A Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil, 1523
[The following sermon is taken from volume IV:33-38 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI). It was originally published in 1904 in English by Lutherans in All Lands Press (Minneapolis, MN), as The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 13. The pagination from the Baker edition has been maintained for referencing. This e-text was scanned and edited by Richard Bucher, it is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction.]
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1. Here in this Gospel lesson, as everywhere in the Scriptures, we are to be careful that we grasp, as well as we can, the true, simple meaning, as we have often heard, and establish our hearts and consciences in that meaning. For whoever will contend with satan, dare not waver and sway hither and thither, but must be convinced of his, cause and be armed with clear sure written documents, for if
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the devil gets him on his fork through his unsettled notions, he will then toss him here and there as the wind does the dry leaf.
2. Therefore we must here in this Gospel grasp its true meaning, in which we may be able to stand. It is not to be understood as referring to the holy Sacrament or the bread of the altar, to which the Papists have pulled it as it were by the hair on holy Corpus Christi day, along with many other passages of Scripture, which have not in a single letter any reference or very little to that Sacrament. But the meaning and substance of this text is, that while the Gospel is preached and published in all the world, few people accept it. And it is here called a supper or an evening meal, because the Gospel shall be the last word or doctrine that will usher in the end of the world.
3. Therefore this supper is nothing else than a rich, expensive meal, which God has provided in Christ through the Gospel, in which he spreads before us great possessions and rich treasures.
4. This invitation, however, took place thus, as the text says: The Lord sent out his servant to invite the guests to this costly supper, that is, the Apostles were all sent forth with one and the same word into all the world, to bid and call to this supper with one voice and with one Gospel, or with one message. Thus, when St. Peter arrived at and preached in a place where St. Paul had preached before, it was the same teaching which the one preached as the other, and the hearers also could say: Behold, he preaches just like we heard before from the first one; they agree and are one and the same. In order to show this unity, the Evangelist says: “And he sent forth his servant,” and says not, his servants, as if he spake of many servants. But the message, the servant should execute and with which he should gain recruits, was:
“Come; for all things are now ready.”
5. For Christ had been crucified, had destroyed sin and death by his death, had risen from the dead, the Holy Spirit had been given, and in short, all things pertaining to this supper
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were now ready. It all was so prepared that it did not cost us anything; for the Father through Christ bore all its expenses, in order that we without our merit and assistance might enjoy his treasures, and become rich and prosperous.
6. At that time he sent his servant first among the Jews, to invite them to the supper, who had the promises and oracles of God; for the Law and all the prophets were framed to the end that they should prepare a people for God, as the angel Gabriel said of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias: “He shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn unto the Lord their God. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him,” Luke 1:15-17. But what do the guests say to the message of the servant? The text tells us:
“And they all with one consent began to make excuse.”
7. That is what the Lord in Mat. 10:37-38 says: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me.” Now observe how few there are who are thus experts in leaving all for Christ. For whoever will come to this supper, must esteem the Gospel above everything, body and riches, wife and child, friend and foe; yea, he must forsake everything that separates him from the Gospel, let it be as good, right and holy as it ever can be.
8. Do not think that these men who excuse themselves here were engaged in public, coarse sins, and in unrighteous employment and business. No. They were occupied in a laudable, good employment. For it is never wrong that we buy and transact business, that we honestly support ourselves, or take a wife and live in the married state. But the reason we should not come into the state of these per-
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sons, is that they were unwilling to leave these things, but hung to them with all their hearts. Now we must be willing to leave them, if the Gospel require it.
9. Should you then say: I would gladly follow and cleave to the Gospel, and cheerfully also do all things besides; but shall I leave my land, my home and servants, my wife and child, that is hard? Has not God commanded that I should labor to support my wife and child? Observe, therefore, this is also the sum of it all; the Gospel is the Word of the cross and the word of offense, so that everyone is easily offended by it. Yes, God commanded you to do this, he commanded you besides to honor and love him above all creatures, and esteem him higher than all things you may know, as the first and greatest commandment teaches: “Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deut. 6:5; Mat. 22:37. Therefore you must let all things go rather than let them separate you from his love and his Word.
10. However, he loses nothing, who forsakes anything for the Gospel’s sake. Do you lose for its sake your temporal life, God will indeed give you another and a better, an eternal life; as Christ in Mat. 10:39 says: “He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Must you leave your wife and child; remember, God cares for you, he will give them a much better father than you are; and if you only believe it will certainly come to pass. For you have such great pledges and rich promises and admonitions, that he will not let his Word fail; but will maintain it, if we only heartily trust in and yield to it. As he said in Mat. 19:29: “Every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.”
