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Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Trinity Nineteen - Matthew 9:1-8




The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 12                    This Day                 4:80
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 268               Zion Mourns            4:98

The Theme Is Faith

The Communion Hymn #305:4-7                                4:23     
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #277               I Heard the Voice              4:57

Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity

O mighty and everlasting God, who by Thy Son Jesus Christ didst mercifully help the palsied man both in body and soul: We beseech Thee, for the sake of Thy great mercy: Be gracious also unto us; forgive us all our sins, and so govern us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not ourselves be the cause of sickness and other afflictions; keep us in Thy fear, and strengthen us by Thy grace that we may escape temporal and eternal wrath and punishment, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

KJV Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

KJV Matthew 9:1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.


The Theme Is Faith


Luther:
  1. The theme of this Gospel is the great and important article of faith, called “the forgiveness of sins”, which, when rightly understood, makes an honest Christian, and gives eternal life. Therefore it is necessary in the Christian Church to teach this article diligently and unceasingly, so that we may learn to understand it clearly and distinctly. For this is the one great and difficult art of a Christian, where he will have enough to learn as long as he lives, so that he need not look for anything new, higher or better.

This Gospel sermon by Luther is so important for people to read carefully, because he equates faith with forgiveness, as he does in other sermons and in all his work.

We can emphasize forgiveness or faith, but we cannot separate them, as if there were forgiveness without faith. Strangely – people do emphasize faith by itself, saving faith without a real object. That is common today. Just to have faith in something – an ultimate commitment or regard. Nothing vague is ever going to offend people. Faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of the world – that will offend many.

KJV Matthew 9:1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy;

Lenski:
Matthew is acquainted with all the details recorded by Mark and by Luke but concentrates on the vital points of the story. The exclamation “lo” hints at the fact that this was not an ordinary case of bringing a sick man to Jesus. He was lowered through the roof by four of his friends because the throng in and around the home of Jesus was too dense to admit penetration. On the disease of paralysis compare 8:6. The faith that Jesus saw manifested itself plainly enough. It was more than the ordinary faith which sought help of Jesus; it was a faith strong, persistent, inventive enough to discover the most unusual way of placing the sick man before Jesus. Why “their faith” should exclude the faith of the paralytic, as some assert, is hard to see. Surely, his friends did not bring him against his will, and surely, he must have consented to be lowered through the roof. It is true that Jesus healed some who had no faith at the moment and waited for faith to follow the healing; but no man’s sins are forgiven without faith being present in his heart. Instead of ruling out the faith of the paralytic, we must credit him with stronger faith than that of his friends. They may have had faith only in the power of Jesus to heal miraculously. This paralytic felt that he suffered from a greater ailment than paralysis, and thus he came to Jesus with his burden.
Not a word is uttered by either the paralytic or his friends. More eloquent than words is the prostrate form lowered through the ceiling to the feet of Jesus, interrupting his teaching in the packed house. As a true καρδιογνώστης Jesus sees all that is involved in this sufferer’s case and also all that it will mean for the present assembly and for all future time. First the soul, then the body. With the greatest tenderness Jesus absolves this sufferer’s soul. Men saw only his bodily affliction, Jesus saw the guilt and the contrition in the man’s heart. “Cheer up,” the present imperative θάρσει, takes away the gloom and the discouragement from the man’s heart and puts courage and happiness in its place. The address τέκνον, “child,” is far more tender and gentle than “son”; it is like a mother’s loving embrace. Jesus actually enters into this man’s heart and condition with the master-touch of his love.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 355.

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The miracle begins with faith and love. The friends of the sick man had faith in Jesus, faith in His divine power to heal. In love, they brought the poor man to Jesus. But faith made them bold. Instead of being intimidated by the crowds, they took their friend up on the roof, opened it up, and let him down below to be healed.

Needless to say, the sick man also had faith in Jesus. This is shown in his willingness to go along. How many people in need of care have said, “You won’t get me into the hospital.” Or – “You won’t get me to have an operation.” That is common. And taking him on the roof to lower him down? That could only happen with a willing person.

We have a warm, encouraging picture of a community of faith. The men with the muscles and faith brought their friend to Jesus. The sick man believed and received a double-miracle: forgiveness and healing.

As Lenski observed, some have said the friends believed but the sick man did not. That is quite absurd. Jesus, as God, knew the thoughts and intents of people without asking. He knew what the opponents were thinking without asking. Since Jesus always commended faith in Him, His absolution was a way of saying, “Because you believe, you are forgiven and healed.”

Forgiveness came first. “Be of good cheer.” What makes us heavy-hearted, worried, and sluggish? Lack of trust in the goodness of God does that to us. The Holy Spirit condemns our lack of faith in Jesus, when we ask, “Why are all the crooks and idiots doing so well and I can barely scrape by? Why not some rewards on this side of the line?”

