Monday, October 05, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 2 (Trinity 20) - Confirmation

Second Sunday After Michaelmas, or the

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Confirmation: Perseverance in Faith

Matthew 22:1-14
New King James Version
22 And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, 3 and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. 4 Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ 5 But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. 6 And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. 7 But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9 Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ 10 So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 
The kingdom of heaven. Here we are to learn what is the meaning of the words, "Kingdom of heaven." When you hear of the kingdom of heaven, you must not only gaze up at the sky, but remain here below and seek it among the people over the whole world, where the Gospel is preached, and where there is faith in Christ, and the sacraments are properly administered. All that is necessary is, that the Lord God remove the partition wall which intervenes; namely, when we die; then all will be pure heaven and salvation.

A marriage. He calls it a marriage, not a time of toil and mourning, but a time for rest and joy, where one adorns himself, eats and drinks and is merry.

Then he makes the picture still more attractive and beautiful. He calls it not only a marriage, but a royal marriage. This marriage is a union of the divine with the human nature. And what kind of love Christ bears towards us is presented in the most affectionate manner in this picture of a wedding. There are different kinds of love; but none is so warm and ardent as bridal love. This love looks not to enjoyment, but only to the bridegroom, and says, I wish to have thee only. And as the bride loves the bridegroom, so we also love Christ, if we believe and are the true bride. And though he gave us heaven and the wisdom of all the prophets, and the glory of all the saints and angels, we would disregard it all, unless he also gave himself to us. (See Song of Solomon 2:16) "My be loved is mine and I am his." And he also will have my heart entirely; for the external things, such as outward virtues, are only handmaidens; he will have the bride herself. Now from this love and cordial confidence, flows the communion of all that they both jointly possess.

Thus we shall also become partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4.) But what do we bring to him? Nothing but grief. This an is uneven match. But he arrays his bride with all kinds of adornments.
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 
Call them that were bidden. The invitation to this wedding commenced at the beginning of the world (Patriarchs, Adam to Noah, then the prophets.)
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 
All things are ready. The invitation is nothing else but the preaching of the Gospel; whoever hears and receives the Gospel is saved. And this preaching of the Gospel is such glorious tidings, that it is not confined to the mere words, but the essence follows also.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 
One to his farm. "The farm;" that is, worldly honor is a great hindrance to our appreciation of Christ and believing on him.

Merchandise. By this is meant temporal goods, avarice, or the care that we might come to want or perish.
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 
Treated the servants spitefully. The third party are the worst; they are the high, the wise, the self-conceited spirits; these not only despise the invitation, but they also kill and murder the messengers. These were the Pharisees and Scribes. But the servants, who give the invitation to the marriage, are not only killed but also robbed of their honor and treated spitefully. Thus it is to be and our Lord God says nothing until his time comes.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 
The king was wroth and burned their city. This was done to the Jews by the Romans. But it is better to understand it spiritually; God destroyed the temple and city of Jerusalem and abrogated the Jewish economy entirely. It is true, that there is also much evil among us, such as anger, avarice, lewdness, etc., but such sins are as nothing in comparison with this detestable perversion of the word of God. The first world already, which despised Noah, the preacher of righteousness, God destroyed by the flood.

