[The following sermon is taken from volume V:328-343 of The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983). It was originally published in 1905 in English by Lutherans in All Lands (Minneapolis, MN), as The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 14. The pagination from the Baker edition has been maintained for referencing. This e-text was scanned and edited by Richard P. Bucher, it is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction.]
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1. Dear friends, you know that the Gospel is nothing else than a sermon about one person who is called Christ. And although there are many other books written here and there, and many sermons preached by many different persons, both about the heathen and the Christians, yea, also about the mother of God, St. Peter, angels and many of the saints; yet they are not Gospels, for this alone is the true Gospel which sets before us Christ, and teaches the good things we may hope from him.
2. Of course there is also at times something in the Gospel on John the Baptist, Mary and the Apostles, but this is not properly the Gospel, for they are taken into consideration so as more perfectly to indicate whence Christ came and what his office is. So Luke relates the history of John the Baptist from the beginning, his conception and birth; and that of the Virgin Mary, all which is written not for their sake, but only for the sake of the one person Christ, so that everything written in the Gospel concerns this person Christ alone. In St. Paul’s Epistles there is nothing written about the saints, all there is about Christ alone. The Evangelists describe what miracles and wonders Christ performed; but they write of no work that John or Mary did; but only what Christ did, how he helped the people in body and soul, and how the people clung to him.
3. For God has decreed it is his will that all should cling to the one man Christ, to hope in him and hold fast to him if they would be saved. Thus they know nothing of any one aside from Christ, who alone has been presented unto us by God as our mercy-seat, as St. Paul writes, Rom. 3, 25. Hitherto one has clung to this saint, another to that, one has had Mary, another Saint Barbara, and there have been manifold sects and orders. But no one cared anything for Christ except for the name. We have had many mediators, all of whom we abandoned and held only to Christ. Therefore St. Paul says in Rom. 1, 2, that the Gospel was
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promised by God through the prophets concerning his Son. And he insists upon it so very strongly, that nothing avails in the Gospel except the one only person, Jesus Christ. He who knows this may well thank God, that he knows where to place his comfort, help and confidence, and he will then despise and cast away all sermons about other persons.
4. For this reason the Lord is pictured to us in today’s Gospel, mingling among the people, drawing all the world unto himself by his friendliness and comforting doctrine so that they may cling to him with their hearts, depend upon his goodness, and hope to receive from him both spiritual and temporal treasures. Nor do you see him take anything from those he heals and helps; yea, he receives nothing from them but scorn and mockery, as we shall hear. Good deeds proceed from him, but he receives mockery and scorn in return.
5. Now this is preached and submitted to the whole world, that they may learn to know this man aright, and to know how to become Christians, not how to become good and innocent. Other doctrines outside of the Gospel, like the books of the heathen masters, insist that the people should through them become good; again, the legends of the saints especially insist that the people are to live as the saints lived. To make good people does not belong to the Gospel, for it only makes Christians. It takes much more to be a Christian than to be pious. A person can easily be pious, but not a Christian. A Christian knows nothing to say about his piety, for he finds in himself nothing good or pious. If he is to be pious, he must look for a different piety, a piety in some one else.
6. To this end Christ is presented to us as an inexhaustible fountain, who at all times overflows with pure goodness and grace. And for such goodness and kindness he accepts nothing, except that the good people, who acknowledge such kindness and grace, thank him for it, praise and love him, although others despise him for it. This is what he reaps from it. So one is not called a Christian because he does much, but because he receives something from
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Christ, draws from him and lets Christ only give to him. If one no longer receives anything from Christ, he is no longer a Christian, so that the name Christian continues to be based only on receiving, and not on giving and doing, and he receives nothing from any one except from Christ alone. If you look at what you do, you have already lost the Christian name. It is indeed true, that we are to do good works, help, advise and give to others; but no one is called a Christian by reason of that, nor is he on that account a Christian.
7. Therefore, if you wish to consider the word in its true meaning, you must identify a Christian by the fact that he only receives something from Christ, and has Christ within him; for this is what the word properly means. Just as a person is called “white,” because of his white color, black because of his dark color, large because of his size. So also one is called a “Christian” because of Christ, who dwells in him and from whom he receives his blessings. So, if one is called a Christian because of Christ, he is certainly then not called a Christian because of his works. From this it also follows that no one is called a Christian by reason of his good works. If this be true, as it undoubtedly is, then it must follow that our orders and sects do not belong under the Christian name, and they do not develop Christians.