Here stand his very word and promise, what wish we further? Or what do we desire that is greater? Ay, where then is the trouble? Only in our faith. Therefore no one comes to this supper, unless he brings with him a true faith, which God honors and loves above all creatures. But
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what does the Lord do, who lets the guests be invited, and who thus excused themselves? The text says:
“Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor, and maimed, and blind, and lame.”
11. To go out into the streets and lanes means nothing but that the Jews made themselves unworthy of the Gospel, to turn from them and for the disciples turn to the heathen. For Christ commanded his disciples before his resurrection that they should not go into any way of the Gentiles nor preach in any city of the Samaritans; but go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and feed them, Mat. 10:5-6, as they did. But since the Jews after the resurrection of Jesus Christ resisted his Word and would not accept it, then the disciples spake to them as we have an example in Acts 13:46-47: “It was necessary that the Word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee for a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Is. 49:6. But what does it mean when he says to the servant:
“Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
12. This is to be understood as referring to those of a dispirited, timid conscience, who also belong among the guests of this supper, they will be constrained to come in. However it is not an outward but an inward and spiritual constraining, and takes place in this way: When the Law is preached and sin is unfolded or made manifest, that man comes to a knowledge of himself, so that compelling and constraining them to come in means, to force anew the sins into the conscience, that thereby man may acknowledge, that he is nothing, that all his works are sinful and damnable, and thus quickly receives a despairing conscience and a bashful and terrified heart, in which every refuge and help are taken from him and everywhere he is unable to find any
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comfort in them and finally despairs of all help in himself.
13. When this now takes place, it is called “constraining,” for you should not delay his “coming in,” but help him out of his state of despair. But this takes place, when you comfort him with the Gospel and tell him how he may be delivered from his sin, and say to him: Believe in Christ, that he has freed you from sin, then your sins are forgiven you. That is what “constrain them to come in” (compelle intrare) means; and it does not mean outward compelling as they explain it, so that they drive rogues and wicked persons, as it were with police force, to this supper; for that accomplishes nothing, and it is not the sense of the Gospel. Therefore do the constraining energetically in the conscience only, and let it be an inner and spiritual constraining. And the Lord says further to the servant and to others:
“For I say unto you that none of those men that were bidden shalt taste of my supper.”
14. These words are the conclusion and summary of this Gospel lesson, that those, who are the most certain and wish to taste of this supper, shall not taste of it. The reason you have heard. Therefore in brief, the guests, who are here invited and came not, are those who imagine they could obtain the supper through their own works, they greatly exert themselves and are sure of their cause, they wish to taste of the supper. But the Lord concludes with powerful words and says: “That none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.” Why then, dear Lord? They have done nothing bad and neither have they been occupied with false teachings. Why, the reason is that they have denied the faith, and did not publicly confess it before everybody, and did not esteem this rich and expensive supper above all creatures, For since it is costly and precious, it therefore also requires something from the people who esteem it so, and it puts them under some, obligation, be it what it may. See, that is the sense of this Gospel text briefly considered. Whoever desires to develop it further may do so.
2nd sermon (vs. 16-17)
The following sermon is taken from volume IV:39-57 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI). It was originally published in 1904 in English by Lutherans in All Lands Press (Minneapolis, MN), as The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 13. The pagination from the Baker edition has been maintained for referencing. This e-text was scanned and edited by Dr. Richard Bucher, it is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction.]
This sermon appeared in 1535 in the document: “Two Sermons etc.“ It agrees in part with the Sermon in the House Postil.
1. The Papists, contrary to the order of the ancient Church, have appointed this Gospel lesson for the first Sunday after Trinity, because they celebrated it the week during the festival of Corpus Christi, as is still the custom among them. For they interpreted the supper, of which this Gospel speaks, to signify the Sacrament of the Altar, and thereby desired to establish the Communion in one part or form only, which, as you well know, is one of their chief abuses and an anti-Christian perversion of this sacrament, concerning which we do not agree with them.
2. Inasmuch as young people are growing up and know nothing about such festivals or pompous demonstrations, and as we older persons forget it also, it is well to remind our people, so that, when our youth come to their churches and see such things, they may not be offended, but may be able to say: That it is not right, that they should play with the holy Sacrament and carry it about, in order thereby to dispense so many false indulgences, not with the intention thereby to honor the Sacrament, for then they would have carried about the entire Sacrament, or both elements, bread and wine. But to the shame and disgrace of the Sacrament, they do this that they themselves may thereby be honored, namely, that the distinction be maintained, that the order of priests is a more special and a higher order before God, than the common order of Christians; because the priests alone receive the entire Sacrament or both elements, the body and the blood of Christ, and other Christians, as
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people of a lower order, must be satisfied with only one part of the Sacrament.
