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“Down Thru the Roof!”
Mark 2:1-12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost—October 14, 2012

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

Our message is based on today’s Gospel Reading, the story of four men lowering their paralyzed friend “Down Thru the Roof!” to be healed by Jesus. 

There are many important aspects to this Gospel Reading.  First of all, it teaches us who Jesus really is.  Because, those who reject Jesus are exactly right when they ask, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  As the Lord declares in today’s Old Testament Reading, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 

Jesus’ authority to forgive sins, and his power to say to a paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and walk,” is proof of something truly amazing: Jesus is God, come down to earth and made man.  Jesus himself puts it this way: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”  Only God has power to forgive sins, and perform such miracles.  As the Gospel of John says, after Jesus’ first miracle, “He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.”  So, we learn from this Gospel Reading first of all who Jesus really is, the Son of God, come down to earth and made man.

Even though the event in today’s Gospel Reading is not a parable, but really did happen, it does have a symbolic, parable-like significance for us.  The paralyzed man represents you, paralyzed and held captive by sin.  As Paul says in Galatians, “Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.”  Like that paralyzed man held prisoner by his sickness, without Christ we are all spiritually captive to sin.  And just as that paralyzed man could do nothing to help himself, you can’t do anything to earn your own salvation.  As Paul says in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”

“He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”  The Good News is, just as Jesus pronounces forgiveness and grants healing to the paralyzed man, he forgives you all your sin.  He earned forgiveness for you, by his life, death, and resurrection; he spiritually heals and restores you. “My son, my daughter,” Jesus says to you today, “your sins are forgiven.”

That is the symbolic significance for you of the paralyzed man, and the forgiveness and healing he received.  But, what about the paralyzed man’s four friends, who carry him to Jesus, and, when the house is too crowded, lower him “Down Thru the Roof!”?  What do they symbolize?

The four friends who bring the man to Jesus for forgiveness and healing have been interpreted many different ways.  Most often they are thought to represent the four evangelists, who wrote accounts of Jesus’ life, the Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Just like the four friends, these four Gospel writers carry you to Jesus through their accounts of his life and words. You receive forgiveness and healing through the Good News you read in their Gospels.  As John says at the end of his Gospel, “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

The four friends have also been understood as symbolic of the four wounds of Christ, made by the nails driven through his hands and feet.  Just as the four friends brought the paralyzed man and laid him before Christ the Lord, the precious wounds of Christ bring you before God, as Paul says in Ephesians, “You who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Through the wounds Christ suffered for you, God grants you forgiveness and healing.  As Isaiah says, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

The four friends have also been taken as symbolic of the means of grace, through which the Holy Spirit brings you to Jesus for forgiveness and healing.  As the Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran Church says, “To obtain such faith God instituted the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments.  For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who works faith . . . in those who hear the Gospel.”

In this interpretation, two of the friends represent the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.  Jesus address the paralyzed man as “son,” and that is also who you are through Holy Baptism, God’s beloved child. As Paul says in Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  In Titus, Paul describes Baptism as, “The washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  Just as Jesus addresses the paralyzed man as “son,” through Baptism you are born again as a child of God.

“Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus proclaims that same Good News to you in Holy Communion.  “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you . . .  this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  In 1st Corinthians, Paul describes Communion as “the cup of blessing,” because through this Sacrament, Christ’s gives you the blessings of forgiveness and strengthening your faith in him.

The two other friends would represent the Word of God, first of all written for us in the Holy Bible, and also proclaimed to us today through Christ’s ambassadors on earth.  “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus proclaims that same Good News to you in his written Word, the Holy Bible.  At the end of today’s service there’s a beautiful, ancient prayer that puts it this way: “Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.  Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” 

“Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus also proclaims that same Good News to you through his ambassadors on earth.  For, that is what pastors are when they faithfully preach to you Christ’s word, and pronounce upon you Holy Absolution in his name.  As Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, for God is making his appeal through us.” 

Jesus told to the Apostles, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven them.”  Martin Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “When the called ministers of Christ deal with us by his divine command . . . and absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend, this is as valid and certain, in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us himself.” 

So, in faithful preaching and Holy Absolution, it is really Christ himself speaking to you, just as he spoke that day in person to the paralyzed man, proclaiming forgiveness to you, through his servant.  As the pastor declares in our Liturgy, “As a called and ordained servant of the Word . . .  in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”

Finally, the four friends who bring the man to Jesus represent all those who bring others to Jesus.  For many of us, this was primarily our parents, who brought us to Baptism, worship, Sunday School, Confirmation and the Lord’s Supper, who kept us in their prayers, who brought us up, as Paul says in Ephesians, “In the training and instruction of the Lord.”  Fathers and mothers, when you do these things for your children, you are like those friends of the man who carried him to Jesus. 

These men also represent any others who help to bring people to Jesus, pastors, missionaries; Sunday School, Confirmation, and Vacation Bible School teachers; Bible study and youth leaders; relatives, neighbors, friends, co-workers; our teachers at Holy Cross Preschool; all who witness to their faith.  Whenever and however you share the Good News of Christ, you are like the friends of the man who brought him to Jesus.

“Son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus addresses you today as “son,” God’s child through Holy Baptism.  And just as he proclaimed the Good News of forgiveness in person to the paralyzed man, he proclaims that same Good News to you today, through his Word, through Holy Absolution, through Holy Communion: “My son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven.”

Amen.

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