Monday, October 26, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: All Saints' Day -Saints and Martyrs

November 1
All Saints' Day

Matthew 5:1-12
New King James Version
5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

The Sermon on the Mount.

Christ, in Matthew v., vi., vii., teaches briefly these points:
  1. First, as to the eight beatitudes or blessings, how every Christian ought particularly to live, as it concerns himself; 
  2. Secondly, of the office of teaching; what and how a man ought to teach in the church, how to season with salt and enlighten, reprove and comfort and exercise the faith. 
  3. Thirdly, he confutes and opposes the false expounding of the law; 
  4. Fourthly, he condemns the wicked, hypocritical kind of living; 
  5. Fifthly, he teaches what are upright and good works; 
  6. Sixthly, he warns men against false doctrine; 
  7. Seventhly, he clears and solves what might be found doubtful and confused; 
  8. Eighthly, he condemns the hypocrites and false saints, who abuse the precious word of grace. 
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 
 Jesus went up into a mountain. Here the Evangelist gives a preface and display of how Christ disposed him self for the sermon. It is not God's will that we should run astray with his word, as though any one were driven by the Holy Spirit, and therefore must preach and seek places and corners, houses and pulpits, where he has no official appointment. Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 10:15 and John 16:20.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. Those who are not spiritually high minded. To be spiritually poor means, that we do not attach our hearts to worldly possessions, whether God has given us worldly goods or not.

And again, to be rich in spirit means to be attached in our hearts to worldly possessions, whether God has given us worldly goods or not. (Psalm 62:10) Those are spiritually poor who are not self-confident, who keep God before their eyes, and do not live at random, like the world; but who are careful of what they do, and do not do; who honestly compare their lives with the word of God, and see how our nature is so corrupted by sin that the proper obedience is sadly lacking, and they appear to themselves as the greatest sinners.

The kingdom of heaven is theirs. That is to say: Behold, man shall be delivered from death, sin, hell and all misfortunes, and shall have God for his friend, a cheerful conscience and in addition eternal life.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are they that mourn. Thisis another characteristic of the Christians, that they not only have oppressed hearts, but also tearful eyes, because all kinds of misfortunes befall them. Because, while the devil and the world are the most inveterate enemies of the Christians, it is impossible, that such enmity should continue without injury. But since Christians also have flesh and blood, it is not possible that they should laugh in their afflictions; they are plagued, oppressed and driven so long, that their eyes overflow with tears.

They shall be comforted. Christians mourn; but only for a season. Look to the future and then the promise is: "Blessed are they, for they shall be comforted." This we see exemplified in the case of poor Lazarus. For it is not Christ's will that there shall be nothing but mourning and sorrow; but he warns those who are not willing to mourn, and teaches his Christians, that when they meet with adversity it is God's will, and they should also be resigned to their condition, and that they should not curse and rage and despair, as though there were no mercy with God.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 
Blessed are the meek. When it goes evil with worldly people their eyes overflow and they conduct themselves badly; but my disciples, says Jesus here, have a meek and lowly heart, and would not think of avenging themselves; but as God in his providence has permitted the affliction to come upon them, they cheerfully resign themselves to his will, and endure the affliction.

For they shall inherit the earth. Here we see what his promises are: In verse 3 heaven was promised them, and here in addition also an earth ly inheritance is promised them — their bodily wants shall also be supplied.

The world regards itself in possession of the earth, and seeks to protect its claims.

Therefore choose one of two things, whichever you will; either that you live in meekness and patience among the people, and retain what you have in peace and good conscience; or lose more by tumultuous, riotous contention and strife, than you can gain, and yet have dissatisfaction and a bad conscience in addition.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are they which hunger and thirst. This hunger and thirst is experienced, by those who love to hear and read God's word. Such a one has this firm hope, that he shall find comfort and consolation from the word of God, in all kinds of trial, perplexity and in death. But those who are filled with their own conceit, who do not read or hear God's word, but disregard and despise it, shall finally hunger and thirst so intensely, that no one can relieve them with the smallest drop of water, just as was the case with the rich man in hell. Luke 16:24.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 
Blessed are the merciful. One quality of mercy is, that we readily forgive sinners and fallible ones. The other quality is, that we are generous to those who are suffering distress and are in need of help, and this also towards our enemies, for all of which we can not expect any recompense.

These, the merciful, then have the consoling promise, Ye shall also find pure mercy, both here and hereafter; and such mercy shall ye find, which shall unspeakably transcend all human benefaction and mercy. Just as we are merciful, and assist the poor in their distress, even if they are our bitterest enemies, so God also will assist us in our trouble, readily forgive and forget all our sins, and grant us grace and mercy.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 
Blessed are the pure in heart. He who would indicate a pure heart to be such an one in which there are no evil thoughts, no murder, no adultery, etc., has indeed correctly indicated; but the Holy Ghost alone prepares the heart by means of the word of God; otherwise where the word and faith are not already in the heart, the heart remains unclean.

