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He Is Not Here. Holy Easter Day 2017–Mark 16:1-8; 1 Cor. 5:6-8

he is not here.jpgHoly Easter Day

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Mark 16:1-8 (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

April 16, 2017

He is Not Here

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Jesus is risen from the dead!

 

During the weeks of Lent we have seen Jesus our Lord without form or comeliness, with nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.  He has been humiliated, cursed by man and God.  Crowned with thorns, beaten and bruised, spit upon, rejected, pierced by nail and spear, forsaken by God, embalmed and entombed.

 

But now, here on Easter morning in the church, we see splendor. Our women have adorned and beautified the sanctuary and the altar just as Mary Magdalene and the two others went to honor and care for His body.  Beautiful easter lilies cover the altar.  The processional cross which was veiled last week, just as Jesus’ face was hidden under bruises, spit, and blood—now it is uncovered.  We see Jesus on it, ascending in majesty.

 

But in the Gospel reading we see no Jesus.

 

We see through the eyes of the three women who have come at the break of day on the first day of the week to anoint the corpse of Jesus.  They are worrying as they walk.  “Who will roll away the stone from the tomb?”

 

But as they walk past the place where Jesus was crucified on Friday, where they saw Him die, into the garden nearby that held the tomb where they laid Him, they look up and see: the stone is already rolled away.  Someone has opened Jesus’ tomb.  Was it in the night?  Did grave robbers come?  But how would they have gotten past the guards that were placed there?

 

Then entering the tomb, the dark cave cut out of the rock, they see that Jesus’ body is gone.  No Jesus!  Instead there is a young man sitting there on the right side, dressed in a white robe.

 

You can imagine why they were startled!

 

The young man begins to speak to them.  “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen.  He is not here.  Look and see the place where they laid Him.”

 

It is empty.  The women see, and we see.  Jesus is not lying there like He should be.

 

“Go,” the young man tells them.  “Say to His disciples, and to Peter, that He is going ahead of you all to Galilee.  You will see Him there, just like He told you.”

 

So we are left this morning smelling the lilies, seeing the gold on the altar, but not seeing Jesus.  We are not shown the glory that replaces the shame of His crucifixion.  We don’t see the power that replaces His former weakness, the life that replaces the death that claimed Him.  We do not see.  We only hear, “He is not here.  He has risen.”

 

Even if we read a passage from one of the Gospels where Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, we would be hearing, not seeing.  We would not see Him alive with our own eyes.  We would not see His majesty, power, His glory that He now has in place of the weakness and shame in which we saw Him die.

 

So let us talk about what we don’t see.

 

 

The women came by the place Jesus was crucified, Golgotha, on their way to Jesus’ tomb.  They had to walk by “the place of a skull.”  You might easily see why they would want to avoid that place, not only because of its grim name, but because of the suffering inflicted on them there as they watched their hope die.  But they could not avoid it, just like we cannot avoid death.  The tomb in which Jesus was buried was there in a garden nearby.

 

But at this very place named after the symbol of death, the place of a skull, death has been struck a mortal blow.  We do not see Jesus.  The women fully expected to see Him and weep when they saw Him. They expected to see His body lying still and cold beneath linen cloths.  They do not find Him.  Instead they find a messenger waiting for them to proclaim that He has come forth from death.

 

It’s true; but instead of telling them Himself, Jesus sends a messenger, an angel to announce it.  That is how Jesus does it now too.  A messenger tells you.  A messenger in a white robe is there, not a heavenly being, but a pastor—at the grave of your loved ones, at the birth of your children into this world of death, in the middle of the joy of this life where, nonetheless, like the ancient hymn says:

In the midst of life we are in death:

            From whom can we seek help?

            From you alone, O Lord,

            Who by our sins are justly angered.

            Holy God, Holy and Mighty,  

            Holy and Merciful Savior,

            Leave us not in the bitterness of eternal death.

 

Jesus is not there in the tomb.  He is not here either, not visibly, like He was before.  The reason there is a messenger telling you, and not Jesus Himself, is because Jesus is no longer in sin and death, in humiliation and weakness.  And so He sends a messenger.