Therefore see to it, as you value your own salvation, that you beware of this sin, honor God's word, hear it diligently and cheerfully. For if we would do this for no other reason, yet we should do it for this reason, that God has commanded it and thereby love and service is shown him. But there are yet other and greater reasons; for God says, If thou wilt diligently hear and keep my word, thou shalt be lord of the devil.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
They which were bidden were not worthy.  The Jews crucified Jesus, and since that time they have not been worthy to hear a word of him.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
Go ye into the highways. We may never accomplish so much with our preaching, that all in a whole city, village or house shall become pious; but as it is written here, Bid to come in, both "good and bad." See I Corinthians 11:19.
11 If And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 
Not having on a wedding garment. That is, having no faith. For the wedding garment is Christ himself, whom we put on by faith. (Romans 13:14) Afterwards the garment imparts a splendor; that is, faith worketh love. Wilt thou bear fruit? then first become a tree; afterwards the fruit follows of itself. Now, those who were not clothed with the wedding garment are yet pious people, and far better than the former, mentioned in verses 3, 5, 6; for we must regard them as such who have heard and understood the Gospel; but depended on some kind of good works, and had not fully come to Christ.
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how earnest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 
And he was speechless. When this shall be charged against such loose Christians, either to their own conscience, or at the last day, they will not be able to give an excuse. They have known their duty very well; it has been preached to them often enough.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Cast him into outer darkness. They must perish with their works, for they do not shine forth by faith, in the true garment; they must be imprisoned with the devil in hell and endure the hellish fire; for they are bound "hand and foot," so that they cannot loose themselves by works. And in addition to this, they must lie in darkness and be separated from God's light; namely, from all consolation and faith, (the internal light.) Heat and cold are the two greatest plagues upon the earth. As if he would say, Ye shall have to suffer more than can be expressed in words or comprehended in thought.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen. 
Are chosen. The Gospel rebukes the Jews, because they do not believe, and the heathen, because they do not all have on the wedding garment.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 123-125

Monday, September 28, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 18 - Law and Gospel

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
Law and Gospel: The Great Commandment

Matthew 22:34-46
New King James Version
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’?

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 
Put the Sadducees to silence. The Pharisees are just as great fools and clumsy teachers as the Sadducees. Yet they regard themselves as wise and subtle and say, "Dear Master," listen also to us, and see what we know; for we are not as gross as the Sadducees. We understand God's word and works, which they do not understand; we are the rightful teach ers of the people; therefore tell us, "Which is the great commandment of the law?" This question indicates to us into what a great blindness the Jews had fallen, that they had for gotten the Ten Commandments, which even the little children know. This follows when one depends upon outward works.
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. Christ goes straight forward; he is a good marksman and hits the point. He wants the whole heart. Yes, this cordial love is such a sublime word, that reason cannot grasp it, let alone fulfill its demands. Yea, even the true Christians have enough to learn about it, and yet they can never learn it all.
38 This is the first and great commandment. The first and great. The command of love is the greatest; for if we keep this, we need no other. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
Thy neighbor as thyself. As God is satisfied with my faith, that I love him in my heart, as a benevolent God and merciful Father, of whom I delight to hear; so he will also, that all my works shall be directed to the good "of my neighbor (Psalm 15:3) Therefore he lets me live on earth, that I may in return show such kindness to my neighbor as God has graciously shown to me. When you see a Christian suffer want, then know that Christ suffers want, and needs your help. Where the service of God is, there is heaven. Now, when I serve my neighbor, I am already in heaven, for I serve God. But what is meant by serving the neighbor? It means, to do him good. For love, when it is properly exercised, does not consist in thoughts and words, but in deeds. 
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The law and the prophets. This law of love runs through all the commandments; and all the commandments must go through love. But now one may ask, How can all these things be embraced in these two commandments, since to the Jews circumcision and many other laws were given? For this reason, that this commandment (circumcision) should show whether they love God with their whole heart; whether they did it willingly or unwillingly; and this circumcision was an exercise in this commandment, "Thou shalt love God with all thy heart."

In the second place, Christ teaches the Pharisees how impossible it is for them to keep this commandment. Neither will human nature ever accomplish what God demands of us in this law; namely, that we must submit our will to his will, and thus renounce our own reason and will. Thus we are in the midst of distress and sorrow, and cannot help ourselves.
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 
What think ye of Christ? The other part of this Gospel, What is Christ? and what are we to think of him? follows now. If I believe with my whole heart that Christ has done this for me, then I receive the Holy Ghost, who makes me entirely new. But it is impossible that we should know God, not to say love him, unless we know Christ. Matthew 11:27.