Shall see God. This does not mean to lead a contemplative life, or to see him with our bodily eyes (with these no one can see him in this life) but by faith which sees his paternal, friendly heart, in which there is no anger or unkindness.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers. The peacemakers are more blessed than the peaceable; namely, those who make, promote and maintain peace among others; here they offer a good word, there they interpose a good word, and every where they seek to promote quietness and peace, where they find strife, disturbance and con tention. Thus also did our Lord Christ.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so per secuted they the prophets which were be fore you. 
Blessed are they which are persecuted. Here the Lord states in conclusion, what shall be the treatment of the faithful Christian, that for this, that he is full of good works, even towards enemies, and bad people, his reward from the world shall be that he shall be persecuted, and exposed to bodily injury, the loss of all worldly goods and life itself for Christ's sake.

But he also distinctly adds, For righteousness' sake, to show, that it is not sufficient to be simply persecuted, when it is not for righteousness' or Christ's sake.

Blessed people are ye! For in the first place, ye suffer from the world and have not deserved it; therefore ye suffer for my sake, and I will richly reward you in heaven. Are there one or two who persecute us, then there are many more, yea, ten thousand angels, to one, who take our part, who smile upon us, console us, and pronounce us blessed.

But what do you say to this, that there is so much said in the Sermon on the Mount about reward and gain? Answer: It is not meant here, that by our own merit, we shall gain the grace of our baptism, or Christ and heaven ; but all relates to the fruits of Christianity. For in this sermon Christ does not say how we become Christians, but speaks only of the works which no one can do, unless he is already a Christian, and is in grace, as the words show, that they must endure poverty, distress and persecution, because they are Christ ians, and inherit the kingdom of heaven. These are pure consolations to the Christians, as without them they could not endure such distress, persecution and misery, which they know he will certainly reward. This does not mean that they merit for giveness of sins and the inheritance of heaven, but that they shall be rec ompensed for their sufferings with so much greater glory.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 25-27.

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 5 (Trinity 23) - Citizenship

Sun November 1, 2015

Fifth Sunday After Michaelmas

Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity

Citizenship: Render to Caesar and to God

Matthew 22:15-22
New King James Version

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

15 If Then went the Pharisees, and counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
The two different governments. The principal thing in this Gospel is, that our dear Lord Christ teaches us the difference between the two governments, which we usually call the divine and the worldly government. These governments we should diligently distinguish, and leave every one unmolested in his station and office, so that neither shall condemn the other, as the fanatics do.

How they might entangle him in his talk. A consoling picture is presented to us in regard to the persecutions which befall us from the wicked people in the world, who oppose us with all their power.
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou are true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men.
Master, we know that thou art true. It is an especially vexatious thing, that they can make use of flattering words. They call him "Master," in order that they may remind him of his office, and his duty to give them an answer. They think he is a man, and, just such a preacher as they are, who likes to be heard, tickled and praised.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Tribute to Caesar. The Jews want to be a free people (see Deuteronomy 17:15; Genesis 49:10; Deuteronomy 28:13) They remembered very well that they were to have their own kingdom. But they paid no attention to their obligation to obey God's commandments and do nothing against his will.
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites ?
Why tempt ye me? Then they think, Now we certainly have caught him, as it were, between two spears; for, if he says, Yes, then we have exposed him as a thief, who steals from God, and is a heretic and an apostate Jew; but if he says, No, then we can accuse him of treason against the imperial majesty and crown, the penalty of which by the laws of all governments is death. Here we can learn that those who claim to be something more than other people, wiser, more powerful, endowed with special gifts of mind, nature, and fortune, are mostly against God and faith, and rely more upon their strength and reason, than on God. The cunning and perverseness of human nature is here very clearly depicted.

Such double-faced knaves are ye, says Christ, that ye seek not "the wayof God and the truth," (v. 16,) and yet you would like to appear as though you did, and deceive me with false praise. But, as you do not wish to hear that truth by which you can be saved, then ye shall hear that truth which reveals and condemns your knavery.
19 Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
The tribute money. Here is another wisdom of which they knew nothing, and which they did not anticipate, which is called the wisdom of God; for he wrenches their spear and fork outof their mouth, turns them about, pierces them with both; then he answers them neither yes nor no, but forces them to give the answer by which they rebuke themselves.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
Image and superscription. He asks childishly and simply, as if he did not know the image and superscription, and could not read, so that they begin to think, Verily now we have him; he is afraid he will flatter the emperor, he dares not speak against him. But he takes the word out of their own mouth, so that they must surrender by their confession. Just as they asked him to answer, so, now he asks them to answer.
21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
Give to Caesar. He says, You your selves confess that you have done it. What kind of people are you, that you do a thing, and afterwards, when you have already done it, begin to ask whether it is lawful?