 

He is risen, and so He does not do what He did before.  Before this He lived in this world that is filled with graves and tombs.  One day, your grave will add to the number.  This is the world that Jesus came to live in with us.  He was one of us in every way, except without sin.  And He came in our appearance, not in the glory which was His, which a man cannot see and live.  He looked like us—not glorious, but earthly, not above pain, weakness, and humiliation, but subject to it.  He lived here and carried out the task of a preacher. He looked like a preacher, like all the ones who have stood before you in white robes; some you liked, some you didn’t, some were talented, some less so.  But all of them were of the dust, of the earth.  Jesus looked just like that.  He went to town after town and preached that the Kingdom of God had come upon them.  Some believed Him; most were only interested in His miracles.  Many not only rejected His message but hated Him.  And finally they succeeded in putting Him to death.

 

Jesus doesn’t do this anymore.  Before He came in the form of a servant.  Though He was God in the flesh, He laid aside the glory of God, which was His from eternity.  He came in our image and likeness, shared our hunger, thirst, weariness, weakness, our pain.  He shared our obligation to obey God’s Law.  He was subject to death even though, unlike us, He had not earned death.  He preached and people were able to reject Him, turn away and laugh, or turn toward Him with clenched teeth and stones in their hands.

 

This can’t happen anymore.  Jesus can’t die anymore, or suffer anymore.  He cannot be rejected in His own person.  He no longer shares our weakness.  He isn’t subject to death.  He still allows people to reject Him, but only as they reject His preaching through the ones He sends.  But He will not share our mortal life, our humiliations, our guilt and our death anymore.  When He wants to speak with us, He sends messengers in our image and likeness.  He does not come Himself now with the glory that a man may not see and live.

 

Why does Jesus no longer share this life and speak to us visibly?  He has done it already, and it is finished.

 

He shared our image and likeness, and the suffering, death and weakness that covers us because He came to be the true Passover lamb, who was slain so that God’s judgment would pass over us, so that we would go free from His judgment, from death and hell.  Now He has been exalted, raised up to the highest place, to sit on the throne of God in His flesh and blood.  He reigns over death, over hell, over all things for us, binding them through the message of His resurrection.  He won’t and can’t dwell among us in lowliness, in the form of a servant who bears the sin of the world, because it can’t be done again.  It is already done.  He has already borne that image to its end—to the cross and the grave.

 

When Jesus was humiliated, cursed, and crucified, when He died and was buried, God was striking and plaguing Him for our sins, for your sins.  He suffocated and burned in the torment that belongs to us for eternity, which we have earned from the time we were conceived in sin.  He hung naked before this anger of God against us on the cross.  He had no defense against it; no excuses in His mouth.  He was silent like a lamb before its shearers and did not open His mouth.  He had no power to push this burning anger away, because He had laid His divine power aside to become like us.  He had laid aside His innocence by which He could have been scared God’s wrath and plunged Himself into the flood of our transgressions. The guilty conscience of the whole world was upon Him.  He sank in the depths of sin where there is no foothold, no ground on which to stand and cry out to God for help, only the full awareness that we have deserved God to cast us away.  On the cross, Jesus was thrown into the depths of this sea, like Pharaoh was thrown into the depths of the Red Sea, like the whole world outside of the ark sank in the deeps of God’s flood.  He did not say, “Father, I did nothing wrong.  Take me down from the cross!”  He had taken our wrongs as His own.

 

And the Father punished those wrongs with agony of soul and body until He gave up His Spirit, died and was buried.

 

So look now.  Jesus is not here in this grave any longer.  We cannot see Him, because He has entered His glory.  We see only a young man in a robe sitting in the empty tomb, waiting for us with a message.  When we enter the young man looks up and says, “He has risen.”

 

And because you are not out of your mind with fright like the women that morning, you can reflect on the message that is spoken to you, what it means to you.

 

Jesus is free.  Every week you say: I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ…who was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.  He suffered and was buried.  And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures.

 

What does that mean for you, that Christ rose again, and is not seen in the tomb, not seen walking among us in our lowly appearance?  What does the message of the messenger mean for you, “He has risen?”

 

It means that He has been released from the punishment He received from His Father for your sins.  He has been released from the sentence of death, and therefore from the grave, the sentence He received because He offered Himself to bear our sin.

 

The Father did not release Jesus until He had tasted death.  Jesus had prayed, “Take this cup from Me.”  The Father did not; He had to be crucified and forsaken by God. He had to die and be buried.  It was clear.  The Father would not let Jesus go until He had paid the full measure of our debt.

 

But now Jesus is free.  In releasing Jesus from the chains of death, the Father is making a declaration.  The debt Jesus went to Golgotha to pay is now paid in full.  Jesus is released from death. The debt is paid.