Whose son was he? They did not think more of Christ than that he was the son of David; that is, he that should sit on David's throne, but should reign only as a worldly ruler, and subdue all the heathen under his dominion; but that they should need him in their afflictions to redeem them from sin and eternal death, of this they had no idea.
43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
How can he be David's Lord? David was the greatest man on earth, on account of the divine, glorious promises, and that he was allied with God in so great a covenant; and yet this great man and king falls down and confesses that his son, Christ, was his Lord, and such an one who was equal with God, acknowledged and worshiped as the right and true God; for it does not say, Sit thou at my feet, (for then he would be beneath God) nor did he say, Sit thou at my head, (then he would be above God) but, Sit thou at my right hand; therefore he is equal with God.

This is a correct likeness of Christ, which shows us what he is, and also what his office and work are.

This article of our faith is not as easy as one might suppose. If at this time a sect should arise, such as the Arians, or the Turks and Jews at the present day, it would be hard for a weak Christian to hold out against them. It does not correspond to say, Christ, the man, is God; and if it concerns corresponding, then we could not retain an article of the faith. Therefore say, Whether it corresponds or not, I know that no one can speak of God so well as he can himself.

Now comes the next verse, "Till I make thine enemies thy footstool." Here stand side by side the highest, greatest power, and the greatest weakness. It is the nature of this kingdom to be mysterious.
46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions. 
Not able to answer him a word. Thus the saying of Christ is fulfilled, (Matthew 22:44.) Where there is unbelief, though it appear to the world as wisdom and holiness, yet before God it is foolishness and unrighteousness. But the art to know what Christ is, this they can soon learn. We hear it every day and imagine it is an easy art, we understand it very well, when we hear it; but when we try it and experience it in the heart, then this art becomes very small.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 128-129.  (Matthew from pp. 42-43)

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 1 (Trinity 19) - Absolution

First Sunday After Michaelmas
Ninteenth Sunday after Trinity
Absolution: Jesus Forgives the Paralytic

Matthew 9:1-8
New King James Version
9 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.

8 Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 
Seeing their faith. See here what pleasure Christ takes in faith, that he does not call everything which they did for the palsied man, works or a petition.

This means, indeed, to grant the prayers of the dumb.

Here we are encouraged to believe, and in the same manner to pray for others.

Here comes up the question about our own or another's faith. They and not the palsied man had the faith, but he had also to receive faith or else their faith would have been unavailing. But they in their faith be sought Christ, that he might have a faith of his own. "For the prayer of faith availeth much." (Mark 9:23) I can by my prayer and faith help another, that he may also believe; but I can not believe for him.

Forgiveness of sins. The whole kingdom of Christ is embraced in two words: Forgiveness of sins; there is in this all comfort and forgiveness, not only in the words in which it is proclaimed, but in deed and in truth.

These words of Christ are of infinite sweetness. He calls him son, although he describes him as a sinner, when he says "thy sins." Who can harmonize this? But faith harmonizes it thus, that there are two kinds of sinners; one who is of a broken and a contrite heart, and desires to be saved from his sins, is a son; but he who is obdurate and does not realize his sins, but regards himself righteous, is an enemy and a devil.

Be of good cheer. Cheer up; be strong. He does not use the word faith, but a much more emphatic and elegant one; be bold, undismayed, intrepid.

Thy sins forgiven. See here the most learned Physician, how nicely and certainly he knows how to heal the sickness of a broken conscience. As if he would say, It is easy to heal a disease, when the sickness of the soul has been taken away, which is the cause of the bodily disease. But there is an emphasis in the words, "they are forgiven;" namely, that no one can become freed from his sins, except by the forgiveness of the same. One man forgives another in such a manner that he thinks of it again the next day, or casts some thing up to him again. But when God forgives sin, it is a far higher thing, for God condemns no more. Isaiah 43:25.

Thy sins. In the first place, it is affirmed that thou art a sinner, because forgiveness is granted unto thee. Secondly, that thou mayest know that forgiveness is granted, not to another person, but to thee; that is, thou shalt not think of St. Peter, or Isaias, but of thyself; I say to thyself, a sinner, this gospel voice is addressed.