And further he says, You want to take away from the emperor what is his, and have long ago taken away from God what belongs to him. Therefore you are in the first place rebels against Caesar, and secondly also shameful robbers of God; for those are robbers of God of whom the prophet Jeremiah says, They do not teach the word right, and withhold it from the people, and thus rob God of souls. (Jeremiah 23:11ff)

But we are to learn two things from this history. The first is, that we should learn to see our own naughtiness from the example of the Jews. For we all, without exception, are so disposed, that we like to com plain when we feel what hurts us; we also think that injustice is done us. It is true, that he who can retain his rights by proper means and ways, does no evil thereby; for judgment and right are ordained by God him self, that we may seek and find them. But where we cannot obtain justice, there let every one beware, that he does not complain much, or become impatient.

The second thing is, that we must make a difference between the kingdom of the world, and the kingdom of our Lord Christ. He wills that there shall be government, magis trates, princes and lords, to whom we shall be obedient, whoever they may be, and what they may be, and we shall not ask whether they rightly or wrongly possess the government. See Romans 13:1.

Also, you must not revile the government, when you are sometimes oppressed by princes and tyrants who abuse their power which they have received from God; to whom they will, indeed, have to give an account of their deeds. The abuse of a thing does not make a thing bad that is good in itself. Thus it is also with this word, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's;" from the subjects are taken body and goods, and given to Caesar, as we read clearly in 1 Samuel 8:11-17; Daniel 2:37-38, what are the rights of the king. On the other hand, the government should also be told how it should conduct itself towards its subjects. For he did not here say, Give to Caesar what he wants, but what belongs to Caesar.

What is God's. That is, nothing but faith in God, and love to the neighbor. For God does not want our money, body or goods, but he has reserved for himself our hearts, which is the greatest and best in man. From such a service Caesar and worldly government shall not hinder us. If they would take away from us the Gospel, we should say, Herein you have no authority; for it is written, "We must obey God rather than man."

He does not say, Give to Caesar what is God's; but the world mixes it together. Worldly governments treat the spiritual government, which belongs to God, as they please, and the subjects treat the worldly govern ments as they please.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
They marvelled. This is written for our consolation, that we may know that this shall be the fate of all who set themselves up against Christ and his Gospel; and that God will grant us such an answer through his Holy Ghost, that our adversaries shall all come off with shame.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 125-127

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 6 (Trinity 24) - Death, A Sleep

Michaelmas 6
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity

Death, A Sleep: Jairus' Daughter

Matthew 9:18-26
New King James Version
18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” 19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.

20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. 21 For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” 22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.

23 When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, 24 He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. 25 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went out into all that land.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

18 While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshiped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. 
Lay thy hand upon her and she shall live. This was, especially at this time, a very remarkable example of faith, because nothing like it had ever occurred or been heard of. Again, the nature of the ruler's faith in the person of Christ is such, that he certainly regards him as the true Messiah.
19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. 
Rose and followed him. Although he had important things to attend to here, and had a sharp dispute with the disciples of John, (verse 14 ff,) yet notwithstanding all this, when he perceives this faith and confidence, he arises and follows.
20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 
Touched the hem of his garment. Observe here what two great hindrances her faith overcomes. First, that her faith is so strong, and she can believe that she certainly will be helped, if she can only touch the hem of his garment. Therefore she does not regard it necessary to come into his sight, that he may behold her; yea, she does not think herself worthy that he should speak to her. This faith comes by the word, and she has nothing more than this word, and she desires nothing more than to touch his garment, which she uses as an external means and sign whereby she may indeed approach Christ; just as we also have nothing in this life and in the kingdom of faith, but the outward word and sacrament, wherein he gives himself to us, to touch and grasp, as it were, his garment.

The other masterpiece of her faith is, that she can overcome her own unworthiness, and cast away the great stone from her heart, which has so long oppressed her, and yet made her so diffident that she dares not, like other people, come openly before Christ. This is the sentence of the law (see Leviticus 15:19-30) She regarded her affliction as a judgment of God. Therefore this was not done with out a struggle and conflict, that her faith might attain what she sought from Christ. This struggle also shows, that when afterwards she saw that she was discovered, though already healed, yet she trembled, fearing he might turn upon her angrily. Mark 5:33.
22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. 
Thy faith hath made thee whole. Such faith he exalts so highly that he ascribes to it alone the power and the work, that has helped her; just as though he had done nothing. See Matt. 8:13; 15:28.

Now, where this joy is, there good works must also soon follow, which manifest this joy. But these works and this gratitude God requires of us, in order that others may also come arid be benefitted.
23 And when Jesus came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, 
Fear not. Here the faith must also struggle and increase; for although he had a great faith, yet it would hardly have been steadfast if it had not been strengthened by the words of Christ, "Fear not."

Now, when Christ goes with him into his house, this man's faith must again be tried; for here he sees and hears nothing but tumult, crying and weeping, and blowing of trumpets.
24 He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. 
The maid sleepeth. These are consoling words. He who can look upon a dead man, as if he were lying upon a bed and sleeping, may well boast that he possesses a wonderful art, which no one else enjoys.

Laughed him to scorn. Thus it goes; for God's wisdom is so high that it regards the world's wisdom as pure foolishness, and all the world regards the dear Lord Christ as a fool. Thus it is, when we preach that Christ is the man who helps, and our works do not help; then the world can not comprehend it ; it laughs and takesoffense. 1 Cor. 1:23.

Thus it must be with all those who learn vainly to pipe to death, whether they be false teachers or such as lead unchristian lives. All that is preached without regard to Christ is piping to death. In like manner it is with all life which is in contempt of God and disobedience to him.
25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. 
Took her by the hand, as a sleeping child. For thus the father believed; and the Lord will not do otherwise than as the father believes.

The maid arose. Life is a pure gift and present, and no merit. Christ gives life to the little maid out of grace freely, that she may know that he is her God.

What he did to this little maid, I must accept as a sign to myself, whereby I may learn to believe that he will also do the same to me at the last day. Upon this I must confide, and in the meantime be satisfied with the common help, which will be granted on the last day.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 56-58

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Sts. Simon and Jude Apostles (Oct. 28)

October 28

John 15:17-21
New King James Version

17 These things I command you, that you love one another.

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
Commanded to love one another. The first thing which the Lord here commands his disciples in the night in which he instituted the last Supper, and when he was to be taken and crucified the next morning, is: "These things I command you, that ye love one another." The Lord comprises our whole life into this one commandment of love, that we Christians should live friendly among ourselves, and be mutually helpful in every way possible. For this is the nature of love, that we think or speak evil of no one, and besides do all the good we can. According to this short and simple command Christians shall govern all their actions; for they have much cause, not only on account of the example, that God has shown them all love and grace, but also, be cause we Christians are brethren to gether and children of God.

It is a service which rich and poor, great and small, of high and lowly stations can render; yea more, the most mighty and the greatest lords need such service, even as much and more than the humblest and the poor.

The other thing in this gospel is the comfort (v. 18-25). For here it stands, that whatever Christians may do, the world will oppose and hate them. But we know what follows from the hatred of the world, especially if they are persons that have the power and can do harm. Now it were a small thing if the Lord had said, If you become Christians the man-servant and maid-servant in your house, your neighbors and a whole village will become your enemies. But the Lord puts it much heavier, and severer, when he says : "If the world will hate you." The world means not a single person, but all men. The art, however, by which we overcome the malice of the world, is this, that we despise their spite and insolence. When the devil feels this he departs. Therefore, though it be somewhat painful, yet we must endure it against the contempt of the world and take comfort from the cause as follows:
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If the world hate you. The first cause is, that the Lord sets be fore us his own example, and says: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before." When we see and feel the hatred of the world, let us defy it and say: What more can you do than this? Or is this something new? You did this before to my Master, also, and yet have had to let him alone.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
The world would love its own. The other cause is, that he says here: I declare concerning you, that you are "not of this world." This is also a comforting work, because he painted the world so abominably despicable, that there is nothing more terrible for a Christian to hear or to think, than that he should be counted among that crowd. That the devil leaves you no rest, says Christ, is a sure sign that you belong to the kingdom of Christ. This is what he says: "But I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." I am the one whom the world can not bear, and am the cause of this hatred and persecution, and for this cause have I chosen you, that you should not be of the world: that is, in the accursed devil's hatred and envy in which the world is involved. Wherefore, if you fare like I do, resign yourselves to it, despise it and boast of me, and you will remain happy and undismayed, whereas the world will become mad and foolish over it. In this manner we shall be separate from the world.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you; The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
The servant not greater than his lord. "Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord." This is the third thing by which he comforts them by a parable or example. The servant is not to be nobler, nor have a better time than his master. Thus he also speaks in Luke 6:40: "If the servant is like his master, he shall be perfect"; that is, thus it is right and as it ought to be, and he is a true servant, who endures good and evil along with his master.

At the court nobody is ashamed of his sovereign's colors, every one cheerfully wears them, and regards it as an honor. Now he will say, I am your king and have my courtiers, the Christians. Should they be ashamed of my colors, which I have worn in the world? That would, in deed, be an everlasting shame.

This is the parable. Now he concludes: "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." He who smites the Lord on the mouth will certainly not honor the servant.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me.
For Christ's sake. The fourth cause is, that the Lord says: "But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake." The hatred with which they hate you, will not arise on account of evil works or sins, as though you were knaves or thieves, murderers or adulterers, but only for this reason, that you will preach of me and say that they can and must be saved only through me.

This, in truth, is not a small consolation, when we rightly consider it. Though the world does not have or want Christ, yet it can not be exempt from suffering. Here two great misfortunes meet: the suffering itself, and the bad conscience. The Christians are, indeed, also poor sinners; yet the world does not hate them for this, but "for my name's sake." This is a very necessary comfort. For as soon as a misfortune occurs, we consider whereby we have deserved it.

But that they do all these things unto you, he says, is "because they know not him that sent me." On that account you must not get angry, nor desire vengeance upon them; for they have their reward already; they are smitten with blindness and frenzy; yea, possessed of the devil, so that they are mad and foolish.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 359-361

Monday, October 19, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Reformation

October 31, Observed Sunday Prior

Reformation Day

Matthew 11:12-15
New King James Version

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
The violent take it by force. The gospel is not preached in vain; there are people who hear it, and love it vehemently, insomuch that they risk life and limb for the sake of the word of God.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
Prophesied until John. Herein Christ answers, in a covert way, the question, why John is greater than Moses and the prophets, kings, priests; yea, than the temple and all things. Because John begins a new thing.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This is Elias. That is, ye do err, when ye look for the personal Elias, since Malachi did not speak of Elijah, the Tishbite, but without determining a distinct person, he spake of Elias, a prophet. Therefore he says, "If ye will receive it" that is, if ye will be instructed and give up your preconceived opinions.

He that hath ears. As if he would say, The time is now fulfilled, Elias is here, even the Lord himself is also present.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 67.

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 4 (Trinity 22) - Forgive as Forgiven

Sun October 25, 2015

Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity
Fourth Sunday After Michaelmas
Forgive as Forgiven: The Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18:23-35
New King James Version
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

23 If therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
The kingdom of heaven. Here we must take particular notice of the words, "kingdom of heaven." For this command of the forgiveness of sin must not be dragged into the kingdom of this world, where the offices and persons are different, and one always has power and authority over the other. The worldly govern ment was ordered and appointed by God, to prevent, restrain and punish the wickedness of the world. Not that it could punish all wickedness, but only the outward, gross crimes.

Such a "kingdom of heaven" begins here on earth, and is called by another name, the Christian Church. In this church mercy shall be exercised.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
Owed 10,000 talents. He points out the first reason why we should forgive; namely, that his Christians should consider what kind of grace God has bestowed upon them. The Lord here places before our eyes what we owe to God, and what good ness he has shown us. To such a sum of money the Lord compares our sins, in order to convince us that we can never pay the debt, or render satisfaction for it.

When the law is clearly held up to a man, he sees what he ought to do, and has not done it.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Commanded him to be sold. With the selling the Lord indicates that we poor sinners are not only unable to pay, but we must suffer death on account of sin. Romans 6:23; Genesis 2:17.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Lord, have patience with me. Before the king holds a reckoning with him his conscience does not trouble him, he does not feel the debt, and would have gone on increasing it unconcernedly. But when the king begins to reckon with him, he begins to feel the debt. Thus it also fares with us. The majority are unconcerned about sin, and go on carelessly. But when the sins of our hearts are revealed to us, when the record of our sins is held up before us, then our merriment ceases. But now, whither shall we go? Shall we go and do like the servant, fall upon our knees [This we call in German zu Kreuze kriechen=to humiliate ourselves] and beg for mercy? The Lord wills this.

I will pay thee all. But you say the servant replies, "I will pay thee all." Yes, the simpleton thinks he will pay all. That is the plague of all consciences, when sin comes and bites, and they feel how evil their relations to God are; then they have no rest, run hither and thither, seek help here and there, that they may get rid of their sins, and yet presume to think that they do much in paying God. Thus we also always imagine that it is too much, God will not be so gracious that he would remit all this to us, there must something yet be paid. Although this is indeed true, yet he who would obtain the forgiveness of his sins, must at least form the firm purpose to reform his life.
27 Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
Forgave him the debt. This is the right and proper color in which one can and should paint God and his heart most appropriately. To forgive is not to reward or pay, but freely and graciously to give. This one should diligently learn. It is easy to say, Forgiveness of sins, as also the whole Christian doctrine is easy. Yes, if words could do all; but when it comes to an earnest trial, one finds himself mistaken.

Now, these are words of the Holy Ghost when it is said, I believe in the forgiveness of sins. What the Holy Ghost calls sin, must not be an imaginary, but a real, actual sin, as adultery, fornication and theft are real sins. Whosoever, therefore, would rightly know himself to be a sinner, should see to it, that it is not a dream or an imaginary thing with his sins; but realize that his sins are so great that they will condemn him to hell, if they are not forgiven. But then he must believe also in the forgiveness. Therefore do not listen to what thy heart says to it out of fear or unbelief, but what God says, who is greater than thy heart and my heart.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
Pay me that thou owest! Now if thou wouldst live, says the Savior, thou must do something, that all may be directed to the good of thy neighbor. For, "the servant goes out." How does he go out? Where was he within? In faith he was within, but now he goes out; there he shall show himself toward the people in love; for faith leads man from the people in to God, love leads him out to the people.