3. This difference they sought to introduce among the people by such a festival in order thus to praise their order above others, to the shame and disgrace of the holy Sacrament and our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not institute his holy Sacrament for a special order over and above the common order of Christians; just as he also did not suffer and die for a special order, but for the comfort of his Christian church which is not divided, but consists of one body, of the one only Head, Jesus Christ, where all the members, so far as life and character are concerned, are equal; although their works are unequal and different.
4. This abuse, which is very great and harmful, we must not overlook, but picture it forth in its true colors, because the Papists insist with such hardened and impenitent hearts on their own godless conduct. For how does it happen that the holy Sacrament must be used to make a distinction among Christians? Whereas Christ our Lord instituted it chiefly for the comfort of the conscience and for the strengthening of our faith, and further that Christendom should be like a bond, by which Christians are bound together in the most intimate manner; that they be as one bread or one loaf, not only that they might have in common and at the same time one God, one Word, one Baptism, one Sacrament, one hope, one confidence, and all the grace and treasures of Christ in common; but that in their external life they are also one body, where one member assists, serves, helps, advises and sympathizes with the others.
5. This use of the holy Sacrament the Papists have thus entirely abolished, so that they alone have wholly taken the Sacrament to themselves, and thereby have formed an extra class that was to be better than common Christians. Yet, in order that the common people might also highly esteem the one part of the Sacrament and not entirely despise it, they celebrated this festival every year for eight days, when
they played with the one part, with the wafer, in a grand procession through the city and carried it about with cymbals and stringed instruments, so that they made the people stare with wonder, and made them think that even if the order of priests were grander and greater before God, yet, they too had something of which they could publicly boast.
6. For this purpose they used this Gospel lesson, although it agrees very poorly with the teaching of the Sacrament under one form. Just as though this master of the house had prepared a feast for mice, and only gave them something to eat and nothing to drink; and yet they themselves sing about it:
Venite, comedite panem meum, Et Bibite vinum meum.
Come, eat my bread, And drink my wine!
And after all, they only gave them the one form, the bread, and kept the wine for themselves. But thus our dear Lord God is constantly treated; whatever he institutes and orders must be perverted and put to shame by the devil and his imps. Thus the Sacrament has also been treated, which on this festival even at the present day is still most horribly blasphemed by the Papists.
7. For as said before, they do not keep this feast in honor of the holy Sacrament, else they would bear in their processions both parts, and the entire Sacrament; but they do it to honor themselves, and they had to raise it high, not for our benefit, but only that we might know what the difference is between a priest and a lay member. In other things, where God has so created them, it is proper to observe the difference, for instance, that a woman is a woman, and a man a man, that worldly government must be distinguished from its subjects, and in like manner other worldly conditions.
However, that men should here make a difference where God has put away all differences; that the Pope and bishops,
yea, even St. Peter or St. Paul should have a better baptism or a better Gospel than any other common Christian is wrong. Therefore it is also wrong that they wish to have a better Sacrament than other Christians, for Christ our Lord and Saviour, as already said, did not institute the Sacrament to make a difference among his Christians, but for the sake of equality, just as baptism and the Gospel, that we may have just as much from it as other persons.
8. This I desired to say briefly for the sake of the young, and also for our sakes, that everyone should learn to know the devil, and beware of the abominations which Popery has introduced, and has thus divided the Christian church which our Lord God has made one, while they condemn and persecute us because we will not allow ourselves to be made mice and rats who eat without drinking, or only receive the one part. For this reason we in our church have altogether done away with this festival, because the Papists have made it nothing else but pure idolatry, and have gone straight against the order and institution of Christ, bringing disgrace to the holy Sacrament and a positive injury to Christianity. For we will remain with the unity of Christians, that one is as good as another, and all differences are here at an end. This is enough here for the sake of the young and the common people. We will now take up the Gospel lesson.
9. The occasion of this sermon by Christ was the miracle which the Lord Jesus Christ performed in the house of a Pharisee, when he healed one sick of the dropsy. But the Evangelist tells how they followed him and were on the watch for him, in order to catch him. Therefore, he also begins to lecture them, and tells them how they are filled with pride and vanity, and crowd into the highest seats, until he at length comes to the host, and reads a text also to him, how he should invite his guests; not the rich who can invite him again and thank him for it, but the poor, who may welcome him again in the life to come.