Thus the Lord exhorts the palsied man first to exercise faith. And as soon as he believed those words, his sins were truly forgiven him. Therefore the word and faith must always finely go together.
3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 
"This man blasphemeth." This the scribes said, because (according to their imagination,) Christ acted contrary to the law of God, since the law was not to pass away, but to be fulfilled; but that God only could set aside the law. Accordingly the offense, which the Pharisees and scribes took, appeared to be very just, as zeal for good works always appears to be very correct.
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 
Wherefore think ye evil? As if he would say, What very venemous people ye are, that ye begrudge even the grace of God to this poor man, although ye do not lose anything thereby. Here he covertly castigates their covetousness and idolatry. For the priests thought by themselves, Who will in future bring sacrifices, if God can be propitiated by faith?
5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 
Whether is easier? As if he would say, Yes, ye know very well, which is easier or more difficult to say, this or that, one as well as the other. They were certain in their minds that they could secure forgiveness of sins for themselves and others by sacrifices and good works, which they performed only from habit; but to heal a man sick of the palsy, they would not so easily undertake to do.
6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 

The Son of man hath power to forgive sins. That ye may see that to me it is an easy thing (namely, to for give sin without sacrifices,) which seems to you impossible ; and that on the contrary, that which is impossible to you (namely, to cure paralysis by sacrifices,) is to me an easy thing, Arise and walk!

On earth. That the Lord says "On earth," is especially to be well noticed, in order that we may not gaze up into heaven, or hope for forgiveness by means of other people's good works or merits after we are dead, and in purgatory.

There are two ways to forgive sin: First, to drive sin out of the heart, and pour in grace; this God does himself. Secondly, the announcing of forgiveness of sins; this one man does also to another. But here Christ does both.
8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled and glorified God, which had given such power unto men. 
Such great power unto men. This power (to announce the forgiveness of sin by the word,) have all those who are Christians and are baptized. By such an office God has bound us together, that one Christian can always comfort another, speak kindly to him, and the other shall believe (in case the word has been rightly taught him) the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 53-54

Monday, September 21, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: St. Michael and All Angels (Sept. 29)

September 29 or Sunday Preceding.

Matthew 18:1-11
New King James Version
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.

10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in kingdom of heaven? Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
In this section the Lord delivers a good lecture to his disciples, who entertained such very fleshly and worldly thoughts of his kingdom. When the Lord Christ informed them that he would suffer and die, and had hitherto been among them as their Lord and Master, they thought that they must now consider which one of them should be the chief among them, and upon whom they should confer the government and the authority. But the true church knows of no other Lord and Master, than Christ only (John 10:27). In this church the Christians are all equal, and there no one shall exalt himself over an other. In the future life a child is just as much as I am.
2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
Jesus called a little child to him. He makes himself lowly, calls a poor, despised child to him, sets it beside himself, presses it to his heart, and regards it as his treasure; yea, that it is almost equal to himself. By this he will say, I, your Master and Lord, am like this little child. Just so shall ye also be. And it is the will of the Lord Christ, that all true Christians should have the manner, simplicity and obedience of children; for the children abide by the truth, and a child is trained by hearing, and it lays no claim to wisdom and makes no effort to dispute.

Whoso shall receive one such little child. Oh, merciful God, one might well say, Why is this great honor bestowed upon me, that I shall have Christ and his heavenly Father and all the treasures of heaven and earth ? Answer: Whoso earnestly takes care of a child, and teaches it to know God, to pray, be chaste, temperate, obedient, faithful, quiet, truthful, etc., he receives Christ.

The Christian Church is depicted here as an assembly of children and lowly, humble people, who are unable to do anything of themselves, know and can do nothing but what the father commands them to do. Thus also is Christ the head. He knows nothing else to advise or to do, than what he hears from his Father. As often, therefore, as I see Christians and children who are baptized, so often do I see Christ. A man can realize heaven and be blest in his own child, not because it is his own natural child, but because it is baptized and is a Christian child or a Christian man.
6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones. The other part is that we should not only cheerfully serve the young, (verses 5 and 10,) but we should also not offend them, either by words or deeds, in order that they may not become carnal, ill-bred, dissolute people; as will soon be the case, unless they are restrained by diligent discipline. For we see this by experience, that youth is like tinder, which very easily seizes upon what is bad and offensive; they adopt it much sooner, and retain it much longer, than the Lord's Prayer. Therefore we should be very careful with the young people, as even the heathen have said, "One should be most ashamed before the young people."

What a great sin it is to offend such little ones, is sufficiently shown by the punishment threatened. God has created no greater bodily punishment for murder, than that the life of the murderers should also be taken.

Yet the Lord speaks here not especially of the gross offense, which is called a bad example, but of the real offense, in which the simple people are deceived and led away from Christ, the only true way of salvation, and are confused by false doctrine and bad example, which are contrary to God and his word, and this under a semblance and cover of his name.

And when the devil intends to bring about an offense against the true faith, he does it especially through the best, wisest, most holy and learned men (as St. Gregory with his purgatory, St. Francis, Benedict, Dominic, with their new rules of interpretation, etc.)

7 If Woe unto the world because of of fences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Woe unto the world. Reason judges and condemns the other sins, such as theft, for example. But this gilded sin reason regards not otherwise than pure holiness; she cannot judge it to be wrong; therefore we must wait till God takes the judgment and the sword into his own hand.

World, denotes the best men in the world, such as the most learned bishops, the greatest and wisest rulers, etc. But how does it come, that the people are so easily deceived? The reason is this: That Christians are children, (verse 3.) Just as a child is deceived and led away by a beggar with a piece of bread, so simple Christians are very soon deceived by heretics with the semblance of the divine name. But Christians are not excusable for this. For Christians should indeed be child-like, but in Christ, not out of Christ. In order that we may not be surprised at these offenses, he foretold them here and in chapter 7:15; 24:4f.; 11:23ff.
8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
If thy right hand offend, etc. Here we must not literally understand the bodily members, the eyes, the feet and the hands, when Christ says, It is better for thee to enter into heaven with one eye, with one foot. For it is clear, that in the future life we shall not be blind, deaf, lame or cripples. The Lord speaks here much more allegorically, and "eye" de notes in the Scripture the one who teaches or preaches, and who shall lead and guide others as a preacher, master or bishop. "Hand" means every good friend, who protects, nourishes and helps another. The "feet" are the members that carry the body, or those that are under us, as subjects, people or common men. Therefore, if thou wouldst remain a Christian, do not let anyone with whom thou art daily associated influence thee to do wrong, whether it be father or mother, master or mistress, prince or emperor, brother or sister.
10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
Despise not one of these little ones. This text has been interpreted in two ways: First, That when Christ speaks of the little ones, he means the humble ones, such as are Christians who believe on him. It is certainly true that all believers are humble. But we will hold on to the simple meaning, as the words clearly imply, that he means expressly little children. Here the Lord looks to Baptism and commends it, in that the child through it has become believing. For he speaks plainly of "these little ones which believe in me." (Verse 6.) It was indeed a very little child that stood among the disciples, yet because it was circumcised and had come into the number of the elect, the Lord said it believed.

For their angels, etc. He will say, The Lord God takes a very deep interest in children and believers. He loves them so dearly, that he protects every one of them, not with guns and spears, but he gives them great lords and princes, who wait upon them as their dear angels. It would have been entirely sufficient, if he had said, They have their own angels. But he extols it still higher, when he says, "Their angels do always be hold the face of my Father in heaven." He will say, Learn that while these exalted spirits serve them so heartily, and always stand before the eyes of God, hear and see him, ye shall also do likewise, who are far, far beneath them, and that ye do not offend these little ones at all, but wait upon them and cheerfully serve them.
11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Come to save that which was lost. Here the Lord touches upon another reason why he is so angry with those who despise and deceive his Christians and baptized children. The meaning is, That which I have by Baptism scarcely brought to myself, and have bought with so high a price as my suffering and death, that they corrupt and destroy.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 104-106.

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 17 - Christian Freedom

Christian Freedom: Healing on the Sabbath

Luke 14:1-11
New King James Version
14 Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. 2 And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

4 But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. 5 Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not answer Him regarding these things.

