The Gospel Is For Sinners Only

Text:  Matthew 9:18-26

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

It should not surprise us that a leader of the synagogue came to Jesus for help, for his daughter had just died.  That’s what good and sane fathers do when their daughters are in trouble; they try to fix things or at least find someone who can.

In the Gospel of Mark, we hear more about this father, we hear that he came and fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him for a divine intervention.  This desperation makes sense too.  We can all relate to this, even agonize with the fear, concern, and anxiety of the father. 

All this stated, imagine with me for a moment if this father did nothing, if he did not show concern about the illness of his daughter. Imagine if he even denied the reality that she was sick in the first place. 

Can you imagine? 

“Dear father, your daughter is about to die; it is rather serious.  She needs a physician or something more!” 

“Nah, she is perfectly healthy.  She is normal, whole, and complete.  Stop being so unloving, judgmental, and cruel!  Why do you always have to be so negative?” 

If we heard this, we would cry out,

“Outrage!  She is not normal, standard, and whole, but rather she is dying.  For the love of God; do you not see, she is motionless and helpless?  Lord have mercy; your very own flesh and blood – your beloved daughter – is dying and you are either a callous monster or blind to reality!” 

And yet, this is how we act day after day after day.  We may not be a callous monster but we are certainly blind to reality. You see, we live in a culture that covers sin and death with fragrant perfume, saying all is well.  We live in a time that attempts to standardize and normalize sin and its seriousness.  In a word; we take that which is contrary to God’s Law – sin – and attempt to write it off as o.k.  By doing this, we attempt to take ourselves off of the metaphoric deathbed of sin.  We take whatever sin we cherish – you know, those pet sins – and we attempt to remove them from the category of sin and place it into the category of ordinary, whole, and healthy. Furthermore, if we can get enough people around us to agree that we aren’t dead in sin, then we can at least feel a sense of normalcy.  Furthermore, if we can get the national government to pass laws that tell us that we are not guilty of wrong but justified, well then… we must be o.k. 

Let’s face it, as humans, we try to live under the illusion that we are healthy and whole.  We do not want to be a needy-helpless-corpse of sin sprawled out on a death bed, but rather, we want to be independently alive. 

And so, we attempt to convince ourselves that we are o.k.  We create social media profiles where we look great and whole.  We gather people around us that will affirm us that we are successful and honorable.  We speak positive thoughts to ourselves, all to paint the self-portrait that we are complete and that our sins are not abnormal, but respectable.  Tragically, we will even accumulate pastors for ourselves that will tickle our ears and suit our own fancy. 

All along though, we have this heart of sin that is buried underneath all our attempts of self-justification, a heart that daily spews forth the sickness of evil thoughts, murder, adultery, lust, unnatural fornication, theft, lies, coveting, gluttony, and slander. 

Even though we might be able to keep up a good appearance on the outside with people in the church, community, work, and neighborhood; inside, there is death.  Inside there is the death of sin: jealousy, greed, malice, and every form of evil.  Indeed, even if we can avoid looking bad on the outside, keeping our deepest dark fantasies hidden away in our minds, they cannot be hidden from the eyes of God.  The Lord sees through our smoke screens.  He knows that we are dead in sin, according to our old Adam, not alive in righteousness.  We are not as whole, alive, and vibrant as we might think. 
And so, my dear friends, we need to repent.  Yes, we need to repent of our sins and we need to repent of our self-deception – the times that we say that we have no sin.  Yes, repent, acknowledge this day that according to the sinful nature that you are dead in your sins.  Confess that you have tried to not only deny and diminish the stench of your sinful heart but have tried to normalize it by sprinkling potpourri over it.  Stretch out on that deathbed, beside the leader’s daughter and die with her.  Yes, die with her.

But what happens to us poor miserable sinners when we lie in death with the dead daughter?  What happens when we are exposed and unmasked?  What will the Lord do with broken, destroyed, hurt, crippled, wrecked, collapsed, and torn down sinners on a deathbed?    Will Christ be troubled by this?  Will He be bothered?  Will He come to the rescue?  Will Christ even care? 

Jesus did for the father’s daughter.  He came to the rescue.  He cared. He worked His way through the crying, wailing, and grieving crowd to the dead girl.  He then grabbed death by the hand, and the girl got up.

Dear friends, we need to keep in mind that the essence of the Gospel is neither a fluffy abstract love feeling nor the spirit of tolerance. But rather, what makes the Gospel really good news is that the Gospel is for dead sinners only.  It is for the spiritually dead.  It is for you; it is for me.  Yes, the Gospel is about the forgiveness of sins.

You and I cannot know the greatness of Christ’s grace and forgiveness unless we first recognize our sickness of sin.[1] Therefore, good news can only be received by sinners.  The Gospel can only be applied to the blessed dead. 

However, by normalizing, standardizing, diminishing, and denying sin, no matter what that sin may be, we are essentially denying our need of the Gospel and eroding the very fundamental core of Christianity.  As Jesus said, “Those, who are well, have no need of a physician.”[2]

You, who have ears, hear.  You are the blessed dead.  Indeed, those who act like they are sinless, whole, and alive with their own spiritual righteousness are the living dead.  You, though, you who confess, “I am a poor miserable person dead in my sin,” well… you are living because Jesus forgives and gives life to sinners. 

You, who have ears, hear.  Blessed are you when you confess your sins and die with the young girl, for just as Jesus took the daughter by the hand and said to her, ‘little girl, I say to you, arise,’ He also takes you by the heart and says,

‘Oh my child, I forgive you.  I say to you arise.  I love you.  You are mine.  Come off the bed of death, the bed of sin, and live again.’

What assurance we have in the Gospel!  The worse of our sins, the darkest of our desires, and the silly games we play—they are no more!  They are forgiven for Christ’s sake.  They are crucified unto Christ.  They are nothing.  Gone.  Forgiven.  Buried.  And we are given life – eternal life. 

This, Baptized Saints, is the message that St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and the Christian Church lives by.  We hold to the message of Christ crucified for sinners. 

Come hell or high water; this message is our constant.  This message is our assurance, hope, and life. 

Whether in season or out of season, Christ is for sinners like you and me and our neighbors. 

Do not fear, our Savior Jesus Christ is the one who makes His way through the crowds, the noises, and the wailings of life, to touch you with water, bread, and wine while saying, “Get up; your sins are forgiven, you are whole and alive in Me.” 

Do not fear: Jesus died; He is risen; He has reached out and taken you from the deathbed of sin unto Himself.   Do not fear, believe.   

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Apology of the Augsburg Confession, II:33.
[2] See Matthew 9:12.

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