Monday, March 14, 2016

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday – Jesus, our King, Enters Jerusalem

Sun March 20, 2016
Matt 21:1-11
21 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’”
6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Luther's Notes

This Gospel comprises two parts. In the first place, It exhorts us to accept King Christ, who comes to us, and at the same time reveals what this king brings us; that he is sent for our help. In the second place, It warns and arms us against the offense of the poor and lowly form of Christ.

1 And when they drew nigh unto Jeru salem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3 And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 
The Lord hath need of them. The Lord does not want a flatterer for a preacher, as he does not say, Go around the village or along side of it; but go into it, resolutely, and tell them what they do not like to hear. This is also said for the comfort of the preachers, that they shall not be troubled as to who shall believe and receive them; for it is declared, (Isaiah 55:11) "My word shall not return unto me void."
4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, 
That it might be fulfilled, etc. This prophecy is quoted by the evangelist, to let us see that Christ did not come on account of our merit, but on account of divine truth; since he was promised so long before, ere we to whom he was sent, had an existence. Romans 1:2.

In order that the Jews might not excuse themselves and say, If we had known that the Messiah would come so poor and lowly, we also would have attended to it, and received him; therefore the prophet (Zechariah) pointed this out to them so long time before.
5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.
Behold thy king cometh. He says, "Tell the daughter of Zion, that she take no offense at his humble appearance; but close her eyes, and open her ears, see not how lowly he rides along, but hear what is said of this poor king. Thus it also appears a small thing, that through Baptism and the Sacrament so great things should be effected; but do not let thine eyes deceive thee.

He does not say, Speak about the daughter of Zion, but to herself shalt thou speak; she shall believe it of herself and without doubt, that it shall be to her, just as these words read, and not merely to others also.

With the words, behold, or take notice, he wakes us up from our sleep and unbelief, in that he would announce something great, unusual, remarkable, which had long been desired, and which should be received with joy. To reason and nature it is altogether disagreeable, that this should be the "King" of Jerusalem, who comes so poor and lowly.

It is thy King, says he; that is promised to thee, to whom thou belongest, who, and no other one, shall rule thee; he is thine, who art driven and plagued by sin, devil, death and hell, flesh and world.

He comes. Doubtless, thou comest not to him and bringest him; he is too high above thee, and too far from thee; with all thy trouble and labor thou canst not come to him. He comes "to thee." He gives himself to thee, as thine; that all that he is and has may be thine.

Meek. Not as he came to Adam, Cain and Mount Sinai, etc.; not to reckon with thee, nor demand payment of a debt; all wrath is laid aside, nothing but meekness and goodness is here. But the evangelist has slightly changed the words of the prophet; for the prophet gives Christ three titles. Poor, Just, Savior, while the evangelist, for the sake of brevity, gives only one, "Meek." Yet in the Hebrew language the words, poor and meek, have nearly the same meaning, and such a poor man does not mean one who is in need of money or goods, but one who is contrite and lowly in heart.

The word "Just" in the prophet Zecharias, is not to be understood in the sense of strict righteousness, with which God judgeth, but it properly means pious; for when we in German say, this was a pious man, the Scripture says, He was a righteous or just man. That this is the meaning here of the little word "just," is evident from the other little word in the prophet, "Savior," or he that saves.

This poor and beggarly king, says Zechariah, will have a different power from all that emperors or kings have had, for he is called "just" and a "Savior." But no emperor, with all his power, can redeem from the smallest sin.

Thus he retains nothing at all for himself; is satisfied, that in the first place he has God, and is blessed; he serves us therefore only according to the will of his Father, who would have this done by him. Therefore this is not thy good work, that thou givest alms or prayest, but that thou devotest thyself to the good of thy fellowman and servest, and supportest him, where he has need of thee.

He rides not upon a stallion, but upon an ass, which is not a valiant animal, to indicate that he comes not to alarm men, but to help them.
 6 And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, 7 And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
Disciples did as Jesus commanded. The arrangements and the conduct of the disciples towards Christ show that they had no fear or terror, but an entire, friendly confidence in him.
8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way. 
Spread their garments in the way. This also was a divine service, which was due to this King, and indicates that, according to the example of the apostles, we should honor and adorn Christ with our profession and our whole lives.

The nature of the palm tree is, that when a beam is made of it, it yields to no weight, but rises against the burden; therefore palm branches were carried before lords and kings, when they had gained victories and moved in triumphal processions. Also the bearing of olive branches was a sign of submission, especially by those who desired grace and peace, as it was customary among the ancients. So also is the word of this Gospel a word of grace from this King, which brings us peace. Romans 1:16.
9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 
Hosanna to the Son of David. One part of this divine service which is due to this King is, that we shall receive him; the other part is, that we shall sing hosanna to this Christ; that is, that we wish him prosperity and blessing in his kingdom, and do all we can for its promotion and in crease. Hosanna means, "O Lord, help; Lord, grant prosperity to the Son of David."