8. Therefore they are deceivers, who preach or teach in the church, and occupy themselves with commandments, works and statutes, that accomplish nothing. Although they pretend to be Christians, nevertheless they still, under this name, attempt to burden and torment us with their commands and works. By reason of my works I may well be called one who fasts, one who prays, or a pilgrim, but not a Christian. If you were to weave all your works together, and add to them all the works of others, you would still not have Christ, and from these things you could not be called a Christian. Christ is something different and higher than law and the commandments of men. He is the Son of God, who is ready alone to give and not to
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receive. If I am so wise as to take what he offers, I have him, and if I have him I am then justly called a Christian. Thus you have the distinction as to what a Christian is and what Christ is.
9. Now this Gospel teaches us that Christ is the greatest and highest person, renowned in all the world, not in order to terrify the people, but to pour out all earthly and heavenly gifts, so that all men may depend upon and trust in him, and continually receive from him alone what they need. If sin terrifies my conscience and preachers of the law come and want to help me with their works, they will accomplish nothing. Christ alone can help here and no one else. Yea, the others only make it worse, even if they were Peter or Paul, or even Mary, the mother of God herself. Christ alone can do this, being ordained of God to the end that he should send forth the good news in which is proclaimed how my sins are to be forgiven gratuitously, with out any work or merit on my part, only and simply out of pure grace through faith in this Christ. If now I accept what is preached I have a comfort that my sins are forgiven me before God and before the world. If I at heart hold fast to this, then I am a Christian, and for this I thank God through Christ, who at all times gives me his Holy Spirit and grace, that sin may not harm me either here or at the day of judgment.
10. If I fear death and do not like to die, I find in this Christ a comfort and medicine, so that I care nothing for death. If terrified at the anger of God, I have here a Mediator. Many a one runs into the desert or puts on garments of coarse hair, and thinks he will force God not to be angry with him; but it will amount to nothing; whoever has not this Christ, on him the wrath of God remaineth forever, for it is so decreed. John 3, 36.
11. Therefore, whoever would have a joyful conscience that does not fear sin, death, hell, nor the wrath of God, dare not reject this Mediator, Christ. For he is the fountain that overflows with grace, that gives temporal and eternal life. Only open thy heart and hold it forth and you
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will receive all. He gushes and flows forth, and can do nothing else but only give, flow and gush forth, if you can only believe it. You justly deserve that people should call you a Christian, when you are called a Christian by virtue of what you receive from Christ; if not, and you want to give him so much, you are no Christian. This is the rich precious word which St. Paul praises so highly, and can never sufficiently praise, that he so graciously gives us his Son, to pour out his grace over all who receive it. Rom. 3, 24 and 8, 32; Gal. 3, 25.
12. From this it further follows, when a Christian does good works and shows love to his neighbor, that he does not thereby become a Christian or pious, but before this is done he must have been a Christian and pious. He indeed does good works, but his good works do not make him a Christian. The tree brings or yields good fruit, but the fruit does not make the tree good. So also here, no one becomes a Christian through his works, but through Christ.
13. From this you understand what kind of people Christians are, and what their kingdom is, namely, that they are a multitude that cling to Christ, and have one Spirit and the same gifts with him. And through this all Christians are equal, and no one has any more of Christ than another; St. Peter is no more than the thief on the cross; Mary the mother of God is no more than the sinner, Mary Magdalene. In external acts and works, of course, there is a difference among them, for the Virgin Mary had a greater work to do than Mary Magdalene, St. Peter a greater work than the thief on the cross. This is the case when we reckon according to works; but by virtue of our works we are not Christians. The Virgin Mary is not a Christian on account of her great work that she bore in her body Christ, such a costly and inexpressible treasure, as Christ himseslf said to the woman, Luke 11, 27-28, who cried aloud among the people to the Lord: “Blessed is the body that bore thee, and the breasts which thou hast sucked.” “Yes, blessed are they,” said he, “who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Here you see he exalts believers above his mother. For Chris-
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tians are called Christians because they believe in Christ. Virgin and mother are two very beautiful names, but they are nothing in comparison to the name of believers or Christians. Again, St. Paul is so proud, that in his Epistle to the Galatians, 2, 6, he gives the office of the great and high apostles a reputation which amounts to little before God, except as it brings a blessing and is of service to others.
