Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
“Off With The Old, On With The New”
St. Matthew 9.1-8; Ephesians 4.17-32
07 October 2018
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor
+ In the Name of Jesus +
Christians in the centuries after our Lord’s ascension and the legalization of Christianity tended to build baptistery buildings outside the entrance to their basilica churches. These baptisteries tended to have as their “font” a series of steps the person to be baptized walked down into, in which the person was submerged, and walked back up the other side, where they were clothed with a white robe, perhaps given their baptism candle. The fourth century pastor and preacher John Chrysostom described the rite of Holy Baptism in his city of Constantinople this way:
Next after this, in the full darkness of the night, [the priest] strips off your robe and, as if he were going to lead you into heaven itself by the ritual, he causes your whole body to be anointed with that olive oil of the Spirit, so that all your limbs may be fortified and unconquered by the darts which the adversary aims at you.
After this anointing the priest makes you go down into the sacred waters, burying the old man and at the same time raising up the new, who is renewed in the image of his Creator. It is at this moment, through the words and hand of the priest, the Holy Spirit descends upon you. Instead of the man who descended into the water, a different man comes forth, one who has wiped away all the filth of his sins, who has put off the old garment of sin and has put on the royal robe. (Translation reprinted by T. Winger in Concordia Commentary: Ephesians, pp. 514-515)
The Bible speaks of our Baptism into Christ as Chrysostom does here, as “putting on Christ” – For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3.27) The baptized saints are depicted as wearing the white robe of Christ’s righteousness in the book of Revelation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7.14b)
Which begs the question: if in one’s baptism one has “put on Christ” – if one now wear’s Christ’s royal robe of righteousness, what did one formerly wear? The Bible’s answer is also given by Chrysostom: it was the “filth” of sin – pretty ugly, downright vile, evil in every way. Not just bad fashion sense. Rotten to the core and unholy, worthy of God’s eternal wrath and damnation.
The apostle Paul describes the result of Holy Baptism, and the ongoing teaching or catechesis in the Christian faith that is to go with it for disciples of Jesus, in today’s Epistle reading. Allow me to repeat Ephesians 4 beginning with the seventeenth verse:
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! — 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:17–24; ESV)
That old way of living, Ephesians, was mighty ugly! More than just falling out of style, it was the opposite of God’s very will for every human. Thus the exclamation in the middle stands out! But you did not learn Christ this way! You have heard Jesus’ word and been taught by Him, and you did not learn Christ this way, Ephesians, to just go back to the pagan temples and reunite with the perversions that were part of the worship of those places. You also did not learn Christ this way, only to go back to being callous towards the neighbor, wallowing in petty bitterness and anger and worse towards others.
But you did not learn Christ this way! If indeed you heard Him and were taught in Him (as the truth is in Jesus), that you have put off with regard to your former way of life the old man … and that you have put on the new man… (Winger translation, Concordia Commentary, p.505)
This is what you’ve been taught. The old man is a done deal in your Baptism. The new man has been put on you. The old Adam and his sinful desires and lusts are out. The new man, the new Adam, the Christ Himself, is united with you, has been put on you in Holy Baptism. God has worked anew in you. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Cor. 5.17)
Now we see what Jesus is doing for the paralytic in today’s Gospel lesson. Off with the old, on with the new. Not just new legs, the renewed ability to walk and function. That’s a visible sign that Jesus indeed has authority to deal with sin on earth, to deal with the old Adam and do away with it. At Jesus’ word, the man has “put on Christ,” is a new creation:
Be of good cheer, my son; your sins are forgiven.
Jesus has authority to forgive the paralytic and to forgive you, to remove from you the old man, and make you clean of sin and shame, because He did for you the work of righteousness and holiness that you could not do, that the paralytic could not do. Jesus acquired for you this new creation, this new righteousness, this new holiness, through His holy, innocent life, his precious suffering and death on the cross of Calvary, and this was declared valid from heaven itself by His glorious and victorious resurrection from the dead on Easter day.
The risen and ascended Lord Jesus takes care of your eternal need for forgiveness and eternal life by clothing you with His holiness, His righteousness in the waters of Holy Baptism. There, the old is turned out. You are made new in Him.
Here, in Divine Service, Holy Baptism, and Holy Absolution, Jesus continues to heal you of the ugliness and vileness of that old way of being. Continues to put off that old and put the new on you. For it is His will that you know and believe this: in your Baptism into Him, in your hearing and believing the Gospel and Absolution, in your receiving the gift of His blessed Supper of forgiveness, you may take comfort and confidence, that not only have you been washed and cleansed by His blood, made holy and righteous on His account before God in heaven, but also you have the guarantee of that which must follow: complete restoration and soundness of health and life, in the resurrection of all the dead, the life of the world to come.
St. Paul continued his letter to the Ephesians, after reminding them of what happened in Holy Baptism, that now the baptized life of that “different man” who has put off the old and put on the royal robe of Christ’s righteousness looks a certain way as we live each day:
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:25–32; ESV)
Let us pray:
O Lord Jesus Christ, one thing I ask of You, that I will seek after: continually show Yourself to my heart as the beautiful white robe of the righteousness of heaven to this good creation, and I will have comfort in abundance. For when I pray, I know that I will be heard. When I suffer, I know where I will be freed from my cross. When I must die, O Lord Jesus, my soul will ascend to You, hear comforting words from Your Father, and with the holy angels I will praise You forever. I desire this, O Lord Jesus, wonderful, most blessed comforter of body and soul, who has washed away my every sin in Your precious blood; grant that according to Your will I may see Your day of salvation soon.
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +