23. October 2022
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
“When Jesus saw their faith….” Wait a minute! I thought that faith came by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. I thought faith is the substance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. What’s this business about Jesus “seeing” faith? Faith has its object, which is not seen but believed. You can’t see what you believe because Christ has ascended to the right hand of the Father. He has left you with the promise that He will be with you where His Word is preached in its truth and purity, where the gift of His forgiveness is delivered hidden in the water, bread, and wine.
Yet, faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins has its consequence in the amendment of life, acts of charity, and confession of faith before others. Jesus can “see” their faith because faith is a living, breathing thing. The Spirit bears fruit in keeping with their repentance. These friends of the paralytic desperately and dramatically seek out Jesus for their friend’s well-being. They have heard of Jesus and of what He can do. In faith, they bring their friend to be healed. And according to Mark and Luke, they even pull back the thatch roof and lower their friend down into the midst of the home. Their faith is evident, obvious, and alive.
The Spirit governs the entire prayer life of the church to deliver the Word of Jesus for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. Everything is put in order by the church for the gifts of faith. Every reading, Psalm, hymn, prayer, and preaching is to deliver the Word for faith. Without faith in Christ Jesus’ forgiving, we are hopeless and most to be pitied. And then, as we pray every week, we ask that Jesus take what He has given us in Word and gifts and use it to strengthen our faith in God and our love for one another. Do you hear that? The Word that creates faith lives in your love for one another.
The faith of the paralytic’s friends was not silent, hidden in their hearts. It was evident in bringing the paralytic to Jesus. “Our churches teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruit” (Augsburg Confession VI:1). Our faith in Christ, through which alone we are justified, will necessarily show itself in works of love for the neighbor, just as the faith of these people was shown in their love for the paralytic. Their actions confess as their heart has been given to believe.
What makes the whole encounter even more remarkable is what Jesus says to the paralytic. Not firstly, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” But, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you!” Jesus affirms the order of operation, first faith, and only then, love. Before this man is restored to a life of love, Jesus gives him the only gift ultimately that matters, the gift of faith. And notice that the man says nothing and does nothing. Jesus gives him everything.
But here seems to be an apparent contradiction in Jesus’ Word. “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus calls the paralytic “sinner,” yet He also calls him “Son.” How can these two agree? By grace alone, Jesus forgives this paralytic alone. He declares this man and you sons of God and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. For you, these gifts were declared yours in Holy Baptism. You were washed clean of your sins, the old man drowned to death, the new man raised to life, and you were adopted as God’s child—forgiven, reborn, and anointed into the King’s family. And because you often forget, wander off, despair of your heritage, or turn away into unbelief, Jesus never stops proclaiming who you are—son of God—and what inheritance is yours—forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation. Just as He said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” He keeps declaring, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Your name is Christian because you are Christ’s. You are a son of God, having been joined to Jesus as He, the eternal Son, is your brother.
Today, you might be able to wield the medical arts with skill and restore this man’s ability to walk. Even the ancients had techniques that might bring healing to this man. But Jesus gives him something you can’t fake or steal—divine sonship and forgiveness of sins. Jesus says this when He declares to the unbelieving scribes, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
Jesus is the eternal Word who made the heavens, the earth, and everything in it, including you, knit together in the depths of your mother’s womb. He can knit back together the damage to the paralytic’s spine with a Word, just as He did at the foundation of the world and this man’s conception. “Arise … and go!” And it’s done. It seems a miracle to us hut is the very thing Jesus did, does, and continues to do in Creation to this day. He does it through the skilled labor of various earthly means, such as medicine, surgery, physical therapy, and the like. And maybe even extraordinary means that are beyond our explanation, too?
However, what was required for Jesus to call you sons and to forgive you all your sins? This required His own death! For “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus does the lesser—heal the man’s paralysis—to prove what is more remarkable—His blood-bought authority to forgive sins with a Word! And where Jesus is forgiving sins, He is also working life and love. His life-breathing breath works and renews faith that cannot be seen. His Spirit takes hold of you and works out the love that can be seen in you.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin