Pentecost 20C 2013 (Luke 17:1–20)


We all know sin is a problem. We all know temptation is a problem. Jesus Himself is always dealing with sinners and their sins, their temptations. He deals only with sinners. We know this, but His discussion from our Gospel lesson really focuses on this. He leads it off with, “It’s impossible that scandals, sins, temptations, occasions for falling don’t come.” These things are going to happen. People are sinners. We’re sinners. And these sorts of things happen to sinners. There’s no getting around it.

Sin is lawlessness. Sinning is acting in unbelief. The things that we do daily and much, as the Catechism says—sin, lawlessness, unbelief. But Jesus is discussing something much more specific than just the things that we do daily and much. The things He knows that we do when no one is looking, when no one is hearing our thoughts. Jesus is talking about the most dangerous and insidious “occasion for stumbling”, that is, the most dangerous place for causing a saint of God to lose his or her faith. It’s better for him who causes it, “if a mill stone were tied to his neck and he be tossed into the sea than to scandalize one of these little ones.” Scandalize, that is, cause them to loose there faith.

We all know sin is a problem. But the biggest problem with sin, for the person who commits it, is not that he’s done it. It’s not what she’s done. It’s that it’s not forgiven. This is what Jesus is talking about. It’s not just sin and causing others to sin, it’s what happens when someone doesn’t forgive sin.

(3. We think, “There is forgiveness…maybe.”)

This is why we rejoice in the forgiveness of sins. We believe in it. We’ll confess it today in the Creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” This is the glorious truth of the Christian religion that makes it different from every other heathen religion in the world—that sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake apart from works of the Law. Jesus Christ has redeemed us, won for us the forgiveness of sins, with His holy precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death, as the Catechism teaches us. What joy that is! We believe in the forgiveness of sins. It’s something that is ever present in our confession because sins always.

And sins come don’t they? Jesus says it: “It’s impossible that occasions for falling don’t come!” We’re sinners. Even though we’re saints of God, we’re still sinners. And occasions for stumbling pop up whenever and wherever sinners are afoot. We do all sorts of sins. There are the one’s that we do and only God knows. Then there are the one’s that we do and other people do know about. We wish we hadn’t done that. We wish we would stop. We love God and love our neighbor, and then we don’t. We just don’t.

So we receive the consolation of Christ’s forgiveness. We’re baptized. That doesn’t expire. We hear it in the Scriptures. We hear it in the Gospel. We hear it in the absolution. We receive it with Jesus’ body and blood in the Supper. This is our consolation before God, that we are received into His favor for Christ’s sake, when our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. There’s no other joy than to know that Jesus gives us forgiveness so that we can stand before our heavenly Father without spot or blemish.

We definitely believe in the forgiveness of our own sins. Of course we do! How else could we meet the day? We rejoice in it. We revel in it. And why shouldn’t we? We’re set free from all that we’ve done. We are God’s children, no longer His enemies. We stand redeemed, not lost.

The Christian faith isn’t just knowing that my sins are forgiven, but that your sins are forgiven too! We believe, teach, and confess that there is “the forgiveness of sins.” This is for all sinners. Other people’s sins are forgiven too, aren’t they? We believe that, don’t we? Of course we do!

Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.” We like to hear that. Rebuke him. That’s where we sit. We almost jump at the chance to rebuke our neighbor sometimes. We love to show them how they’re wrong, or how they’ve sinned, messed up. We’ll make sure we rub their noses in a bit just to make sure they get it, and then we’ll forgive them, of course. But they need to know what’ve done is wrong first.

(2. Jesus says, “Repeated sins are forgiven.”)

But, yeah, they’re forgiven. What if they do it again? Well, sure! What if they do it again? And what if they’ve done it against you? And what if they do it again and again? What if they’ve done it before, and we can probably guess that they’ll do it again? They’ve gotta show they’re sorry first. The words weren’t sincere, if they don’t act on them.

Is that how we want God to deal with us? How many times do we commit the same sin. We do it. We hate it. We do it again. We hate it again, and we do it again. Round and round we go. Listen to what Jesus says, “If seven times a day he sins AGAINST YOU, and seven times he returns to you saying, “I repent,” you will forgive him.” There it is. The Lord forgives you and me over and over and over again. Most of the time for the very same things—satan and our flesh work differently and specifically for each of us. We do the same for our neighbor. Forgiveness flows from Jesus to you. For all your repeated sins.

Yes, even repeated sins are forgiven. That’s what Jesus says. Seven times. The perfect number of times. Just over and over again—forgiven. Just “I repent.” “I’m sorry.” What other thing can we do? And the Lord says all the more, “Forgiven. Forgiven. Forgiven.” As many times as it happens, even in the same day, Jesus says, “Forgiven.”

(1. Jesus says, “Hard, deep-rooted sins are forgiven.”)

“Increase our faith!” exclaim the disciples. Indeed, more Jesus is needed—more Jesus, more faith; more Jesus, more forgiveness, more forgiveness flowing out all over the place. But those who have more Jesus, more faith can not only forgive repeated sins. Repeated sins are nothing for Jesus. But what of deep-rooted sins. Sins even against you, deep, hard, old wood sins—forgiven. “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you may say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the see,’ it would obey you.” Sins hard, deep-rooted, ones that are ingrown in our souls. Faith says, Jesus says, “Be uprooted and be drowned in the waters of holy baptism. Be absolved. Be washed away with my blood.”

The tree Jesus points to is not to say, “Faith can do awesome things.” Indeed, faith can do awesome things: it can say to sins, “Forgiven.” “Be uprooted form your place, be tossed into Jesus’ forgiveness.” Jesus forgives your hard, deep-rooted sins. The scandal would be to say, “Oh, that was done too many times.” The scandal the ruining of faith would be to say, “Oh, that one’s too old, too ingrown, too hard.”

That’s the scandal. But Christ says, “No. They are forgiven—all the more forgiven. Don’t despair. I forgive you. I’ve baptized you. No sin is done too many times against Me, Your gracious Lord, to be forgiven. Of course I forgive you, with no strings attached. I find those sins which are old and ingrown, and I forgive them. I uproot them. I cast them once again into the depths of Your baptism into Me and My righteousness.”

What joy that Christ says such wonderful things to us. Faith says it too. To the old, ingrown, deep-rooted Adam, Christ says, “Be uprooted, be tossed into the sea!” Thanks be to God that’s the case. Sin is indeed a problem, but Jesus has the solution to sin, to any sin, to even repeated and deep-rooted ones—forgiveness. Thanks be to God that


Indeed they are. And when faith says the same for you and for others, don’t expect something great. “When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” Jesus told you to do it. Is that what we want to hear? Forgive! Fine, let that ring in our ears when we think about someone and say, “I just can’t forgive them.” Or “I just can’t forgive myself?” We do that all the time. Because to someone who says that Jesus says, “It’s better if a mill stone were tied to his neck and he be tossed into th sea than to scandalize one of these little ones.”

But thanks be to God Jesus says again and again and again, “I forgive you.” “You are my little one.” “I forgive even those hard, old, petrified, deep-rooted sins.” And they are forgiven. “I forgive your not forgiving.” And it is forgiven. Thanks be to God that



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