10 And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? 11 And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. 
Who is this? It is, however, a shameful question, when they ask, "Who is this?" as if they did not know him, and as if the temple, the city and everything were not his own. The common people and the little children make them a fine reply, and say, "This is Jesus, the prophet of Galilee."



Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 118-120.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Fifth Sunday in Lent: Judica – Jesus, Son of Abraham: Our High Priest


Sun March 13, 2016
John 8:46-59
46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Luther's Notes

46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 
This gospel teaches how the obdurate become more frantic the more one teaches them and treats them kindly. The word is like unto the sun: good things, such as wax and butter, the sun melts and softens; but bad things, such as mud, it hard ens like stone.
Which of you convinceth me of sin? His life is innocent, and he defies them and says, Who among you can convict me of sin? So he defies also in regard to his doctrines, for he says, "If I tell you the truth," etc. Thus he acts and thus he teaches.
These two things should be the characteristics of every preacher. It is true, no life is so perfect, that it can appear without sin before God; therefore it is sufficient, that it is blameless before the people. But the doctrine must be so good and pure that it merits the approval not only of man but also of God.
Therefore the Jews have no excuse for their unbelief; for because they are not the children of God, he also pronounces the sentence upon them and says:
47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

He that is of God heareth God's words. Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. This is nothing else than, ye are of the devil (v. 44.) Christ speaks these words so simply, that no one thinks they contain any great things. But any one who will carefully consider what this means, to be of God, or not to be of God, must confess that Christ speaks here of great and excellent things. For it is true and certain that we can not accuse a man harder, nor attack him more severely, than when we say that he is not of God. Therefore all depends on this, that we gladly hear God's word and diligently keep it.
We must distinguish between the nature and the use of a thing. A man who lies and deceives has, indeed, a good tongue given him of God, but the use of his tongue is of the devil. On the other hand, "to be of God" means, that we use our ears so that they delight in hearing God's word, and are willing to be corrected. Again, that we pray, preach, instruct, and comfort with the tongue.
48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil ? 
Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil. That hard, earnest word, which the Lord spoke to the Jews, "Ye are not of God," they could not endure; for they claimed to be the children of God; therefore they rage and revile both his life and doctrine. They revile his doctrine when they say, " Thou hast a devil;" that is, you teach the devil's doctrine, you are an apostle of the devil: they revile his life by saying, "Thou art a Samaritan," that sounded worse in the ears of the Jews than all other vices; as if they would say, You are a villain in your whole skin, you are a heathen. Thus Christ teaches us here how we and his word shall be treated; both our lives and our doctrine must be condemned and reviled. To this is added the impertinence that such despisers of the word claim to be right, and want to defend such blasphemous expressions as the Jews here use, "Say we not well, Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" He is the worst devil, who even pretends to be God, wants to appear holy, claims that he is right, and will not be contradicted.
49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.
I honor my Father, and ye do dishonor me. What now does Christ do? He disregards the disgrace which they heap upon his life ; he is silent and suffers them to call him a "Sa maritan" or a "villain" (v. 48,) he defends himself very little, but says, "I honor my Father," etc. I am what I am; "There is one that seek eth and judgeth" who I am. This we also shall do; not defend our freedom by fighting, though we are innocent ; but we must never consent to surrender our innocence, in order that the evil reports about us may not alienate some simple people from the faith. We must not entirely disregard our good reputation before men. But we must not in any wise permit the doctrine to be quenched, but establish it more and more, exalt it higher and higher, risk upon it neck, body and life, honor and goods. Christ here defends the doctrine and says: "I have not a devil."
But why does he say, "Ye do dishonor me"? Why does he not say, I honor my Father and you dishonor him?
Inferentially he shows here that the Father's honor and his honor are one and the same, as he is one God with the Father. Yet, along with it he also will have our ministerial office, which praises God, properly honored.
51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. 
He shall never see death. He not only defends the doctrine, but also ascribes to it an imperial power over the devil, death and sin.
If a man keep my word. By this he does not mean the law; for that word no one keepeth (John 7:19,) yea, it killeth (Romans 7:11) but he means the gospel.
And from this we may very well understand what he means by the "keeping;" namely, it is not said of the keeping as one keeps the law by works; for such word of Christ must be kept in the heart by faith.
He shall never see death. But how happens it, that some shall neither see nor taste death; when Abraham and all the prophets have died? Here we must pay attention to the words of Christ, who makes this difference, that death is something else than to see or taste death. We must all die, but a Christian does not see or taste death; that is, he feels it not, is not frightened by it, and goes into death gently and quietly, as though he fell asleep and did not die (John 11:25). Therefore also death is called in the Scriptures a sleep.
Verily, verily, I say unto you. Alas, that the Son of God must swear so solemnly, "Verily, verily," on account of our indolent hearts, to make us believe that we shall live forever, since it were but just and sufficient, if he had spoken only one word.
The power of the word. So great and mighty a thing is the power of the word of Christ, that where it is received in the heart by a firm faith, salvation is already begun here, and by the resurrection and victory of Christ death. together with sin, devil and hell are already overcome and swallowed up.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Abraham rejoiced to see my day. But the reason why the word of our dear Lord is so powerful, is indicated by him in the verses 56 and 58. It was a difficulty in the way of the Jews, that Abraham, Moses and other holy men, who were publicly recorded in the Scriptures, had died; then they thought Christ was not equal to them; therefore they considered it vain glory, that he should extol his word so highly, but Christ replied: "Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad." Thus the prophets also saw him. They did not see him with their bodily eyes, but with the eye of faith in the heart; that is, Abraham perceived Christ, when it was promised to him, (Genesis 22:18,) "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." All the saints from the beginning of the world had this same faith in Christ, which we have, and they were true Christians. Thus we also must be saved thereby to the end of the world.
57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Thou art not yet fifty years old. 
But on account of their carnal mind the Jews did not understand any of these things; therefore they denounced him as a liar.
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am
Before Abraham was, I am. That is, I am the true and only God. Christ does not speak here of his human, but of his divine essence. He does not say, Before Abraham was, I was, but "I am." For this belongs only to God, that he was not created, nor made, like Abraham and other creatures. God is called, and is not created or made, but "I am"; that is, an essence which has neither beginning nor end.
59 Then they took up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. 
The Jews took up stones. But here reason is terribly offended and runs mad, that man should be God; reason cannot reconcile this; and this is the thing at which the Jews still take offense at the present day, and can not stop throwing stones and blaspheming.
It is still the case at the present day, that many read and study the Scriptures, and yet can not find Christ. He had hid himself and gone out of the temple.



Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 324-346.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Fourth Sunday in Lent: Laetare – Bread of Life: Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

John 6:1-15
6 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Luther's Notes

5 If When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 
Whence shall we buy bread? The Lord Christ asks Philip, before the people complain or ask, in order that we should always let him care for us and know that he interests himself for us more and sooner than we do ourselves.
7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 
Two hundred pennyworth. We see that Philip is not deficient in arith metic. We also can count up very well what we shall need and must have for our household. But as soon as we see that provision is wanting, we become discouraged. This was the case also with Andrew.

What are they among so many? The Evangelist did not wish this to be left unnoticed, in order that we may learn by the example of the disciples, that such calculations are entirely useless; if, indeed, we are Christians and have Christ with us.

Nothing in the world hinders faith as much as riches on the one side and poverty on the other. Against these two things which hinder on both sides, Christ speaks here, and teaches the middle state; namely, to be neither too rich nor too poor, but learn to trust God, that he will sustain us, and be content with what God daily gives us.

Who clothes the trees, which are bare in the winter, but as soon as the summer begins are loaded with leaves and fruits? Who causes the corn to grow so abundantly? Do not I, (as the Lord means to teach by this miracle, ) who herewith have fed 5000 people with two fishes and five loaves? But here reason says: Yes, as regards the trees and the corn and other things, that occurs every year; there fore it is not extraordinary and miraculous; but this feeding of 5000 people with two fishes and five loaves occurred only once; therefore it is extraordinary and miraculous. Answer: What is the reason that this appears to you extraordinary and miraculous, and that the former case, when out of single grains innumerable ones grow, is not miraculous to you? That is not the fault of God or his works, but it is the fault of your unbelief, that you are so blind and hardened, and can not know God's wonders.
10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 
Make the men sit down. Here again he gives us an example of great love, and this in different ways:

First, That he performs this miracle not only for the benefit of the pious people, who follow him on ac count of his works and words; but also for the benefit of the belly-slaves, who seek only eating and drinking and temporal honor from him. V. 26; see Matthew 5:45.

Secondly, In that he endures so kindly the rudeness of his disciples and weak faith.
11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 
In taking the five loaves and giving thanks, he teaches us that nothing is too little for his people, and that he can easily bless that little, so that they shall have abundance, while even the rich in their riches have not enough. Psalm 34:11; Luke 1:53.

After this he "distributed to the disciples and the disciples to them that were set down." Thus all the teachers take the word from Christ and give it to the people. See Matthew 23:10.

And likewise of the fishes, as much as they would. He gave not as much as there was on hand, but "as much as they would." Here we must not think that he did this only at that time and does not wish to continue to do so, also, among his Christians. For we see examples of this blessing every day; not only as regards food, but also as regards all other kinds of want, for which he wonderfully and unexpectedly devises ways and means.
12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 
Gather up the fragments. We must diligently preserve God's blessings and not squander them away, but save them for future needs. But when this is not done, and God's blessings are so sinfully and shame fully abused. God is driven by such vices to withhold, and where there has been one year of abundant harvests, there will follow two or three years of failure.

By commanding his disciples to gather up the fragments that were left over, the Lord does not wish to be understood that we should be covetous, but that you might be able to serve your neighbor in times of need.


Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 300-301.