10. Following this address one of them who thought himself much more learned than Christ the Lord, begins to say:
“Oh, how blessed is he who eateth bread in the kingdom of God.” As though he would say in his great wisdom: You make yourself unprofitable enough by your preaching! If it would depend on preaching, I can do that, too, even better than you; for I consider this a truly great sermon: “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
11. Christ replies to him: Yes, says he, I will tell you how blessed you and your comrades are: “A certain man made a great supper, and bade many,” and they despised it and would not come. This blow was meant for him. As though he would say: You say much in the words, that he is a blessed man who eats bread in heaven! Oh, but you are in very great earnest! What an excellent holy man you are, namely, you are one of those who are invited and yet do not come. These are hard, sharp and terrible words when rightly considered; for he is speaking to real thoroughgoing rogues, who sat about the table, not because they wanted to learn anything, but in order to observe him closely to see by what means they might come to him and take him. To those he spoke this parable:
“A certain, man made a great supper.”
12. This man who prepared this supper is our Lord God himself. He is a great and rich Lord, who also once prepared a feast according to his glorious majesty and honor, and it was such a supper which is called great and glorious not only on account of the host, who is God himself, for it would be a glorious supper if he had only given a vegetable broth or a dry crust; yet the food is beyond all measure great and costly, namely, the holy Gospel, yea, Christ our Lord himself. He is himself the food, and is offered unto us through the Gospel, how he has made satisfaction by his death for our sins, and has redeemed us from all the misery of eternal death, of hell, of the wrath of God, sin and eternal condemnation.
13. This preaching of Christ is the great and glorious supper with which he feeds his guests and sanctifies them through his holy Baptism, and comforts and strengthens them through the Sacrament of his body and blood, that nothing
may be wanting and a great plenty may be at hand and all become satisfied. Thus this supper is justly called a glorious, great supper on account of the fare and food, so costly and richly prepared that no tongue can describe it and no heart sufficiently grasp it. For it is an eternal food and an eternal drink, by partaking of which a man shall nevermore thirst nor hunger, but be forever satisfied, his thirst is quenched and he becomes joyful; and this not only for one man, but for the whole wide world, even if it were ten times wider, they would all have sufficient. For it is an inexhaustible food and an everlasting drink, as our Gospel says: He who believeth on this Lord Jesus Christ, that he was born for us of the Virgin Mary and crucified for our sins under Pontius Pilate, died, descended into hell, and rose again from the dead and sitteth at the right hand of God, etc.; he who believes this, eats and drinks truly from this supper. For to believe in Christ the Lord means to eat and to drink, from which the people become satisfied, fat and stout and strong, so that they are joyful forever.
14. This is rightly called a great supper, because it is so precious, and is offered to so many people that every one may eat until he is satisfied, and yet the food never becomes less. For it is such a great and strengthening food that it endures forever and gives eternal life, for it nourishes us differently than our mere bodily eating and drinking. If one has eaten and drunk enough today, he must still eat again tomorrow. But this is an eternal food and lasts forever. With this Christ gives those hypocrites at the table to understand that it is a different supper from what they had given him; and yet they are such rogues and knaves, that although they gossip and talk about it a great deal, yet they despise God and his mercy, eternal life and salvation, and hold everything else dearer. It follows further:
“And he bade many.”
15. The many who are bidden are the Jews and all the people of Israel, who from Abraham on, and especially through the prophets had been invited. For to the patriarch Abraham
the seed was promised through whom the blessing should come, and to him as the father of this people was this supper first announced. After that the prophets carried it further and directed the attention of the people to it, so that nothing was wanting on the part of the Lord our God, and all were diligently invited. Therefore St. Paul in his Epistles everywhere tells the Jews: Judaeis primum et Graecis: To the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
16. Now when the hour came to go to the table, that is, when the time came for our Lord Christ to be born, to suffer and rise again from the dead, then the servants went out, John the Baptist and the Apostles, and said to those who were bidden, to the people of Israel: Dear people, hitherto you have been invited, now is the time to come, now the supper is ready! Your Lord Jesus Christ, your Messiah is already born, has died and rose again, therefore do not remain away any longer, come to the table, eat and be happy, that is, accept your promised treasure with joy, who has according to promise delivered you from the curse and condemnation and has saved you. And this message was brought especially to the leaders of the people, who held high places in the spiritual and civil governments. But what did they do with it?
“And they all with one consent began to make excuse.”