The second reason why we should forgive our neighbor is, that the Lord intends that we should rightly consider and weigh the injuries and injustice which we have received from others, when we shall certainly find, if we lay it upon the golden scale, that the debt which we owe to God will be as ten thousand talents against one hundred pence, that our neighbor owes us.

The third reason we should forgive is this, that in this parable the Lord calls all of us servants. This should also move us to exercise mercy and deter us from sin. For we are only "fellow servants," and all of us have one Lord over us, who can and will punish us for the evil that is done by each one of us; to him we must commit all power and might, and not interfere with him. Romans 12:19.

To this point we shall hardly attain, that love prevail to such a degree that one shall do to another as God has done to himself. The ungodly world abuses the doctrine of the forgiveness of sin in the most shameful manner.
29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Cast him into prison. This is the common course of the world; when the sin has been forgiven, one soon forgets the forgiveness and grace of God, becomes more willful and worse than before. Matthew 12:43-45.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Fellow servants very sorry. The fourth reason for forgiveness is: Other servants will see and be very much distressed about it, come to the Lord and tell him all about it. The evident meaning of this is, that the Holy Ghost is grieved by the conduct of such Christians. It grieves those Christians especially who preach the Gospel; therefore they cry to God. And as the intercessions of pious people are not in vain or useless, so also the common curse, the common lamentation over the wicked is not in vain.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, be cause thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest thou not also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?
Oh, thou wicked servant! If God had acted thus and asserted his right, and should say, I do right that I punish the wicked and take what is my own; who will hinder me?— what would become of all of us? We should all go to perdition. Therefore, if thou wilt be in his kingdom, thou must follow his example of for giveness.
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Therefore his Lord was wroth. How does it come, that the Lord abrogates the right and in addition condemns this servant, because he claims his right? Answer: In order that we may see what a difference there is between God and the world, and how often that which is regarded as right and proper by the world, is wrong before God. As soon as you arise and return to God, you have the forgiveness. But he will insist upon this from you, that you also forgive, else you cannot be in this gracious kingdom.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
So likewise my heavenly Father. Our Lord has given tokens enough, that our sins shall be forgiven; namely, Preaching, Baptism, Holy Ghost, etc. Now we also shall give a token, by which we confess that we have received forgiveness of sins.

His brother. He calls us "brethren" among ourselves, among whom certainly no enmity or unkindness ought to exist.

From the heart. It is not enough to forgive merely with gestures, signs, mouth or tongue and friendly appearance; but the forgiveness must come "from the heart."
Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 108-110.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: St. James the Elder (Oct. 23)

October 23
St. James the Elder the Apostle

Matthew 20:20-28
New King James Version

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

20 If Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshiping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. 
To sit on the right and the left hand. It is very well that some histories of the saints have been preserved in the Church, which are so carefully recorded in the holy Scriptures, in order that we may correct our own lives by their example. For, the Holy Ghost has so ordained, that the account was given, not only of their holiness, faith and good works, but also of their weakness and sins.

These two disciples made a cunning device; they are very wise fishers and reflect that they act in good time, before others come and take the honor from them. They persuade their mother to propose the matter, and think, Although we may fail, he will say, our mother acted foolishly, like a woman; but if the plan succeeds, we come off with honor. But he will hardly be able to deny this favor to our mother, as it is usually the case that women can more easily gain their cause, than men, for they can act wisely and persuasively.

Let us sit, etc. This is not only the shameful sin of pride and self exaltation; but they do not understand at all what Christ and his kingdom are.
22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. 23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. 
Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of? The Lord gives them a very blunt answer. But does he use them roughly? or does he not want them any longer for his disciples, because they have been with him so long, and yet have learned so little?

No, he overlooks this foolishness, because they have not done it out of malice, but like children, from im prudence; he exhorts them most kindly, to desist from such a desire, and to get other ideas of his kingdom and their ministry.

Thus the dear saints may be a comfort to us; yet not in the sense that we may learn from the saints to sin, but that in temptations we may be comforted by their example: that as by grace their sins were forgiven them, so also our sins will be forgiven us; if we only remain in his house, our weakness and infirmities will not be dangerous to us.

You are concerned, he says, about your honors, but this will all come right of itself. The chair on which you are to sit has been enlarged; for in my Father's house are many mansions; see to it that you get there. You will get into it, however, like myself by suffering and death.

Our Lord God pours out to every one his measure of what he must drink. Each one has his own quantity, one less, another more, a woman often more than a man. Others endure bodily sufferings and persecutions. We have no outward persecutions here, but we have at the same time something else, by which the devil plagues us in our heart and conscience. This is the livery which this king offers us; whoever is ashamed of it and will not wear it, is also ashamed of the Lord Christ. Reason argues that when one is in a bad condition he has an ungracious God. But here we see that this judgment is wrong.