7 So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

  Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath? These verses treat of two things: The one is common to all the Gospels; namely, in presenting before us the Lord Christ, what he is, and what we have to expect from him. And therein faith and love are pointed out to us. Faith in this dropsical man. He had previously heard of the kind ness of Christ, and accordingly be lieved that he would also show unto him his kindness and goodness. For if he had not heard something great and believed what he heard, he would not have followed him into the house. From this we may also imagine the love of Christ.

The other part is something remarkable, and it is also a necessary doctrine, which we must believe; namely, how to deal with the law and how far it shall be kept.

We say in the proverb: Everything depends on a good interpreter; this is especially true here, as concerning the law. The eye is a tender thing; but still more tender and softer is the conscience; therefore we see here and there how tenderly the apostles treated the consciences, in order that they might not disturb them by laws. Therefore we should know and keep the rule, which Christ himself gives and proves also by this story, that all laws, both human and divine, which treat of outward works, are no farther binding than charity extends. Love shall be an exposition of all laws; where love is wanting, all is vain, then the law is rather injurious, it may be what it will. The reason is, that all laws are given that they may establish love. Romans 13:8, 10.

Since in the Old Testament the law was neither understood, nor moderated according to love, God gave the people prophets, who should explain the law, not according to its strictness, but according to charity. When I therefore serve my neighbor and help him, I have kept the Sabbath right and well, though I have done work on it; because I did a divine work. This teaching concerning the Sabbath tends especially towards this, that we shall hear God's word and do and live according to it. Hence with the Christians every day ought to be a Sabbath. Notwithstanding, Sunday is ordered for the common people, in order that every body may especially hear and learn God's word and live according to it. But here we see what learned, ingenious and wise people come to, when they get so far astray as to despise God's word.

Seeking the chief rooms. The other instruction is that we should not be imperious and exalt ourselves. Christ does not reprove the sitting in the highest seat, but that we should choose out and strive to sit in the highest seats. Not that a peasant should sit above a prince. For the Lord speaks here not of a worldly, but of a spiritual rule, which above all things requires humility.

To sit on the chief seats is not a play and dance, but it brings with it so much work and displeasure, that a sensible man cares very little for them. (See 1 Timothy 3:1) There fore everyone should be satisfied with his station and office, and be diligent, that therein he may be useful to the people. For God has pleasure and delight in them who in their station faithfully perform the duties of their office.

He that exalteth himself, etc. This is true not only before God, but also before the people, for all are disposed to hate the proud. But on the contrary, he that is humble wins the heart of God and man, so that God and all his angels, and afterwards also the people regard him as an especially noble jewel. Then follow also prosperity and blessing, as we see in Saul (1 Samuel 9:21) and David and others. See Psalm 113:5-8.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 229-230.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: St. Matthew

September 21

Matthew 9:9-13
New King James Version
9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

9 If And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and fol lowed him. 
Follow me. Who are our dear Lord's nearest servants and his most prominent counsellors, whom he has in his kingdom ? They are altogether poor sinners, who, if dependent on their own righteousness or good works, would have to sit in the abyss of hell.
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners?

Jews and Gentiles. The Jews rave and rage against the gospel; as if it were the most dangerous pestilence; the heathen ridicule it, as a vain and idle thought of men. (1 Corinthians 1:23) The former regard it as blasphemy, the latter as fables. But the Church and Christ pass through the midst of them and despise with the right ear the blasphemies of the former, and with the left ear the fables of the latter, and live in the truth of the faith which honors God, without blasphemy and fables.
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. 
They that be whole need not a physician. Here Christ philosophizes; that is, he speaks of the nature of things; and this philosophy he turns very well to his own purpose. This is philosophy; namely, to know how properly to use the knowledge of natural things. The other philosophers only speculate. They say, indeed, how nature does this and that, but they do not teach therewith what these things signify; how beautifully Christ here applies the medical art to religion or to faith.