14. Therefore we are all alike through faith in Christ. Although St. Peter has a stronger faith than I, it is still the same faith in Christ. For his Father offers his Son Christ to the promiscuous crowd, and whoever receives him, gets the whole Christ, whether in weakness or in strength, it makes no difference. The woman in this Gospel who had been sick for a long time lays hold of Christ as well as Mary the Virgin, his mother did. Therefore Christians have the same Spirit, one is as high-born as another, St. Peter must call me his brother, and I can also call him my brother. Yea, Christ receives us unto himself and holds us as his brothers, as after his resurrection he said to Mary Magdalene: “Go unto my brethren and tell them, I ascend unto my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” John 20, 17. And St. Paul calls Christ the first-born among many brethren, Rom. 8, 29. Of this he speaks very beautifully in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, 8, 9-12, where he speaks of weak brethren thus: “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak. For if a man see thee who hast knowledge sitting at meat in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? For through thy knowledge he that is weak perisheth, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And thus, sinning against the brethren, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, ye sin against Christ.”
15. The summary of this entire Gospel is, that we learn to know Christ aright, and not only that we have the mere name, but know that we have all things from him. If we are Christians we have all things, and God is our Father, and we are lords of all things in heaven and on earth; this
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no work of ours can bring to pass, be it as great and costly as it may. Now you see how far they are from the Christian name, who live under the dominion of the Pope. The Gospel preaches nothing but the one person, Christ; not even Mary, much less the Pope or any work, be it as costly as it can. It must offer Christ alone and no one else, whom God the Father has sent among us, only that we should draw all from him, and wait for his grace and goodness.
16. Now when they preach to you Christ as a judge, how he is to appear on the judgment day, and how you should do many good works that he may reward you for them, and you agree to this, then he will indeed be a judge to you and not a Savior. And if he be thus presented to you as people are accustomed to paint his mother showing him her breasts, this is actually to preach the devil and not Christ, who only gives but receives nothing. It is indeed true, when you have received from him, then good works will follow of themselves, without force or demand; and this is represented to us very beautifully in today’s Gospel.
17. For here, you see, Christ preaches the Gospel to the people. Now preaching is no insignificant work, for here he does us a great service, in that he becomes our teacher and instructs us, how we may come to the knowledge of himself. This is a part of his great grace and kindness. While he is here on earth he does not cease to teach, so that we may receive him as our Savior and Redeemer; afterwards he follows us with his good works which he manifests everywhere to everyone as he needs. You find no one in the Gospel who ever asked anything of the Lord, whose help was denied and not given. As many as came to him, blind, deaf, lame, palsied and dropsical, he received and helped all as they desired, and healed them from all diseases, as Luke 6, 19 says: “And all the multitude sought to touch him; for power came forth from him, and healed them all.”
PART II.–OF THE GOSPEL AND CHRIST IN DETAIL.
18. Thus he does also to this woman. The woman hears
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him preach, and perceives he is a good, indulgent man, who appears friendly toward all the world; then she also began to cleave to him and take courage to think, because he cut none away from him, she too was welcomed to enjoy his friendship and goodness. Therefore she lets all the Apostles go, and casts her heart’s trust and confidence only on the Lord, and says to herself:
“If I do but touch his garment, I shall be made whole.”
19. Only see what a heart the woman had. Hers is indeed a noble, great faith and confidence. She did not think otherwise in her heart than that he would certainly help her, if she only touched his garment with her hand, and yet she is not so bold as to approach him openly. She regards herself as unworthy to speak to him or look at him; for she knows that she deserved nothing, and never. did anything for the Lord. Therefore she so plans as to approach him from behind, falls down at his feet and merely touches the hem of his garment. There is nothing but mere awkwardness and unworthiness here. Who had merited that the Lord should permit the Gospel to be preached to these people? There is no preparation, no work; yet the poor woman is there and hopes to obtain great things from the Lord, that he would release her from her sickness. She had had an issue of blood for about twelve successive years. How could she earn anything under such circumstances, or how could she because of her disease be worthy of anything? Of course she was worthy, but only to receive and not to give; for at that time she was not able to give the least thing.