 

Your debt is paid.  The Father releases you with Jesus from the guilt of sin, from His wrath against you, from the grave, from the fire of hell.

 

Our sins are no longer there to hold Jesus chained in death.  If they were still there, Jesus would still be in the tomb.  Or Jesus would still be among us as He was with His disciples, in the form of a slave.  He would still be serving us as our slave, with His glory put aside, and our guilt and lowliness and death still upon Him.

 

But He is not there in the tomb.  He is free.  And so are you. Unless you despise this.  Unless you refuse to believe it.

 

Victory has been won over the powers that ruled us and kept us chained; the old serpent has been crushed under the heel of the virgin’s Son.  The empty tomb of Jesus is the battlefield from which the enemy has been put to flight.

 

It is the courtroom, now empty after it has been adjourned, where the Father tried you together with all people, and announced His verdict: Not guilty.   Or: “I find the world to be righteous and just.  Set them free.”

 

It is the prison cell in which all people were held as condemned criminals, awaiting the order that would carry out their sentence.  But now, no one is there.  There is only a man in a white robe saying, “You are all free.”  He doesn’t say those words, of course.  He says, “He has risen.”

 

Paul says the same thing to the Church at Corinth.  “You really are unleavened.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”  The Corinthian Church was doing some very impure things.  A man married his father’s wife; and the Corinthians, instead of calling this man to repentance, bragged about how he had done this.  Yet Paul says, You really are unleavened, not permeated with the yeast of wickedness, but pure.  The reason is because the Passover Lamb that bears our sins has died and blotted them out.

 

At Passover, Jews were required by God to take all the yeast out of their houses before the Passover lamb was slain.

 

Even today, observant Jews do this. They search the house for any place there might be yeast, where crumbs of bread might have fallen.  They scrape out the dark places under the cupboards and the oven to get rid of every last bit of yeast that might leaven the unleavened bread they eat during Passover.

 

Christians also do this by daily repentance; we “cleanse out the old leaven” of the sinful nature in which we were conceived.  But trying to purge out your sins is not enough to cleanse us, as anyone who has tried it knows very well.

 

God must put away our sins.

 

And He has done it through the blood of Jesus.  Jesus has cleansed the old evil leaven of our sinful natures out of us.  He has buried it.  God has forgiven it, which means, God has released us from it.  Our sin no longer stands before Him.  He does not count it, or impute it.  This is what we mean when we say that God “justifies us.”  It means He counts us righteous for the sake of Christ.  He counts Jesus holy obedience and righteousness to us, just as truly as He imputed our guilt to His Son.  This teaching is the central teaching of the Christian faith.  It is, according to our Lutheran Confessions, the article of the faith “on which the Church stands or falls.”  This is what the Reformation that began 500 years ago was about.  Whoever has this teaching and believes it is righteous before God and saved from hell, even though he remains a sinner.  Where this teaching is lost, human beings are lost. Because there is no other way that human beings can be righteous before God than for Christ’s sake.

 

This cleansing that happened by Jesus’ death and resurrection also becomes effective in you.  We sang about it in Luther’s hymn:

 

Then let us feast this Easter day

On Christ, the bread of heaven. 

The Word of Grace has purged away

The old and evil leaven.

 

Christ purged human beings of sin before God; but the purging away of sin within us happens through the Word of the messenger of Jesus.  Through that word, God works faith that Jesus has purified us.  And God counts that faith as righteousness before Him; and at the same time, He gives the gift of His Spirit, who each day purges away the sin that remains in us, so that it no longer works through the whole lump of our bodies, families, congregations, but goes into remission.

 

The angel said, “Christ is risen.”  Go tell His disciples and Peter.

 

But to you the Word comes differently.  It says, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  It says, “As a called and ordained servant of the Word, I forgive you all your sins.”

 

When the pastor says these words, he is just proclaiming the same word as the angel; he is announcing what God has done for you and to you in raising Jesus from the dead.  He is saying, “God has released you, together with the whole world, from your guilt. God has justified you.”

 

God has not done this only for believers, and this message is not to be proclaimed only to those who already believe and are righteous.  It is to be proclaimed to the unrighteous who grieve because of their sins.  It is to be proclaimed also to Christians who have fallen from Jesus.  “Go tell His disciples and Peter,” says the angel.  Peter had denied he knew Jesus; his own voice had condemned him.  He had said, “I am not a disciple of Jesus.”  You may be here this morning and have done the same thing, by your words or actions.  You may have said, “I am not Jesus’ disciple” by willfully doing what you know to be sinful.  And you may be thinking, “Now that I have denied Jesus and bathed in the mud, and made myself unclean with Jesus’ name on me, how can I become pure and clean again?  How can I undo my falling away?”  You may not be thinking this, and yet you may be one who should think this!