But to sit on my right hand, etc. Here the Lord says that as a man, he has no power, that he is a servant, and answers the disciples according as they regard him. They regard him as a man, therefore he also answers as a man; therefore he has no power, in the light in which they here regard him, to seat them on his right or left hand. But when he shall come at the last day in his glory, then he will very certainly, as a mighty God, be able to seat his own in places of honor.

Here we must also mark well, that our dear Lord Christ will not have or endure any one to be equal to him in his kingdom and glory. For he it is, who has trod the winepress alone (Isaiah 63:3) he it is alone, who died for us and atoned for our sins with his blood.

Note: See here, say they, if a layman should discuss this text, he would soon fall into error, and think Christ was not God, because he says it is not in his power to bestow the privilege asked for. Therefore, say they, the Scripture is obscure, and must be elucidated by human learning. This is a glaring error, and means really to lead the Holy Ghost to school, and teach him how to speak. But that the Scripture appears obscure to us, is that we do not take heed, when it speaks to us of Christ's divinity and humanity, and also that we want to interpret it according to our own understanding, which can in no wise be harmonized.
24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. 
When the other ten heard it. The other ten disciples are also not much wiser or more pious; those two want to be proud and exalted; these are angry, displeased, and unwilling. The dear Lord still tolerates and endures them, and conducts himself very friendly towards them, because they still cling to him.
25 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 
Whosoever will be chief let him be servant. This means, that not only is worldly might and power taken away from the ministerial office, but this also is added, that it shall be entirely an office of service, wherein one has nothing but trouble and labor, and afterwards all kinds of ingratitude, yea, and of misfortune.

But, therefore, indeed, the hearers are under obligation, as the ministers can not otherwise be maintained, freely to give of their own goods to nourish them, (1 Corinthians 9:13-14,) that they both may remain under one Lord, their Savior.
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. 
Son of man gave his life a ransom for many. If any one, says the Lord, should have power and great glory, then I would certainly be entitled to it beyond all others. But especially should this text be heeded, because Christ says, "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many." For this text teaches the forgiveness of sins, and how we can obtain for giveness; that such ransom has been given for many; that is, although it has been given for all men, yet there are but few who enjoy this ransom and are saved. (Isaiah 53, John 1:29, 1 John 2:2) The reason of this is, that all will not accept such a ransom. Some will not accept Christ at all. Some, indeed, do not expect to merit heaven by their works and do not deny Christ; but they have so much to do with the world, that they do not think of Christ.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 116-118.  (Matthew from pp. 42-43)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: St. Luke the Evangelist (Oct. 18)

October 18
St. Luke the Evangelist

Luke 10:1-9
New King James Version

10 After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. 5 But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

Refers to the commentary on Matthew 10:7-16

7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. This is to be the preaching of the New Testament, that we should not preach about ceremonies, nor about civil laws, nor anything else, except the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life. In this is embraced: The preaching of the word of God, of justification, of the forgiveness of sins, the victory over death, over the flesh, the world, the devil and all evil.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have re ceived, freely give.
Freely received . . . freely give. He forbids the vice of avarice, simony and ambition. He reminds us how unworthy we have been of so great an office; therefore we will cheerfully and freely serve him. But we are allowed to live of the gospel, even with wife, children and families.

"Have" means here how the avaricious have mammon, who cling to it with the heart. But for necessity and use Christ himself had money, a purse, and bread baskets.
9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 
Provide neither silver, etc. That is, in their ministerial office, they were to seek neither money nor riches.
10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. 
Staves. That is, should not seek to rule with force, or to defend themselves.

Workman worthy of his meat. Here it is to be noticed that it is our duty to supply teachers and preachers with food and raiment. Those commit a great sin, who claim to be Christians, and yet refuse to contribute to the support of the teachers and preachers, or even withhold that from them, which has been left them by endow ment.
11 And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. 
Abide till ye go thence. Here he gives them the instruction, that they should not rove about as tramps, like the false apostles and fanatics (2 Timothy 3:6) for this is a sign of an unestablished heart, and an unstable doctrine. But they shall choose a certain host and stay with him, till they leave the city.

"Is worthy." As if he would say, it is a high honor when any one is worthy to receive and entertain my servants; for he entertains me and my Father.
12 And when ye come into an house, salute it. 
Salute it. Perform the duty of your office, salute them, offer them the grace and peace of the Gospel. But if you find them to be despisers and ungrateful, then do not be either faint or weary, but know that they were not worthy of it.
13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. 
Peace return to you. He says, the peace will return to you; that is, it will not have been in vain, that it has been offered to them; but it will serve you as an abundance of merit and honor. Therefore faithful ministers of the word never labor in vain.

This passage does good service against the fanatics, who assert that our word is not true, because many sinners do not reform.
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city. 
Shake off the dust. Ye shall take nothing at all from them, insomuch that ye even shake off their dust from your shoes; so that they may know that ye wish nothing from them.

