the biggy that He’s always offering to you. Forgiveness? Great. Wonderful. Amen. But what about what needs fixing in my life, Lord? What about that?
Well, stop and get a tad of perspective. If He heals you now, you’re still going to die one day and stand before His judgment seat. If He heals your marriage, you’re still going to die one day and stand before His judgment seat. If He fixes your job, you’re still going to die one day and stand before His judgment seat. If He fixes every last complaint you’ve got about how your life is going and did it right away, you’re still going to die one day and stand before His judgment seat. And that day may be today for you, for me, for any of those you love. There’s no promise about that. But there is a warning that those who have not availed themselves of His forgiveness here on earth will not have the chance to avail themselves of it after this life is over. You see, no matter what you think the big problem in your life is, nothing comes close to the problem you have with sin. And you do not want to leave this world with your sin on your back. You want to leave this world with Christ’s forgiveness poured over you, in you, through you. A new creature!
And so He’s waiting eagerly to do it. He pours it over you in the water of Baptism. He feeds it constantly into you with the promises of His holy Word. He seals it to you every time you come to this altar in faith, trusting that you do indeed receive here exactly what He promises: His body, His blood, His forgiveness for all your sin. His life poured into you.
The Church, folks, is all about giving out forgiveness – His forgiveness. And so it’s not about all those penultimate issues in your life; it’s about the real and finally and only one: how do you stand before God?
Wrapped up in His forgiveness, you can face whatever comes your way with confidence, because you know the end of the story. The same Christ who has said to you: "Child, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven" is He who will stand again on the earth, and He will call you by name from your grave and say: “Child, rise, pick up your bed and come home.” The forgiven have a home, a life in Christ that never ends. And when you know how to die the blessed death, you are set free to live the blessed life of forgiveness – even in the midst of all the broken things that need fixing. He'll take care of them one and all in their own time, but first things first and chief things chief. To Christ alone, the Forgiver of all our sin, be all the glory with His holy Father and unoriginate Spirit, now and ever unto the ages of ages! Amen.