"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46-47
After His resurrection, Jesus opens the Scriptures to His disciples/apostles and gives them work to do. They are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus to the world.
This proclamation is certainly to be done publicly for all to hear. Yet it should not be exclusively public. The forgiveness of Jesus Christ can and should be proclaimed to repentant sinners in private as well.
This forgiveness (absolution) is the declaration that Jesus Christ has bled and died for you! What better way to emphasize this "for you" aspect of the Gospel than to declare it privately straight to someone's face?
Any Christian can forgive sins in the name of Jesus. And when we sin against one another, we should confess to one another in private and absolve (forgive) one another.
Yet Jesus Christ has specifically called and ordained your pastor to hear your personal confession. Is there a sin that bothers you, a millstone hanging about your neck? Your pastor is the man, called by Christ and given His authority, to take that burden from you, hang it on Christ's neck, and let it die with Him. He is the full-time "absolution-man".
[And he is under a seal of protection for you. Your pastor is duty bound to take your confession to his grave, and even a court order cannot drag it out of him.]
Absolution stands at the center of the Gospel because this is precisely why Christ has come. To paraphrase Saint Paul, if sins are not forgiven, then we have hoped in vain.
But sins are forgiven, generously, lavishly, by the precious blood of Jesus! If you seek extra comfort and reassurance of the forgiveness of your sins, go to your pastor, confess to Him, and He will do His job. He will forgive your sins with the power of Jesus Christ.
[Tomorrow: We stand for Repentance!]