Christ and the Adulteress
Lucas Cranach the Elder
1 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you."3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!" 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 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." 7 And he arose and departed to his house. 8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Most holy and blessed saints of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven by Christ today who serves and gives his life as a ransom for many. The Son of God has power on earth to forgive sins and he surely does it. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today we have seen it. We may not be marveling as the multitudes did when they saw Jesus forgive and heal a paralytic man – but the authority given to Ronald Morgan in the midst of us is just as glorious or more glorious. For Jesus’ miracle for the paralytic man pointed to God’s mighty and final redemptive act which was yet to take place on the cross at Jerusalem. Today, in this divine service God has surely done it and declared you blameless and precious in his sight. Furthermore he willed that Ronald S. Morgan become His own shepherd to speak His Words and give His sacraments. Many Christians may never see an ordination service for it only happens once for a man who becomes a pastor – in this way it is like baptism.
I have known Pastor Morgan for some time. He is a talented exegete and theologian. He is compassionate and graceful with shut in visits to the elderly and sick. He was a remarkably kind, patient, and loving teacher among children at both at his field work and vicarage assignments. He was well loved at Fort Wayne seminary where he tutored students in Greek and Hebrew. As one who comes from a dairy farm in Iowa he is naturally likeable and enjoyable to chat and spend time with. But for all your diligence, excellence, loving kindnesses, and personal strengths it will not be enough for your new brothers, sisters, and mothers at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. When it comes to God’s Holy church you on your own cannot usher your flock heaven-ward. I’m sorry Ron.
Merciful God, heavely Father, thou has said to us through the mouth of thy dear Son our Lord Jesus Christ: "The Harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers in this harvest." The Lord of the harvest gives you your laborer. He gives you one to speak his words and declare his wondrous acts. He has not equipped him with the tools of dairy farming that Pastor Morgan was accustomed to back in East Iowa but he gives tools from heaven. He gives him this very pulpit to comfort guilt stricken hearts, to proclaim the gospel and forgive sins. He says ‘arise and walk!’ as you sing in your liturgy "Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace according to thy word." Jesus gives you your font which your Pastor will baptize your children. He will hold them in his farmer’s arms and give them the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He will declare innocence and blessedness to tormented souls and comfort the sick and infirm. But as a man, he is utterly incapable of doing these things. He is not preaching his wisdom, and he is not doing the baptizing. Jesus has desired to be near us, for ‘behold the kingdom of heaven draws near.’ We hear the words of Jesus in the pulpit. They are the words which create faith, sustain it, and finally usher saints into heaven. As God says, Let there be light! – so Pastor Morgan says, "I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
Christ comes to you through Pastor Morgan. He gives us His Holy Supper which your Pastor will consecrate and administer to you, his dearly beloved in the pews today. Before the ordination service this morning Ronald Morgan was not enough. Not for you and not for me. Not at all sufficient, even with his strength, wisdom, and knowledge of the Christian faith. He is utterly incapable of his own deliverance and incapable for yours. But God does not rely on the will of men to save his creation but rather does it himself, bearing all your sins, sicknesses, and burdens. God has done it himself. It is a matter within Himself, not a matter between you and Pastor Thompson. He purchases back that which was already His. By grace he descends to wash dusty feet, to preach and teach, sing psalms and spiritual song with us, and ultimately die on a cross. Descending to the depths of hell he buries all that has gone wrong in creation and all that has gone awry in your very body- your sins, your burdens – the very curse of death itself – your desire to be more than a faithful creature of the heavenly father – who knitted and fashioned you in your mother’s womb.
We are the paralytic in the Gospel reading for today. We too have been brought by faithful people to Jesus, whether by parents, friends, missionaries, or whomever. Today we have been brought by the Holy Ghost to Christ’s Holy Church in which Pastor Morgan assumes the responsibilities of a called and ordained servant of Jesus Christ. By faith we comes to be forgiven, released from bondage, and restored to purity and righteousness before our heavenly Father. Saint Paul speaks to Pastors at Ephesus: Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Saint Paul further warns about wolves entering among the flock, frightening them. He speaks of men who speak false things to the flock to pervert the Gospel and lead those astray. The power of God himself has been knitted and vested to Pastor Morgan. In the walls of this church we find the mighty and impregnable fortress of our God – not in dilapidated bricks and mortar but in the body and blood of Christ.
All the devils in the world cannot strip the vestments of authority of Christ now given to your pastor. He has the authority to announce your death to sin and rebirth in Christ, the authority to feed you meal and drink from heaven, to feast on the Lamb of God so that we may all sing Glory to God on high and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Dear Pastor Morgan, it is your day and this is a great day. But surely being Christ for your people does not feel like a life that is blameless, without sin, or blemish. For Saint Paul also with Christ’s authority gives us a sobering look at the life of a Pastor. He says:
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak…being defamed, we entreat. We have been made the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
In this agony, Pastor Morgan, you will find your joy and God will likewise forgive you your sins as surely as he forgives others. Sunday and after Sunday you shall preach the Gospel text and proclaim the same message as today, Arise and walk! Your sins are forgiven! Be of good cheer! God has surely done it! In faith, your flock, and you yourself, will never tire of this message until you breathe your last earthly breath and sleep in Christ’s eternal peace. Children will be baptized and the elderly and mortally ill will pass through this life but dying sinners will continue coming to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church to hear the same message. They will prayerfully say to themselves, say it again Pastor! Tell us how it is, how does God consider me. Am I truly blessed? Even with the drudgery and sin of this week, the bitterness of agony and defeat, does God consider me His own? By God’s grace dying sinners will keep coming.
So tell them again and again Pastor. And your people will love you, not simply because you’re a delight of a man from East Iowa but because Christ gives himself through you. And Christ gives His people all things. His very robe of righteousness so that we may all, simple Pastors and dearest saints feast at the same heavenly table before the face of our Lord. Amen.