Do you know what you need most of all? Of everything there is to need, what is most important? The forgiveness of your sins. All that you have done against God and others. Forgiven. When it is forgiven, that means God does not hold it against you. When your sins are forgiven, then you have eternal life. When your sins are forgiven, the devil, the world, and even your own sinful nature cannot accuse you. When your sins are forgiven, the curse and damnation the Law hammers upon those who disobey--will not fall upon you. Without forgiveness, there is a sad, lonely, and horrible hell that awaits. So, no matter who you are or what you do or what you've done, the single greatest gift you need is the forgiveness of sins. And that's the gift that Jesus brings. When Jesus tells the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," He means it! He means that there is nothing that will keep this man from paradise. Not even being paralyzed. Being paralyzed, of course, is a reminder of sin. Not any particular sin, just the fact that this creation has been ruined by sin. So Jesus speaks the word of pardon. He can do that, of course, because the Bible said He would "bear their infirmities in His body." And He carries not just sicknesses but sins. All of our sins. All of the sins ever. All sin and sins everywhere and anywhere and anywhen. Carries them to the tree. Paralyzed, in a manner, Himself, by being nailed to Calvary's cross. Blood shed. Spirit given up. Dead, dead. Side pierced. Buried. The third day, alive. Sins left buried. Gone for good. That's forgiveness.
But how do you KNOW you have it? How can you be certain that this Calvary-dying and Easter-rising Savior has forgiven YOUR sins? Well, I think according to the Pharisees, all you've got is some mystic hope that God will forgive you if you deserve it. But that's not what Jesus does. He tells the man Himself. "Your sins are forgiven." And the crowds marveled"--listen closely to the last words of the Gospel reading--"that God had given such authority to men." And He still does. When your called and ordained preacher says, "I forgive you all your sins..." he means it. He is doing it. Because he has been given authority. People will argue with that. "Only God can forgiven sins." "That's between me and God." "I don't need a pastor to get forgiveness." Why would we talk that way about a gift? What if your boss came to you and said, "Hey, you're getting a raise!" and then you said, "Well you can't give me a raise, only the owner of the company can give me a raise. I don't believe you." That would be nonsense. Just so, Christ Himself has given your pastor the authority to forgive sins. Your sins. Forgiven. And if you ever doubt that your sins really don't count to God any more, just ask your pastor to tell you. "Pastor, please hear my confession in order to fulfill God's will." "Do you believe that my forgiveness is God's forgiveness?" "Yes." "May it be done for you as you believe: I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." And with that pardon, that absolution, you can cast down the kingdom of hell, because there is no enemy that can accuse you when the Lord Himself has forgiven your sins and set you free.
Now, if what you need most is the forgiveness of sins, what do you think your neighbor needs most of all? That's right: the forgiveness of sins! So what a great thing you can do for them to bring them to your pastor so they can hear the same thing. But guess what else you can do? YOU can forgive them. Forgive them in the name of Jesus. Tell them, for Christ's sake, that their sins are forgiven. This is your pastors job, and it carries with it the seal of the confessional. But you, dear Christians, having been forgiven by God, are also authorized to forgive sins. Not because you're ordained, but because God has set you free from your own sins and that gives you the authority to set others free from their sins. What if someone is burdened because they have sinned against you? Forgive them! What if someone does something against you that is bad? Forgive them. What if someone is troubled by something they've done maybe not to you but to someone else? Forgive them. Bring them to your pastor for forgiveness, and help them learn to apologize and ask the person they've hurt to forgive them too. If the forgiveness of sins is really the most important thing we need, then that means forgiveness is the most important thing that we have been given and possess and have to give to others. You are a walking, talking, lightning rod of forgiveness and a dynamo of forgiveness given to others. Put their sins away. Don't hold them against them. Don't carry a grudge. Don't "Forgive but not forget." Forgive because you are forgiven. The greatest thing you have been given, the forgiveness of sins, is for others as well. That forgiveness will be stocked up and reloaded as you remember your baptism, as you are absolved, as you are given Christ's body and blood. Hey, Jesus, you can't forgive sins. Only God can do that. But didn't we hear last week that Jesus IS God? But He's also true man. And He can and does forgive, by His cross and resurrection. And He makes sure that forgiveness gets where it's supposed to by sending pastors to absolve sinners. And He keeps that forgiveness going as absolved sinners forgive others. What do you need most? The forgiveness of sins. What does Jesus have for you? The forgiveness of sins. So what do you have for others? The forgiveness of sins. What do we all have fro Jesus, for everyone? The forgiveness of sins. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Matthew