Monday, January 11, 2016

Luther's Notes on the Gospel: Epiphany 3 -- Missions: Jesus heals a Leper and a Servant

Third Sunday After Epiphany
Matt 8:1-13
8 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

Luther's Explanatory Notes

1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 
The two miracles. The two miracles recorded in this chapter, the Evangelist informs us, were wrought soon after Christ's long Sermon on the Mount. For thus it was to be, that first he should preach, and after wards confirm his
preaching by miracles, in order that every one should more readily believe. Thank God, we do not need miracles now, for the doctrine is already so well confirmed by miracles, that no one needs to doubt. And yet it seems necessary, that all Christians, and especially those who preach the Gospel, should not only be able to speak as Christians, but also to live as Christians, and confirm their teachings by their works. For the kingdom of God is not in word only, but also in power. But these two miracles are not only to be regarded as confirmations of the doctrine, but also of faith and love or charity.
2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 
The faith in Christ. See here, how faith stands related to Christ. It presumes simply nothing, but to seek and obtain only the goodness and grace of Christ, without price and without merit.

This confidence of the leper could not have grown out of his reason, had he not previously heard a good report of Christ; for "faith comes by hearing."

If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. This is not to be understood as if he doubted the goodness of God; for such a faith would be worthless; but we know not whether what we ask in faith is good for us or not; this God only knows. (Romans 8:26) "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." We must believe without doubting, but we must also pray with the condition, that it be according to his honor, his kingdom and his will, in order that we may not prescribe to him time, place, measure or name, but submit all this to his own free will. Those who pray in regard to such things as concern God's honor and glory, would pray incorrectly, if they would pray, "Lord, if thou wilt." But it is different when we pray in regard to temporal things. There we must submit ourselves to the will of God. Such faith and such obedience are very pleasing to God; therefore he helps the poor suppliant even in that hour, and in that place, and in such a manner as he would not have dared to ask. See See Psalm 27:11; 130:5-6; Job 2:3.
3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
I will, be thou clean. Here again is represented, also, an example of Christ's love to the leper. For you see here how love makes him a servant, so that he helps the poor freely and without cost, seeking neither reward nor honor therein. Therefore he also forbids him to tell it to any one, in order that it may by all means remain a genuine, pure work of free, gracious love. Thus faith produces Lords, and love produces servants.
4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way. Shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.
Show thyself to the priest. In this case the Lord Christ has placed an example of love before us; inasmuch as he would not withhold from the priests, as he had a right to do, that which was given and bestowed upon them by God, that we also should tolerate every one in the possession of his just rights. But the principal reason for this injunction to the leper is, that the Lord would have his miracle publicly attested also before his enemies.

As if he would say, They will have to confess, that thou art cleansed; but that they will not believe on me as the Messiah, is obstinate obduracy, which will have to be brought to judgment. In the meantime such testimony against them shall serve for the good of others, that they receive me and believe on me.
5 If And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centu rion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tor mented. 
The centurion beseeching him. The centurion did not do this out of his Roman faith; but God had so ordained it, that he should be appointed in the city as a centurion, and there he heard the Ten Commandments taught by the Jews, Moses and the Prophets preached, and. by means of this in struction he became a fine, pious man, with such a virtuous heart, as in cludes all the virtues which belong to faith; and not only did he become pious, but he had also a servant, whom he cordially loved, and who of course was also a faithful servant. For where the master of the house is pious, he will certainly influence his household, that they also become pious.
8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
I am not worthy. This is the peculiar nature of faith, that it produces humble hearts, who are not proud, and do not think much of themselves, and therefore depend simply on the grace and mercy of God. This is well pleasing to God . Psalm 147:11.

Speak the word only. Whence does he know that this Christ, whom the Jews so much despised, has such power? For, if he is not yet so far advanced in the faith, as he after wards manifested, that Christ is truly God and man in one person; yet he be lieved that God was with and in Christ. This was at that time abundantly sufficient. And this very faith, which had such an exalted view of Christ, made him so humble.

9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he Cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
A man of authority. The Gentile and the soldier becomes a theologian, and begins to argue in a style so beautiful and Christian, as if he had been a doctor for four years. Oh, that we could also believe on the absent Christ, although we have his present word!
10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 
So great faith. In this Gospel there is a twofold miracle: one per formed by Christ, the other by the centurion. For it is said that Jesus himself marvelled at his very strong faith. Now, what Christ regards and praises as a miracle, that we also should reasonably regard as a miracle. And this miracle is not to be glossed over, as though he had pretended to be astonished. For we must not detract from the human nature of Christ, but let him remain a truly natural man, who had thoughts like any other man. From this the following difference can be deduced between miracles; namely, that what Christ regards as a miracle is a greater miracle than that which we regard as a miracle (namely, those which relate to the body, while he looks upon those which relate to the soul.) The bodily miracles he performs less frequently; they were wrought only that the Christian church might be founded, established and accepted. But the signs which he regards as miracles prevail and remain continually; such, for instance, as the faith of this Gentile centurion.

Found not so great faith in Israel. But that he says he found not so great faith in Israel has caused great concern, that the Virgin Mary and the apostles might not be regarded as inferior to the centurion. But all this was done, that no one should presume to exalt himself over an other, and no one should esteem one saint more than another, and thus cause sects (which would likely occur, if he did not sometimes make the faith of the saints to appear lower,) but lets them all appear equal in God's grace, unequal as they may be in his gifts. God often accomplishes through small saints, what he does not do through great ones, in order that one may always esteem the other greater than himself. Romans 12:10 "In honor preferring one an other."
11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 Children of the kingdom cast out. How does it come, that the Jews, who had so great reason to believe, believed so little, and the Gentiles, who had no such reason, believed the sooner? Nothing else but the hateful vice which is called satiety; for from the time of their fathers they had been accustomed to great and many miracles, and were so over whelmed with the word of God, that it was no longer new to them. But to this centurion it is all new, and he rejoices that he also learns something of God and his word.
13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.
As thou hast believed. Just as one paints Christ, or makes a picture of him, so is he; that is, as one believeth, so it is done unto him. There fore it is said, If you make me right, you have me right. That is, If you make me to be your God, then you have a God; and if you make me (in your mind) a devil, you have me also, and thus it goes in the world.

But this centurion had imagined him as a friendly, comforting man, and Christ presents himself and speaks just so. Adam was created in the likeness of God. Wherein? Herein, that his heart did not think otherwise than thus: He has created me, and he is my dear Father, who gives me everything. Here he knows nothing of anger, sin or misfortune; but sees and feels only life, peace and every thing in sufficiency. But when the devil came, he spoiled the picture and reversed the word in Genesis 3:4-5. Then Adam forsook the likeness of God and conformed himself to the likeness which the devil had painted, and did not think as he had done before, but the opposite. When we as sume God's image correctly, then he reflects or paints himself in our heart, so that from day to day we are more and more transfigured into his image.

Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 48-50.