 

You cannot undo the shame of turning away from Jesus, and allowing yourself to be filled again with the leaven of malice and evil.  But the angel specifically says, “Tell Jesus’ disciples, and Peter.”

 

Perhaps Jesus would have the whole congregation of St. Peter hear these words as His Word to this St. Peter.

 

Tell Peter: “He is risen.  God has justified Him.  God has let these sins go; they are paid for, the bonds of those sins are broken.  The guilt is removed.  The shame wiped away.”

 

Let us believe the word of whatever angel comes to you from Jesus with this message, for it is Jesus who sends the message to all who are bound by the chains of sin and hell.

 

Let us rejoice that we no longer see Jesus bearing our weakness.  That means our sins have been removed forever, once and for all.

 

And if we grieve over the weakness we still bear, let us receive Jesus’ pledge that we share, even now, in His glory, as our glorious, risen Savior gives us the foretaste of our resurrection.  Let us eat His body and drink His blood which have purged away the old, evil leaven from us.  See, His blood now marks our door, faith points to it.  Death passes oer.  And Satan cannot harm us.  Alleluia!

 

Amen.

 

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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Sermon Fragment–19th Sunday after Trinity

October 15, 2012 2 comments

I am reduced to fragments because I never get through the editing process before Sunday morning.  I have to edit on the fly.  Though I would like it to be different, I am afraid it will be the same this week, since I have two funerals and a houseguest.  If I really want to get my sermons shorter, what I think I need to do is plan to preach on about half of one point that I want to make.

19th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 9:1-8

October 14, 2012

“I Will Build My Church”—Week 3: Divine Service, Scripture, Prayer

“Built by the Authority of the Son of Man”

 

You who have been consecrated to be God’s dwelling place by the authority of Jesus Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

We are God’s house of living stones

Built for His own habitation.

He by baptismal grace us owns,

Heirs of His wondrous salvation.

Were we but two His name to tell

God still with us would ever dwell

With all His grace and His favor.

 

When Jesus promised Peter that He would build His church, He was already signaling that He was a different kind of Messiah than Peter thought he would be.  The glorious King of the Jews from David’s house was going to build a temple for the Lord in the last days, the Scriptures said.  But Jesus said that He was going to build “His Church,” which means a gathering of people. 

 

To us a king’s church calls to mind a cathedral with ceilings arching into the heavens and walls of cavernous, echoing stone.  It’s difficult for us to get comfortable with the idea that when Jesus said, “I will build my church” He didn’t just mean the city of God with 12 pearly gates that comes down from heaven in glory on the last day.  Is it possible that He envisioned the church on earth between Pentecost and judgment day appearing not only in churches with pews packed full of smiling people but also in congregations less than half full, congregations where funerals outnumber baptisms, churches that die slowly through persecution or through rejection of God’s Word?  Or congregations wracked with conflict, where members sin grievously against one another, where pastors feed themselves and not the sheep, or where there is more joy over the 99 that need no repentance than over one sinner who repents?  How could it be possible that the Messiah would come to build that kind of a temple?

 

Jesus’ Church is holy.  On the last day the church’s holiness and radiance as the pure bride of the Lamb will be visible before all creation.  Those who truly belong to Christ will be manifest.  But now the church’s holiness is hidden.  The sinful flesh of Christians makes the perfect holiness which Christ put on them in Baptism invisible.  False Christians also are in the midst of the visible gathering of the church, along with false teachers.  Together they cause divisions and harm the witness of the church, but it is not always possible to root them out without also destroying or harming weaker members of the true church.

 

So the church on earth suffers and is weak.  You don’t necessarily find it in buildings that are beautiful, or full of nice people who are dedicated to serving God.  This is very hard for us to accept.  If Jesus is God, how could His temple be so weak and small and afflicted?

 

It was also hard for Peter to accept.  Right after Jesus praised Peter for confessing, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, right after He promised to build His church, Jesus began to teach the disciples that when they went to Jerusalem, Jesus would not be seated on David’s throne and begin to rule the whole earth.  Instead He would suffer at the hands of the chief priests, be killed, and then be raised on the third day. 