17. This was a lesson for those guests who sat with Christ at the table, and especially for the good-for-nothing babbler, who wanted to master Christ and preached much about the bread in the kingdom of God; blessed is the man who eats bread in the kingdom of heaven! Yes, Christ answers, do you want to know how blessed you are? I will tell you. The bread is now on the table and the supper prepared. John the Baptist was here, I and my Apostles invite you now to come to the supper; but you do not only stay away, you let the host sit at his great and glorious supper, but you even want to excuse yourselves and yet be pure. Hence it is a twofold sin, not only that you despise the Gospel, but even claim to be doing right, and to be even holy, pious and wise; this is a very grievous sin.
It were already too wicked not to believe in the Word of God our Lord; but as they go further and despise it, and yet want to be just besides, is going entirely too far. As our young noblemen also do, who have disgraced and blasphemed the Sacrament and have given to us erring creatures only one part, and at the same time excuse themselves, and claim thereby to have done right. Yea, they also condemn us, and oppress us with all kinds of martyrdom, murder and drive away the people who truly desire to enjoy the whole Sacrament. But let them only pour out their rage hot enough, who knows, who will yet be compelled to sweat in this bath?
18. The Jews acted and excused themselves thus: Oh, we cannot accept the doctrine, for it is opposed to the priesthood and to the law, which God himself has given us through Moses. Besides it also creates divisions in our kingdom which God has confirmed. We must see how to maintain our own affairs! Thus the first one excuses himself with his land, the second with his oxen, and both think they do well; the third does not even excuse himself at all, he simply refuses, and says he cannot come.
19. These are the excuses of the Jews as well as our own, which we prefer against the Gospel, for we are no better than they were. They first pretended that the law of Moses had to remain, and because the Apostles preached against the law, that neither their law, temple nor priests were necessary, for a greater priest was present, Jesus Christ, of the tribe of Judah; they would not tolerate such preaching, but held to their law as they still do. Thus it has come to pass that they still wait at the present day, and must wait until the last day for their Messiah to come, and they hope that he will prepare all things, the old priesthood and kingdom as it was in the time of David, when he will give them everything in the greatest abundance.
20. For Christ here treats of these three parties. The first says: I want to see my farm. These are the foremost and best among them, among the Jews they were the entire priesthood and the chief rulers. These said : We priests
must work, cultivate and harvest the land, that is, we must rule the people, and wait upon the priesthood God has entrusted unto us, as Christ also calls ministers cultivators of the soil who sow the Gospel. But as the teachings of the Apostles are opposed to this, it is wrong, and we are justly excused when we do not accept their doctrine.
21. Thus others also who had offices in the civil government excuse themselves with the oxen. For oxen are called the rulers of the people, Ps. 22:12: “Many bulls have encompassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round.” These also have a fair excuse and say: We have a kingdom and government, instituted and appointed of God, with this we must remain and see to it how we may preserve it.
22. The third class say: The Gospel is a doctrine that will not allow covetousness, nor permit us to strive to have sufficient for our bodily needs, but commands us to risk everything, body and life, money and goods, for Christ’s sake. Therefore we will and cannot come, for we must see how we may keep our own, which God has given us. For to take a wife is not to do or undertake anything dishonor-able, but to enter an honorable state, and to be at home and plan how to support yourself, which is everyone’s duty. But all this is just that by which an honest housefather commits sin, when he only thinks of this, how he may become rich, keep house well and prosper. God grant it whether it be done with or against God.
For the Jews took into consideration only how Moses had promised them if they would be good and keep God’s commandments, to give temporal blessings, cattle, lands, wife, child, and all things should be blessed and prosper. Therefore they only sought to have their cellars and kitchens full, and to be rich, and then they thought that they were good, and that God had thus blessed them, as the Psalm says, 144:13-14.
23. Just in this very manner our Papists still excuse themselves and say: The doctrine is right, of course, but we must still adhere to the Church and her orderly government. Again, we must above all things maintain obedience
to the worldly power, so that there may be no disturbance and insurrection. Thus they are troubled just like the Jews. If they would accept the Gospel, they fear they might lose their Church and government, whereas the Gospel alone builds up the true Christian church, and prevents all injustice, violence and insurrection. Besides covetousness is also present; since they see nothing in the Gospel but mere poverty and persecution, so that it goes as it does here, that they simply and without fear refuse to obey the Gospel and say, they have taken wives and cannot come, and still they want to be Christians and claim to have done just right, and want to be regarded as pious bishops, good princes and good citizens.
