Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trinity 19: A Devotional Commentary

Genesis 28:10-17 Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place, and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. He took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep. He dreamed. Behold, a stairway set upon the earth, and its top reached to heaven. Behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Behold, Yahweh stood above it, and said, “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The land whereon you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed. Your seed will be as the dust of the earth, and you will spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. In you and in your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you, and will keep you, wherever you go, and will bring you again into this land. For I will not leave you, until I have done that which I have spoken of to you.” Jacob awakened out of his sleep, and he said, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I didn’t know it.” He was afraid, and said, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other than God’s house, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Ephesians 4:22-28 ...that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. Therefore putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor. For we are members of one another. “Be angry, and don’t sin.” Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath, neither give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.

Matthew 9:1-8 He entered into a boat, and crossed over, and came into his own city. Behold, they brought to him a man who was paralyzed, lying on a bed. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, cheer up! Your sins are forgiven you.” Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man blasphemes.” Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...” (then he said to the paralytic), “Get up, and take up your mat, and go up to your house.” He arose and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

The forgiveness of sins is considered blasphemy to the religious. The forgiveness of sins is considered blasphemous to us. The paralytic's friends did not come to Jesus to have their friend's sins forgiven. They brought the man to Jesus, to have him cured of his paralysis. But Jesus gave the man something much greater--the forgiveness of sins. Jesus does cure the man of his paralysis in order to prove that He does have the power to forgive sins. But the forgiveness of sins is the main thing. The weight of your sins is an even greater burden than paralysis. The theologians of glory in Jesus' day must have thought that this man or his parents had committed some horrible sin that led to the paralysis. We do not want God to forgive the sins of wicked people. We want God to look the other way when we make mistakes but we do not want some God who forgives real sinners especially not one who does so through some word spoken by a human being on earth. Who does this man think he is, forgiving sins? Isn't his act of trying to forgive sins a blasphemous sin?

Many Christians still find this offensive. We might say, "Well that was Jesus after all. He is God. He had that power to forgive sins. But when a minister declares that our sins are forgiven that is completely different." But look at what Jesus says. Jesus points us to his humanity. He said the "Son of Man" has power to forgive sins on earth. The crowds marveled that God had given such authority to men. There is real power in the Word of Christ. When a minister speaks the Word of Christ, that Word really does forgive sin. We do not attain forgiveness by climbing Jacob's ladder. Christ descends to us through Jacob's ladder. Christ descends to us bringing forgiveness in the Word of absolution spoken through the pastor and in the Sacrament of the Altar.

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