 

Peter, who had just confessed the faith, that Jesus is the Messiah, begins to rebuke Jesus for saying this.  And a few minutes after praising Peter, Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”  He went from blessed to Satan in a few minutes.  Why?  Because he believed Jesus was the king of the Jews, but his reason couldn’t accept that this mighty king would then be rejected and put to death.

 

That is why it is so hard for us to accept that Christ’s church can really be found where there is great sin and weakness and suffering.  How can weakness and suffering be the work of a God who loves you?  How can God’s temple be being built if it is suffering and dying?

 

The same way that God was found in a man who was condemned to death as a blasphemer, then whipped, mocked with a crown of thorns, presented to a crowd in his humiliation who screamed for His crucifixion.  If that happened to you, would you have a hard time believing God was with you?  Yet we say that the true God can’t be known or found apart from the man who died in this shame and weakness.  We preach that there is no other tree of life than the dead tree He dragged out to Golgotha, and His blood that stained it and the body that hung dead from its limbs is the fruit of the tree of life.  We say that only in the curse pronounced by God upon Jesus—“Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree”—does God bless us and make His face shine upon us.  His face shines upon us in the face that poured bloody sweat onto the ground in the olive grove, the face in which we spit and tore out the beard (Is. 50? 52?), bleeding from thorns, the face that pleaded till death for His Father’s blessing and forgiveness for us.

 

If Jesus’ death on the cross saves us, if our Lord and Savior is the one who died on the cross, then it is a simple fact—the way of the cross is the way of salvation.  Jesus’ church inherits the life everlasting.  It is being saved.  That means that instead of looking as though it is being built up, we can expect it to look like it is being torn down and destroyed.  The one that Peter said was the King of the Jews and the Son of God later had a sign above His head that said “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”—and His head was bloody from a crown of thorns, and His hands were nailed to a tree.  And what little He had in the way of earthly possessions and honor was torn down and thrown in the dust.

 

That is the rock on which Jesus builds His church, against which the gates of hell can never prevail.  The rock is Himself, the King of the Jews, who dies on the cross and rises from the dead and takes away the sins of the world.  Because this is who He is and what He does, He has the authority from God the Father to loose people from their sins.  That means that He forgives sins, but also that He sets people free from the power of the devil, and all that goes with the devil’s kingdom—death, sickness, misery, slavery to sin.

 

In the New Testament, “authority” usually means not only power but also the right to use it.  Lawful rulers have authority from God to punish lawbreakers with death—that means God has given them the right to do it.  Parents have authority from God to punish their children.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows that He has been given the right by God the Father to loose people from their sins.  He not only has the power to do it, but He has been authorized by God.

 

In contrast, the devil and demons are sometimes described as having “authority”, but their authority is really only power that they have stolen from God.  The devil does not have the right to twist God’s Word, or to tempt us to give glory to ourselves or our idols instead of to God (which is the same thing as giving glory to the devil.)  When the devil lies and tempts, and then dominates sinners, the devil is stealing from God.  He has power, but he has done this against God’s will.

 

In the same way, sinners are able to steal from God.  Those who are under the power of sin take God’s gifts and do not thank Him.  They love and serve and trust God’s gifts instead of Him.  They have the power to do this, but not the right.  Adam and Eve were authorized to have dominion over all the earth, to be fruitful and multiply, and to eat all of the fruit in the garden except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They had the power to take from that tree, but not the authority.  And once the devil had gotten them to step out from under God’s authority, he now was able to control every person who was not brought to repentance by God.  Since that time, people are born taking what God has not given them authority to have.  We judge and condemn and take revenge on those who sin against us—even if that is only in our hearts—but we have no authority to do this.  We put our own honor above God’s honor; we put our will above God’s will.  We give the love, praise, and worship of our hearts to other things besides God, to whom it belongs.  When God does not give us what we want or think we need we go and take it for ourselves.

 

That’s why it was such a shocking thing for Jesus to tell the paralyzed man, “Take courage, child.  Your sins are forgiven” or better, “Your sins are loosed from you.”  Even when you sin against another person, your offense is most of all against God.  If you lose your temper and insult and curse your neighbor, you have sinned against them, but you have also sinned against God, because He has not authorized you to condemn and curse and injure those who sin against you—not even to punish them in your heart.  By taking revenge, you dishonor the true God and worship another, because you are saying, “God is unjust and will not take care of me, so I have to get justice myself.”  The same thing is true with every sin against our neighbor—they are all dishonoring God—not trusting Him above everything else, not loving Him above everything else.