24. But how will it go with them? Just as it did with the Jews. They held so long to their law, priesthood, kingdom and treasures, until they at last went to destruction, and lost one after the other; so that now they dwell here and there and have their homes under foreign princes as if living in a swing. This is the reward for which they labored. For they desired not this supper, and preferred their kingdom, priesthood and houses, rather than the Gospel. Therefore they lost all three, and received the sentence that none of them should taste of this supper, and thus be deprived of both, of temporal things here on earth, and of the everlasting feast in heaven. The same will also certainly be the fate of our adversaries.
25. Thus Christ our Lord lectured this sharp doctor and his associates at the table, and showed them how they stood before our Lord God, namely, that God was angry at them, and would look out for other guests, as follows:
“Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servants, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor, and maimed, and blind, and lame.”
26. As though he would say: Very well, inasmuch as this must be done, that you must examine your land and oxen and take unto you wives, and on this account neglect my supper, that is, you want your priesthood, kingdom and wealth, and will let me and my Gospel go, hence I will let
you go, too, that on this account you will lose all, and I will provide me other guests. Therefore go forth, my servant, into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor and crippled, the lame and blind. This was also done among the Jews. For as the great lords, princes and priests, and those who were the best among the people would not accept the Gospel, for reasons already given, our God and Lord accepted the humble fishermen, the poor, miserable and despised little flock, as St. Paul also says, 1 Cor. 1:26-28: “For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong, and base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to naught the things that are.”
27. According to this passage all that are wise, holy, rich and powerful, God has rejected, because they will not accept his Gospel; and the foolish, simple, and the most insignificant little lights, as Peter, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew and the like, who were poor fishermen and needy beggars, whom he here calls the poor, the maimed, the lame and blind, are chosen, whom no one would have considered worthy to be the servants of the priests and princes of the people. These were left like dregs, and as Isaiah says, the dregs of the good costly wine; the best among the people, the priests, the leaders, the rich and powerful are cast out as a vessel of good wine, and the dregs alone are left, which the Lord here calls the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind. These are promoted to grace and honor, so that they become acceptable to God and dear guests, because the others, the high and great people will not come.
28. What the Pharisee now says: `Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God”–to which Christ answers: Yes, blessed are they; but you and your followers are concerned about your farm and oxen. You speak of these
things, therefore you shall know that a supper has been prepared, of which the poor shall eat, as the text says, Mat. 11:5, Pauperes evangelizantur, the poor have the Gospel preached to them. For the powerful, the saints, the wise do not want it, therefore it has come to pass that both priests and leaders have been cast away as the best wine, because they have held so firmly to their oxen, their land and their wives; and in their stead have been promoted the poor beggars, who came to the Gospel in this glorious supper.
29. This is to press the Jews very hard, and especially this one here, who wants to be wise and to eat bread in heaven, and yet he clings to his priesthood and kingdom, let Christ and his Gospel be what they may. For his heart is so constituted that he does not need Christ at all to make sure of heaven, but thinks our Lord God will say to him and all the Jews: Come, you Jews, and especially you priests, you saints, you princes, you fat citizens, for you the supper is prepared! Yes, says he, it is true, you are invited, but you care nothing for it and excuse yourselves and claim that you are right. Therefore I cast you away, and accept rather the most humble people, even if I shall obtain no one but the despised, the poor, the maimed and the lame.
30. Thus it shall also be done to our adversaries, and nothing shall help them, though they be great, holy bishops, powerful princes and lords, and think that our Lord God will not thus cast them away, and accept only the poor rats’ nest at Wittenberg, and the humble flock who love the Gospel. Yes, my dear friend, if God has cast away the best among his people who had such glorious and great promises, and took the dregs, neither will he give it to thee. Simply because you are great, holy and powerful, will not enable you to eat bread in heaven, for the poor have the Gospel preached to them. For our Lord is much greater, stronger, wiser and holier than all kings and all devils; therefore he cares but little about your holiness or power. And if you will still defy him and so wickedly despise his
Word, he will then also rise up against you, so that all your wisdom, power and holiness will come to naught.
31. Thus far this Gospel lesson pertains only to the Jews; for Christ speaks of the lame and cripple who are found in the streets of the city. The people of the Jews are called a city, because they were a constituted and well ordered people, and had the law, the worship, the temple, the priests and king, all of which was ordained by God himself and established by Moses. Now he also sends his servant into the highways and commands him to take guests wherever he could find them, even the beggars along the hedges and everywhere.
“And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the high-ways and hedges, and constrain them to come in that my house may be filled.”
32. This refers to us, the heathen, who have dwelt in no city, who were without any worship of the true God, but were idolatrous, and did not know what we or God were. Therefore our condition is properly called a free, open place on the highways, in the field, where the devil walks over us and has his quarters.