20. And this is the true preparation for the grace and goodness of Christ, that I feel my need of it. And then it harmonizes beautifully, that the two meet together, the rich and the poor, Christ and the sinner. Yet it is a great art, to persuade people that they are poor and in need of grace. It is a difficult matter, nor does the devil permit it to be done, but always diverts the people to their good works, that they may under no circumstances receive the idea that they stand in need of the grace and mercy of Christ.
21. The text says the wretched woman had the issue of
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blood for twelve years, and to cure it, had spent all her living upon physicians. And the more she spent for this purpose, the worse she became. Luke and Mark both especially refer to this, and show thereby that, the more the law and works are preached, the worse it becomes among us, and we receive nothing from it but one harm and injury after another. The conscience can never be quieted by our good works. When one sin is expelled from the conscience, another soon enters, yea, the medicine and the work often make a sin, where otherwise there is none, until we come to Christ; as this woman here who had been sick so long and would never have received help, had she never come to Christ, from whom she received her health without any work whatever; she gives him nothing, and only receives from him, and allows him to give.
22. So it goes with all sermons that do not preach Christ, and it is here indicated that we must constantly employ the Word, and always exercise ourselves in the Word without intermission, for such men we still find at all times, who have like anxious and troubled consciences. For this woman signifies all poor consciences who have an issue of blood, that is, they feel their sins. And the issue of blood flows continually and cannot cease. For flesh and blood does nothing but what they wish. Now when feeling gets the upperhand, the wretched people go to work and want to help themselves; then one does this, the other that, and none as yet has accomplished anything.
23. Hence many orders and institutions have arisen because men have conjured up so many works that all of them can scarcely be named. What was the cause of all this? Nothing but the conscience tormented with sin, that has so exercised and harrassed us, that we thought thereby to redeem our souls and be free from all sins. But Christ was not in it, because we only wished to give without receiving. Therefore it has ever become worse with us, as with this woman, whom all the physicians endeavored to heal, but she never found one able to help her. Thus too we have believed all the physicians; if any one came who had accomplished some
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little work we welcomed him. Dear Lord, we were anxious to be well, were anxious to have a joyful conscience, and were anxious to be free from sin.
24. The physicians are the preachers of the law and the lords over Christians. If one were very anxious to be free from sin, what did they do to him? They gave him medicine from which he only became weaker and sicker. This we have seen and in part also felt a great deal, how, to our great and real injury, the people sought to be good by means of their own works, and thereby deliver themselves from sin. But it did no good, we only became more and more discouraged by sin and death, so that there were no more discouraged people to be found on earth than just the priests, the monks, the nuns, and those who go about with their good works. If one had a boil, then the druggists had to work, there was a drugging, a going and running as though the soul would immediately pass away; thus they were afraid and discouraged. And no one fears the last judgment so keenly as just these very spiritual people. This they also beautifully show, when they so treat of works that they always add one work to the other, and never constantly trust in any single work; and the more they do the worse they become, the more discouraged and unbelieving they become, and it is with them just as with this woman.
25. It is quite a beautiful parable, and is well adapted for our benefit. We have not only spent our temporal goods for this purpose. but we have also risked our lives with fasting, with castigation, and with other unbearable burdens, so that some become insane over it, and lose all their natural strength and finally lose their souls in the bargain. I have also been one of these and have been caught deeper in this drugstore than many others. I could not so quickly come to the point, to cast to the winds the law of the Pope. It was a bitter and difficult task for me to eat meat on Friday, and conclude that the law and order of the Pope amounted to nothing. God help us, how difficult it was for me, before I dared to do it! Therefore one should become free from this in his conscience, and despise the traditions of the Pope,
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to do which he must indeed have a strong, firm foundation in faith; if he has this not, he will think several times before he takes the risk.
