Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.” This is the glorious Gospel of Reformation Day. We haven’t come together to celebrate Lutheranism and honor ourselves, but we are here to hear the saving Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We hear this Gospel as we remember that we dwell in the Church Militant, the Church that must, for a time, endure the attacks of Satan. “Though with a scornful wonder the world sees us oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,” God has set watchmen who guard against the sad divisions of Satan, watchmen who never hold their peace, proclaiming “‘Surely your Salvation is coming;’ soon your weeping shall be replaced with song, ‘and the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.’”
Martin franzmann, the author of this morning’s first hymn and a long-time professor in our Synod, called the man in today’s Gospel “the man who went home with only a word in his pocket.” I think this does more to help us understand today’s Gospel and its importance than anything else. The nobleman is a reminder to us, an encouragement to us, to live by faith alone, faith in the strong Word of God. He went home with only the Word, only a promise. His faith was rewarded with fulfillment. May God grant us all such a faith that endures all things, content with only a Word in our pocket and nothing more!
Isaiah said, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” This is Our Lord’s Law and Gospel. It’s sweetest Gospel: This is the time of God’s grace! He abundantly pardons! He gives bread and wine and milk without money and without price and living water so that you never thirst again. He gives spiritual food and drink—nourishment, health, healing that have no price tag, no strings attached. But there is law here, too. “Seek the Lord while He may be found.” We live in a time of grace will not last forever. As longsuffering as our God is, the invitation has a time limit. The end of days will come and it will be too late to accept the invitation, to repent of sins, to be absolved, and to have eternal life. So in this life, as long as the call rings out, “The feast is ready. Come to the feast, the good and the bad. Come and be glad! Greatest and least, come to the feast!” it is imperative to heed it. All who reject it will find a place in the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus shows us, through the paralyzed man, what the Christian life is all about. The Christian life is not about having it good in this world. It’s not about being free from disease, pain, poverty, and the like. If that’s what the Christian life is all about, if that’s what makes someone a Christian, then there are no Christians! There isn’t a single person anywhere in the world who can honestly say that they are free from anxiety, pain, disease, weariness, or any other problem. Everyone, despite economic status, gender, age, or any other demographic, struggles with something. And all of that proves what Jesus shows in this healing of the paralytic. What we really need is not the elimination of all problems. What we need is forgiveness. That is to say, what we need is Jesus.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.