33. Go thither, he says, and constrain them to come in. For the world arrays itself against the Gospel in every way, and cannot tolerate this doctrine, and yet this housefather wants his house full of guests, for he himself has thus made preparations, and he now must have people to eat, drink and be joyful, even if he had to make them of stones.
34. Here we can also see that Christ our Lord suffers the world to stand so long for our sakes, although he would have sufficient reason, because of our sins to destroy it every moment. Yet he does not do this because he still desires more guests, and because of the elect who also belong to this supper. Now, because his servants bring the precious Gospel to us, is an indication that we who are baptized and believe, also belong to this supper, for we are the great lords of the hedges, who are blind, poor and lost heathen.
35. But how shall we be constrained, as God does not want
any forced worship? He constrains us by having the Gospel preached to all men: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Here he shows us both heaven and hell, death and life, wrath and grace, and reveals unto us our sins and ruined condition, so that we may be awakened on account of it, because we hear that a man as soon as he is born, naturally belongs to the devil and is condemned. This is part of this constraint, by which one is terrified at the wrath of God and desires grace and help from him.
36. When this has taken place by preaching and the hearts are thus stricken and awakened, he then desires that we should preach thus: Dear friend, do not despair because you are a sinner and have such a terrible sentence passed upon you; but do this, go forth and be baptized and hear the Gospel. Here you will learn that Jesus Christ has died for your sake, and has made satisfaction for your sins. If you believe this, then you will be safe against the wrath of God and eternal death, and you shall eat here at this glorious supper and live well, become hearty and strong.
37. This means rightly to constrain, namely, to terrify with sin, not as the Pope constrains with his ban. He does not properly awaken the conscience, because he does not teach what sin really is, but deals with his foolish work, saying, whoever does not observe his order and human tradition, shall be put under the ban. But the Gospel begins to reveal sin and the wrath of God from heaven, Rom. 1, that we all live unrighteously and godlessly, without exception. This our Lord commands us to preach through the Gospel when he says to the Apostles: “Go forth and preach repentance” But a man cannot preach repentance unless he declares that God is angry at all men, because they are full of unbelief, contempt of God and other sins.
38. This wrath must terrify them and make their consciences timid and fearful, that they constrain themselves and say: 0, Lord God! what shall I ever do to be relieved from this distress? Now when man is terrified and feels his wretch-
edness and misery, then it is right to say to him: Sit down at the table of this rich Lord and eat, for there are yet many tables without guests and plenty to eat, that is, be baptized and believe in Jesus Christ, that he has made satisfaction for your sins. Otherwise, there are no means to aid you, except you be baptized and believe. Thus wrath will cease and heaven will shine with pure grace and mercy, forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
39. Therefore these words, “Constrain them to come in!” are for the poor, miserable multitude of those who are constrained, that is, especially we, who, before were lost and condemned heathen, the lovely and comfortable from the masses, by which God desires to forcibly portray and show unto us his unfathomable grace. Far it must ever be an unspeakable love, that he shows in these words that he is so desirous for our welfare and salvation, that he commands us not only friendly to call and encourage poor sinners to come to this supper, but also desires them to be urged and constrained, and that such urging is not to cease, that they may only come to his supper. By this he sufficiently shows that he will not cast them away or permit them to be lost, wherever they themselves will not only through malicious contempt and hardened impenitence oppose such efforts to constrain them. So that he is as Tauler said, immeasurably more anxious to give and help us, than we are or ever can be to receive or to pray, and demands and requires nothing more difficult from us, than that we should widely open our hearts and accept his grace.
40. This constraining, however, is necessary in preaching both repentance and forgiveness of sins; for without repentance we remain too hard and obdurate under his wrath, in our sinful nature and in the kingdom of the devil. And moreover, when the terror of divine wrath strikes us, we are again too fearful, modest and disturbed, to take this to heart and believe, that he will show us such great grace and mercy, and we are always full of anxiety that we do not belong to them, and that he will reject us because of our sins and great unworthiness.
Therefore he must himself command and work that men continue and persevere evermore to constrain and urge as much as possible, both by holding forth wrath for the wicked and grace for the faithful. Wrath and repentance urge man to run and cry for grace. This is then the right way a person goes to this supper, and thus from Jews and Gentiles there will be one Christian church, and all will be called alike poor, miserable people, lame and crippled, for they accept the Gospel heartily and with joy.