26. And as it was with this woman, who spent all her living upon the physicians, and even then was not made whole, yea, only became worse, so it is with us. Here all our works, cares and labors are lost. Here all our human obedience and all our orders fall to the ground, and all we spent in that line was wholly lost. Now we see the laws and traditions of the Pope and the bishops are nothing, before which we trembled and feared. All this helped us just as much as it did this poor woman, who spent all her goods and possessions, yes, and also risked her life to this end. 0, what medicine and treatment this woman had to use! How tried, weak and sick she often became from them! Yea, if she could have become well, she would have devoured the whole drugstore. But all availed nothing, she had to bear her sickness for twelve long years.
27. But how was the poor woman at last helped? As soon as she approached the man called Christ and placed her hope and comfort in him, she became well. But who directed her to this man? Of course the physicians did not. For when our pastors preach Christ, the affairs of the Pope and all his traditions are overthrown. Who then told her? She heard it from some one who also had been healed, and that not by the physicians. He without doubt told her there was one who is called Jesus, who is a friendly, gracious man, helps everyone, and allows no one to go from his presence unassisted, and that he is sent from God just for the purpose of helping everyone. And many had told her who received help from him. So that they also brought her to him. As the woman heard these things she abandoned the physicians and went to Christ.
28. And so it takes place today. Christ is not preached, but only mere human works: do this, and do that. And in spite of this the knowledge of Christ enters among the people, what we are to expect of him, and that he alone must do everything, without our works and merit. When we hear
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this voice we follow him, and obey his Word, and let the physicians go for good, and care no longer for the preachers of the law or of works, nor inquire about their commandments and traditions, but we go with all the desire of our heart to this man, called Christ, and say: Yes, indeed, from this man we must receive it without any merit, yea, how foolish I acted, that I ventured so much for it! May God bless thee, my dear Pope! May God bless you, my dear bishops, monks and priests, I shall never need your medicine again, your work and merit, your commandments and traditions, you have martyred me too long with these things. I have found one who gives me all things freely, that I in time past had to buy from you with piles of money. He gives it to me without work or merit, whereas I before had to risk my body, strength, health and life for it. Good night and farewell! I will never come to you again.
29. Thus one becomes a Christian, not by the decretals of the Pope, or by means of works and human traditions, but by the grace and kindness of Christ. Now whoever has a troubled, distressed conscience, fears sin and is terrified at death, or otherwise experiences no good in himself, let him come hither to this man and confess what ails him, call upon him, and he will most certainly help. “Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us,” Ps. 62. 8; 50, 15, and say to him: Behold, here is an empty vessel that needs to be filled. Fill it, 0 Lord! I am weak in faith, strengthen me; I am cold in love, warm me and make me burn, that my love may flow out to my neighbor. I have not a firm, strong faith, at times I doubt, and cannot wholly trust in God! Alas, Lord, help me, increase in me my faith and trust. I have locked up the treasure of all my goods in thee. I am poor, thou art rich, and hast mercy on the poor, I am a sinner, and thou art righteous. In me is the river of sin; in thee is all fulness and righteousness.
30. If you once learn this, the laws of the Pope cannot take thee captive. From his laws and commands you receive nothing, but like this woman you spend everything you have, your body and goods, and at last your soul besides. And
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then you will say: I desire him from whom I can receive something, not him to whom I must give.
31. The other Gospels write thus of this woman: When she became well Jesus felt that a power had gone out of him, and turned to the people and asked: “Who is it that touched me? And then the Disciples answered: “Master, the multitudes press thee and crush thee;” but the Lord was not satisfied with this, and replied: “Some one did touch me; for I perceived that power had gone forth from me,” Mark. 5, 25; Luke 8, 46; I know that some one has received something from me. The Lord did all this because this woman’s faith was acceptable to him, which he desired to make known to all people. For he desires nothing more than that a man trust and believe in him. It was also done for the sake of the ruler, to confirm his faith by this miracle and transaction. Therefore Mark writes thus: As the woman saw that the Lord knew it, she feared and trembled and came and cast herself at the feet of the Lord and told him all in truth that was done to her by him. Then the Lord goes to work and absolves her and says to her: “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”
32. Are not these friendly words? What joy must not this woman have experienced, as she permitted another to show her a kindness? This joy and peace all receive, who look to this man for help. Now where this joy is there its works must immediately follow, which prove this joy. So the peace and joy in this woman had to become manifest. For as soon as she received the good deed from the Lord, she confessed it before all the people, and was not ashamed to have it told that she received something from him, and yet gave nothing for it. This work and thanksgiving, however, God desires from us, namely, that we confess and proclaim his kindness, grace and good deeds before all men, so that others may also come and receive his benefits as this woman did. Thus my Christian life urges me to do good to others, as God has done to me through Christ, only that thus Christ may become known; but thereby I do not become a Christian. Just as
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this woman is not made whole by her knowledge, for she was well before all her work and knowledge. But after she becomes well she confesses Christ, and praises him, only for the good of others, and goes and does good works, one after the other. Thus we, too, live, if we are only Christians, in order that one may serve the others wherever we can. Hence, as this woman became well before she did all her works, so we Christians must also become whole before we can do any good works.