 

Even though we are Christians we have a difficult time believing in original sin, because our society has eliminated sin from its way of thinking.  We believe that there are bad people, but those are usually people who do evil against other people on purpose.  The fact that from the time of birth we dishonor God—not trusting Him to give us what is good, not loving Him more than we love His gifts—we don’t think of as sin, but rather as weakness that God would be unfair to be angry about.  The fact that it is natural for us not to pray or want to hear God’s word, to disobey and dishonor parents and authorities, to hold grudges, to lust and engage in sexual sin, to attack people’s reputation and covet their things—we think that since we can’t help it, it can’t be a punishable offense.  God in a sense owes us forgiveness.

 

But when someone is born with some flaw that they have little control over that causes them to harm us repeatedly, we behave differently.  They say that sociopaths are born without the ability to empathize with other people’s pain, but that doesn’t prevent us from getting angry when they run us over.  People are born with mental illness, and we may give them some breaks, but if they are dangerous to society we don’t say, “Well, they can’t help it, so we won’t lock them up.”  They say Hitler was abused when he was a child, and the reality is that those who are abused quite often become abusers when they become older, but no one says that Hitler should be excused.  And in the same way, we were born in sin, and as a result we dishonor God every day and refuse to acknowledge Him as God.  If we say, “I can’t help it, so I shouldn’t be punished,” what we are really saying is that God is at fault for our sin.

Which is indeed what we said when we crucified Jesus.

 

That is why it was a shock when Jesus said, “Your sins are loosed.”  Human beings can’t forgive sins.  God must forgive sins.  They are committed against Him.

 

Is that why Jesus forgave—because He is God?  Yes and no.  Notice what Jesus calls Himself—the Son of Man.  Jesus is not on earth simply to show that He is God.  He has put aside His divine power and put on our likeness—the likeness of sinners who are subject to death and God’s curse.  He only uses His divine power when it is necessary for fulfilling His mission.  He never uses it to make things easy for Himself, because He is on earth to be what we are.  He has come to do what we cannot do—live under God’s authority without sin.  We disobey God and live as we wish.  Even when we repent, we find our flesh rebelling against the will of God.  Jesus came to do what we could not.

 

So it is not simply as God, but as one of us that Jesus has authority to take sins away, to take them off of people, to set them free from their power. 

 

To show that He had this authority and power from God, He did a shocking miracle.  With a word He told a paralyzed man to get up and walk home. 

 

Yet Jesus acts as if it were a better thing, a greater thing, to simply say, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Your sins are loosed from you.” 

 

That is because it is.  Because if your sins are taken away, God erases them from His book.  They are gone.  His wrath then is gone, death is gone.  God becomes yours, and everything that is His.  Not in the sense that you get to do what you want with it, but in the sense that it all serves you; He makes it all work for you.  It’s all yours, but not in such a way that you can destroy yourself by misusing it.

 

That authority—to forgive sins—is how Jesus builds His church—how He creates a holy assembly who belong to God and are free from sin, and able to live forever in His presence.  Who begin to love their neighbor.

 

When Jesus told Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven…” He was talking about this authority—to forgive sins.

 

Jesus has given this authority to the Church, and He has authorized ministers to exercise this authority so that people may be loosed from their sins, set free from Satan’s kingdom, and delivered into the Kingdom of Jesus, the church, in which we have the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, unity with God.

 

How is this authority exercised?  Through Jesus’ word and sacraments.  That is why the church is not found where there is earthly glory.  We know where the church is by where Jesus’ gifts are—where His authority to forgive sins is being used.  There, even though human beings are exercising the keys, Jesus is present, working through His church.

 

Baptism

All authority…

 

It’s not that we simply need information.  We need to be free to be Jesus disciples.

 

Jesus’ power, connected to His sacrifice on the cross.

Divine Service

            Gospel

 

            Sacrament of the Altar.

 

Healing

Growth in love

 

            Confession and absolution.

                        It looses us, just like the paralytic, but spiritually. 

                        It is better to be a paralytic and have sins loosed.

                        The tremendous gift—we are free, and we are not alone.

 

Scripture/meditation.

            The whole Scripture points to Jesus and gives us the Spirit.

 

Prayer:

 

            Claiming our authority as sons of God when the gates of hell close in on us.

 

            Bringing our paralyzed neighbor to the Father.

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