41. Those, however, who will not do this, be they as wise and as shrewd as they please, receive this sentence, they shall not taste of this supper, that is, the wrath of God shall remain upon them and they shall be condemned on account of their unbelief. For here our Lord does not inquire, as before said, whether they be rich, wise or holy. Therefore, although they be already secure and think there is no danger, they will nevertheless experience, that this sentence will stand, when the Lord here concludes: Non gustabunt, “they shall not taste of my supper.“ We, however, who accept it and with terrified hearts on account of our sins do not reject the grace of God which is made known to us in the Gospel through Christ and is offered to us, shall receive grace instead of wrath; instead of sin, eternal righteousness; and instead of eternal death, eternal life.
42. In our time this terrible sentence, as we see, most powerfully goes forth against the Jews and the Turks, and no saver of the Gospel is left them; yea, it is to them a disgust and abomination, so that they can neither tolerate nor hear it. So are also our Popes and bishops, they shall not even smell this supper, not to say anything of their being filled with it. But we, who by God’s peculiar grace have come to this doctrine, shall become hearty, strong and joyful by it, and at the table of this supper we are of good cheer. God grant that we may thus remain constant to the end! Amen.
43. Thus in this parable the Lord would admonish us to esteem the Gospel as dear and precious, and not hold to the crowd who think they are smart, wise, powerful and holy.
For here stands the sentence: They shall be cast off and shall never taste. of this supper; as among the Jewish people they have been cast off, and only the small dregs thereof remained. Thus it will also be with us, when we prefer our land, oxen, wives, that is, as it is at present called, spiritual or worldly honor along with temporal goods, to the Gospel.
44. He declares in simple, humble, short but very earnest words: “They shall not taste of my supper.” As though he would say: Very well, my supper, too, is something, and what does it profit if it be better than their oxen, lands, homes and wives, when they now despise it, and regard their lands, oxen and homes, more precious? And when the hour shall come when they must forsake their oxen, lands and homes, then they would gladly also taste of my supper. But then, too, it shall be said: Dear friend, I am not at home at present, I cannot now wait on the guests, go forth to your lands, to your oxen, to your homes, they will, of course, afford you a better supper, because you have so securely and impudently despised my supper. Of course, I have cooked for you and let it cost me dear; this you have rejected with disdain. If now you have cooked better things, eat and be joyful, but you shall not taste of my supper.
45. This will be to them all a hard, terrible and unbearable sentence, when he will call his supper everlasting life, and their lands, oxen and homes the everlasting fire of hell; and remain firm by this forever, that they shall not taste of his supper, that is, there shall be no more hope for them forever. For there neither repentance nor sorrow will avail, and from thence there shall be no return. Therefore these are exceedingly violent words, which show the great and endless wrath of the master of the house, for this is customary with great lords and high people, when they are real angry, they do not speak many words. But what they do say, every word weighs a hundred pounds, for they intend to do more violently than they can express in words. How much more do those short words of the Almighty
Lord signify an inexpressible wrath, which can never be reconciled.
46. Yet we act as though a fool or a child had spoken such hard, terrible words, at which we could laugh and make sport, or as though it were our Lord’s jest and mockery, and neither hear nor see what the text plainly says, that he is angry, and has spoken this in great wrath; and that he is not a fool or a child, but the Lord and God over all things, before whom we justly tremble and are terrified, as the Scriptures say, the mountains with their base and foundation, and both the sea and the waters flee before him. But no creature is so hard and perverse as man, who has no fear whatever for anything, but despises and makes light of it.
47. But we are indeed sufficiently excused who say: This is our boast. For on that day the whole world must bear witness and confess that they have heard it from us, saw and experienced it, and it does not worry us if they condemn it as heresy. We will gladly bear it, that they call it heresy, and we hear it enough and beyond measure, and thank them kindly besides, that they cry it down as heresy. For thereby they always confess that they have certainly heard, seen and read it. I desire nothing more of them, for in that they confess that they have heard it, they testify that we have not been silent. If then we have not been silent, but have faithfully and diligently taught and preached this, so that our enemies themselves say that we have pressed it too hard, then let that man judge us, whom we hold has commanded us so to preach, and then let that god defend or condemn them, who urges them to condemn us. It shall be known in God’s name, whose God is the true God, and whose Christ is the true Christ, and which church is the true Church. It shall be known when the snow disappears.
48. Although there can be no better government for this world than the devil’s, or instead of the devil’s, the government of the Pope, for this is what the world wants. What the devil wants goes forth and mightily prospers; what
God wants both in the spiritual and worldly government, never succeeds and has innumerable hindrances, so that, if I could separate the world from the church, I would gladly assist to subject the world to the Pope and the devil. But Christ our Lord will do this and other things besides, and will keep his supper far enough from the world and the devil. Amen.