Here the Lord shows that sin is not merely a defect, but a most dangerous disease, whereby body and soul are eternally injured. But here we see how every one disregards this danger.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. 
Call not the righteous but sinners. The other part of Christ's answer is found in the prophet Hosea 6:6, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings," which is above measure comforting and beautiful ; and this Scripture would be abundantly sufficient for us to learn the will of God. But who is it that says, "I will have mercy?" The majestic God, with whom everything is one will; his will endures no opposition, nor can it be changed, so that he could will anything else. And this word means not simply to wish something, but to have pleasure therein, to delight in it, and heartily to desire it.

"Mercy." Wouldst thou know what this is, then look upon the want and distress of thy neighbor.

1. Upon the sin. Wilt thou be merciful to sinners, then thou must not run away from them, but hold on to them, exhort, call, comfort, yea, also have patience with them.

2. Upon bodily afflictions. Here thou canst serve with a kind word and a benevolent heart.

3. Upon want of goods and food. Here thou canst show mercy by food and drink, clothing and other acts of beneficence. Matt. 25:35 ff.

One may freely ask, Why does God have such an abhorrence of the outward sacrifice, which indeed, he chose for himself, and sanctioned it among so many of the fathers; and in addition to this, everything that a righteous man does in faith is acceptable to him? Answer: (Psalm 18:26,) "With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." We must make a difference between the persons that sacrifice.

"I am come." Herein lies a great consolation. Forinthat he says, "I am come," it is just as much as when he says elsewhere, " I am sent." For he came, because this was the will of the Father.

In the second place, Christ derides the Pharisees with these words, who might perhaps say, Do we not also teach that sinners should repent? What new thing dost thou then present? Yes, says he, ye claim to be righteous, whilst ye are sinners, and ye do nothing else than pronounce yourselves and others righteous, when in fact ye are, in God's sight, dreadful sinners. Such righteous ones I do not call to repentance, neither do they need repentance, since, according to your declaration, you call sinners to repentance according to the righteousness of the law, so that you make two-fold sinners of them, just like yourselves. I call to repentance according to the forgiveness of sins, so that I make two-fold righteous; namely, in grace and in truth.

"Sinners and not the righteous." That is, all men; for none are righteous. Rom. 3:23. We must not, however, turn this into lawlessness (Jude 4,) and say, Grace, Grace! therefore it is not necessary to do good works! But Christ says here, that he, indeed, calls sinners, yet not unto freedom to sin, but to repentance; that is, (continual) suppression of sin. Rom. 6:2-4.
14 Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
 Thy disciples fast not. It seems as if this could be connected with the preceding. For fasting is a part of repentance. Therefore it seems as though the disciples of Jesus were not repenting, because they did not fast.
15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. 
Can the children of the hide-chamber mourn? Here it is to be observed that he calls the fastings of the Pharisees mourning and sorrowing. By this he wishes to indicate that the righteousness of the law and of men is a mournful service, such as we hold over the dead.

But the days will come. This may be understood in various ways. First, that after Christ has ascended to heaven, his saints shall be compelled, indeed, to fast and endure all kinds of evil; yet this they will cheerfully do. Secondly, in a prophetical sense, that after Christ shall have been taken away from the Jews (or also from us,) the joyful feast of faith shall cease; that is, there will be nothing but death and destruction. But I prefer the third meaning that Christ would say this much, I will give to my saints mourning and fasting enough, without your fasting and mourning, which is worth nothing; that is, I will leave them in many kinds of temptations, like Paul, that they shall not see or perceive me as their bridegroom. Then they will be sorrowful and really fast. This voluntary suffering is right and acceptable, it is a true cross.
16 No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. 17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they cut new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. 
New cloth — New wine. Your fasting and entire penitence and righteousness must be replaced by a new fasting, penitence and righteousness; that is, all your works must be rejected, and the whole be made new.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 54-56.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 16 - Death and Burial

Death and Burial: The Young Man of Nain

Luke 7:11-17
New King James Version
11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now, when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 
The two processions. Here you see two processions which meet each other. The one is that of the poor widow with her dead youth, her son, and the people who follow him to the grave; the other is Christ and those who enter with him into the city of Nain. The first picture shows what we are and what we bring to Christ. For this is the picture and course of the whole world upon earth; here is a multitude, who are all on the way to death, and must go out of the city. This is the nature of the whole world; here is nothing but death's picture and its work.