Be not vindictive against such ingrates; for they themselves are already punished more than ye could wish, as St. Paul says, 2 Timothy 4:2-4.
16 If Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Sheep among wolves. Hereby he teaches them that they must not only patiently endure ingratitude and unthankfulness (v. 14,) but also persecutions. And it is to be especially noticed, that we who occupy the office of teachers and preachers shall most certainly regard ourselves as teaching among wolves.

In case of persecution it is necessary that a minister of the word should possess these two qualifications; namely, that he be guarded against the false and the deceitful, and yet honest and open-hearted to wards the honest and pious. For by means of wonderful tricks the devil and the world seek every opportunity against the righteous, to make it appear that they deserved to be persecuted. Therefore we must act wisely; that is, be inoffensive and blameless.

And, also, we must be simple in doing good; that is, that we do not give up on account of any injustice done us, but continue to teach, serve and be willing and beneficent both towards the thankful and the unthankful.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 214.  (Matthew from pp. 59-61)

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Michaelmas 3 (Trinity 21) - Spiritual Armor

Sun October 18, 2015

Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Third Sunday After Michaelmas

Spiritual Armor

John 4:46-54
New King James Version

46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”

50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”

52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.

54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 

The nobleman's faith. It is certain that when a Christian begins to believe, temptation and persecution im mediately come upon him. And when this is not the case, it is a sign that his faith is not of the right kind and the gospel is not rightly apprehended. For the knave, the devil, has a sharp eye, and soon finds out who is a true Christian; therefore he strives hard to ruin him. But this comes to pass, however, that God may wake us up, and induce us to cry: O Lord, help us and strengthen our faith. Luke 17:5.

Three times John tells us that this nobleman had faith. For faith brings everyone very near to Christ through the gospel, with all his benefits, so that one Christian has just as much as another, and the child which was baptized today has nothing less than Saint Peter and all the saints in heaven; in the faith we are all equal, and one has the treasure as full and entire as the other. But this gospel speaks further of the increase of faith, and there it becomes unequal. Here is the difference between the two; that is, between him who has a thing, and him who comprehends it well; it is the difference between a strong and a weak faith.

Who was the nobleman? We do not know certainly whether this nobleman was a Jew or a heathen; but it matters little whether we know it or not. But this is the most important, that we see what great things the Word of God and faith are.

No doubt he had himself also heard the Lord preach. That is a noble heart, which so soon derives such a faith in Christ from one sermon and one miracle. (the miracle at Cana.)

This distinguishes a Christian from a heathen, that a Christian seeks his refuge in Christ as his own Savior. A heathen also does outward works; but faith makes the difference.
48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 
Except ye see signs, ye believe not. How does this correspond? He says, Ye believe not, yet nevertheless have faith. The nobleman had confidence in the Lord Christ, that he could and would help his son; but this confi dence was, as yet, without the word, and was based only on the miracle which the Lord had performed in Galilee at the marriage in Cana. This we may indeed call faith, but it is, as yet, a very weak faith.

Though the Lord performed signs and miracles, in order that he might let himself be seen and induce the people to believe; yet his final intention was, that the people should look more to the word, than upon the signs, which were to serve the word as testimonies.
49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 
Come ere my child die. This was a hard word (v. 48.) It is a rebuff, where the hindrance begins to the newly begun faith. He does not soon desist (in faith and prayer): what lacks he yet? His faith does not yet extend so far, that he could believe that Christ could heal unless he was present. But the Lord does not for sake him, helps him to rise again, and sets him on a higher position.
50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 
Thy son liveth. As if the Evangelist would say, The nobleman has such a fine, excellent faith, that he believes the mere, simple word, and doubts not that when he comes home, he will find his son safe and sound; entertaining therefore a sure hope, although he neither sees nor feels the fulfillment of the promise. For one must not take into account that faith is weak, but we must have a care of this, that the devil does not tear the faith out of our hearts. It may happen, that he who has a weak faith remains firm, while he who has a strong faith may doubt and fall.
51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 
Thy son liveth. The word of God is a different word from the word of man; it accomplishes all things promptly, brings forgiveness of sins, and gives eternal life; and it costs no more, than that you hear the word, and when you have heard it, that you believe it. With Christ only a little word is necessary, and it is all sufficient.
53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

Faith strengthened by experience. This is a complete faith, which is confirmed by experience. What does he believe now? Not that his son had been restored; for he sees this with his own eyes. But out of his experience he now derives another faith; namely, that Christ will help him still more in other distresses. For new temptations come every day. But the more temptations of this kind a man has, the better it is with him; the more rebuffs he receives, the firmer he grasps Christ; and thus be comes enabled to bear all that Christ lays upon him.

He and his whole house believed. Thus he also increased in the faith, that he not only rose from a lower to a higher state, but he also brought other people to the faith. Faith can not do otherwise, it must speak, and be useful to the neighbor.

Thus we see that Christ makes no difference between the weak and the strong in faith, and will reject none; for a weak faith is also a faith.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 297-298.  (Matthew from pp. 42-43)

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