When the greatest miracle of all is given to us – forgiveness of sin – we are cheerful and eager to go about our work. We no longer hear Satan accusing us or opponents mocking us. We realize that the Hero is on our side to defend us and help us in all trials.

As Luther observed, we can learn from our pet dogs. They always expect the best. They can ask 10 times in a row and be turned down. They ask 10 more times. And they grin and wag their tales. Treasure, our oldest, is a Sheltie-Border Collie mix. She comes out to the kitchen and breaks into a big smile, one so big that she makes a noise with her mouth as she opens it up. And she stares up with utter trust and love. She sends telepathic signals to the others if there is a good haul of chicken, or cheese, or stinky meat. (Stinky meat sends them in bouncing paroxysm of joy. Liverwurst.)

Chris tried to claim that she follows the same rule, “Always Be Closing. Always ask.” I said, “No, they always assume a yes.” She said, “I do too.” Maybe, but human modify that and adjust for difficulties. Dogs never do. Their trust is infinite and based upon our inherent goodness whether we have that or not.

God is inherently good, but our trust wavers, and we stop asking. James said, “You do not have because you do not ask.” That has been perverted by the prosperity salesmen, but it means something far more significant than that. Monica prayed for the conversion of her son Augustine. She never stopped asking, assuming God would take care of it. In his maturity, as a famous pagan orator, Augustine was converted by the Word of God. He had inklings of faith, but resisted completely up to that point when he heard children singing a song, “Take and read.” He picked up the New Testament and read.

After reading the following passage, ‘All shadows of doubt were dispelled’:
‘Not in riots or in drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts.’ (Rom. 13:13-14)
When my FB friends ask me to pray for someone they know, I post a prayer on their thread. Some people respond, “I am sending positive thoughts your way.” That is cheaper and faster than a telegram, but it is better to trust in God and ask Him. Recently a beloved only son was healed from a bad head injury. The father asked for prayers. I prayed for him on the thread. The boy recovered and his father thanked God for the healing.
Trust in God encourages trust in God, because it is invariably linked with the Word, which plants faith in our hearts and sustains that faith. In fact, faith is alive in us (or dying) and grows when it is nurtured by the Word. Our souls are fed by the Word or starved by a lack of the Word. John 15:1-10 is clear on that.
Faith and forgiveness are together because that is God’s plan. They are not separated. Faith, forgiveness, the Word, the Gospel, grace, prayer. They are not individual units to be torn apart from each other, but integrated parts of God’s plan.



3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.

This illustrates what happens the moment the Word takes hold. The opposition, led by Satan, is immediately angered and strikes out to destroy the Gospel. The scribes were correct in thinking that this forgiveness comes only from God, but they were not correct in saying it was blasphemy.


12. For this reason the greatest skill and intelligence is needed to grasp and understand this righteousness, and in our hearts and before God rightly to distinguish it from the above mentioned outward righteousness. For this is, as has been said, the skill and the wisdom of the Christian, but it is so high and great that even all the beloved Apostles could not speak enough of it; and yet it meets the painful misfortune that no art is mastered as soon as this.

There is no greater theme for a preacher than the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin, yet we are such wicked people, that, when we have once heard or read it, we think we know it, are immediately masters and doctors, keep looking for something greater, as though we had done everything, and thus we made new factions and division.

13. I have now been teaching and studying this subject with all diligence for many years (more than any one of those who imagine they know it all), in preaching, writing and reading, yet I cannot boast of having mastered it and am glad that I still remain a pupil with those who are just beginning to learn. For this reason I must admonish and warn all such as want to be Christians, both teachers and pupils, that they guard themselves against such shameful delusion and surfeit, and understand that this subject is most difficult and the greatest art that can be found upon earth; so that even Paul had to confess and say ( 2 Corinthians 9:15) that it is an unspeakable gift, that is, one which cannot be described among men with words so that they may regard it as highly and dearly as it really is in itself.

14. The reason for this is, that man’s understanding cannot get beyond this external piety of works, and cannot comprehend the righteousness of faith; but, the greater and more skillful this understanding is, the more it confines itself to works and rests upon them.

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4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

The alternatives come from God rather than man. Wherever someone invents an inner righteousness, worked by man, the major miracle is forgotten.

I heard a talk on self-esteem (against my will) at a business meeting. That was portrayed as the cure, if only everyone could be built up by these secular methods. And yet the speaker needed more help than the rest of the speakers put together.

This is really a great teaching lesson, to show us that giving this man health was the same as giving him absolution. Both began with the Word of God and both were received in faith.


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