But you must not look only upon the grave and the coffin; but also on the cause of death. This Scripture shows and teaches that sin and the wrath of God are the cause of death. But these are not only the great actual sins, such as adultery, murder, etc., since those also die who do not and can not commit them, such as the children of the cradle, yea, also the great holy prophets, such as John the Baptist, all of whom must die. Thus also this young man died, not because he was an adulterer or a murderer. (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Psalm 100:12) Therefore there must here be a greater and different kind of sin, on account of which the whole human race hath deserved death; and that is the sin which we have inherited from Adam and Eve. Thus Psalm 90:7 teaches us; it is God's wrath; this wrath of God is not a simple, trifling thing; but such a severity, which no man can endure. And yet the world is so blind, that it does not see or regard this wrath of God; yea, even the saints do not understand it sufficiently. Psalm 90:11.
13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

The Lord had compassion on her. The woman has two misfortunes upon her. In the first place, she is a widow. Secondly, her only son dies also. Among this people it was regarded as the greatest plague, and the greatest disfavor of God, when a father or a mother left no name or children to survive them. Here this thought must also have oppressed her. Behold, thou art also one of those accursed women, with whom God is angry. But here you see what a kindness and grace was bestowed upon this woman by Christ; for this good woman had no thought of ever bringing back her son alive into the city, and therefore she also does not pray for it, much less had she de served it. The unbelief is here, which fights against her prayer, and makes it of no avail; and yet she receives her son again, only because Jesus had compassion on her, so that she must confess it is his pure grace and gift, and that he is such a Lord who can do and give exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20.) Accordingly we are also to learn mercy from the Lord Christ; that is, not only to help the neighbor, but his misery shall also excite my compassion as though it were mine own.(Ephesians 3:20.)
14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 
He touched the bier. All the works and miracles which Christ wrought visibly and outwardly are to be understood as indicating the works which he performs invisibly and spiritually or internally among men. Therefore this bodily death indicates the spiritual death of the soul. There are two kinds of spiritual death. Some are dead in the soul; but one sees it not as he sees the bodily death, and they themselves also do not see or feel it; in this manner the whole world is dead, but does not feel it. He who feels it not can not be helped. There are, indeed, a few who are spiritually dead and feel it, as the law condemns them. The preachers of the law are the pall-bearers.

When Christ touches a bier; that is, when one preaches the goodness of God, and how Christ bestows upon us his merits and work, this hand is laid on the bier, and then we hear no more preaching of the law. But the voice of Christ in the heart must also be added, so that we may believe the word. The young man does not arise immediately after the touch of the bier, but not till the Lord said, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise;" this voice touched the heart and caused the dead to come to life.

This work of life is also done now, without our doing and work, just as without our doing and work we came into sin and death. Therefore as sin is inborn in us from Adam, and has now become our own, so also must Christ's righteousness become our own.
15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
And the dead arose. From this it follows, that those who lie in the church-yard beneath the earth, sleep much quieter than we in our beds.

And he gave him to his mother. Thus he gives to the widow ten-fold more joy, than she had before; for now she has more joy in one hour, than she had joy in her son during her whole life.

It has the appearance sometimes as though he sided with the ungodly, and persecuted the pious without mercy; but when you hold out faithful to him, a single small word is sufficient for him, and help is at hand, just as he here raised the dead son with one word.
16 And there came a fear on all; and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.

God hath visited his people. Great joy and thanksgiving now follow. Thus one Christian can bring many to believe.

He turns the sad procession with one word to a beautiful, lovely, and joyful procession of life.

That will, indeed, be a very beautiful, lovely procession, when he shall in one moment bring together all who have died, and lead them with himself as their head. 1 Thessalonians 4:14ff.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 208-9.