CONCERNING THE DAUGHTER OF THE RULER.
34. As the Gospel is represented in this woman, so it is also represented to us in the daughter of the ruler. This ruler of the Synagogue whom Mark calls Jairus, had a strong faith and confidence in the Lord that he would raise his deceased daughter to life. For had he not had such a disposition of heart toward him, he would not have come to him, and requested a thing of him which was by nature impossible. Therefore in this he shows his faith. When now the Lord observed the faith in him, he could not but do his will, and immediately arose and went with him. During his journey the history of this woman takes place, who had been sick for twelve years, as we have heard.
35. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd making a tumult, who were there in compliance with the law of Moses, and blew with horns and trumpets, as in our country the bells are rung, to call the people together; he commanded the people and the flute-players to give place and said: “The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.” And they laughed him to scorn.
This means that, when the preaching of the Word goes forth thus, that Christ is the man who helps and our works will not do it, then the world cannot avoid it, it must laugh and scorn, and be offended (1 Cor. 1, 23), for it is not acceptable to the world that Christ should help us. As the people do here, who said without doubt: Alas, this is a grand master or doctor, what shall he help? for he does not know what it is to sleep or enter the grave.
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36. In the world the Gospel must have the reputation of being a foolish sermon, despised and scorned; for the devil cannot hear that this preaching is honored in the world, for it brings no advantage to his kingdom, this he feels, of course, and hence he attacks it with all cunning, so that he may hinder it and cause it to be worthless among his own followers, whose hearts he has entirely blinded and possessed, that the light of the Gospel may not shine for them, as St. Paul says in 2 Cor. 4, 4. For it is impossible that the preaching of Christ should not produce some fruit. It will not be preached in vain, Is. 55, 11; although there be but few who receive it, it matters not.
37. As satan feels it is a loss to him, and that the preaching of the Word is directed against his kingdom, he has no rest, he persecutes, despises and attacks it on all sides, as he at present rages and storms in all the world. For the preaching of Christ overthrows everything pleasing to the devil and the world, and what the world regards as the most holy and costly. For the world paints for itself a god who accepts our good works, and is pleased with the mass, vigils, foundations, rosaries, caps, pates, hempen ropes, and what more be the works of fools with which the Pope is employed. Now when one comes and brings the Gospel, and preaches against this nonsense of the Pope, and he is obliged to do, and says: It is nothing, it is deception, it is opposed to Christ and the Scriptures; he must suffer himself to be called a heretic and a worthless fellow, a perverter of the people, and then they quite grandly assert: Do you want to rule the whole world? do you think you are the wisest? Our forbears also were not fools. Many holy, pious people have done these works and preached of them, should you first come to destroy all? This must not be! Then the raging and storming time begins, with persecution and death, and the devil will claim he is right, let it go as it may.
38. This is enough on today’s Gospel for the present. Mark well, that you learn from the Gospels that all things are to be found in the one person who is called Christ. And remember, too, that a Christian receives his name alone from
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Christ. I do not say this in vain, for I know what it costs to keep it, in temptation and in the battle of life. Let us call upon God for grace, that we may take this in earnest, and grasp it with our hearts. Amen.
Second Sermon for the TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AF’l'ER TRINITY from Matthew 9, 18-26. This sermon is given instead of the preceding one in edition c. A part of it, §§ 33-39, is in the little book, “Etliche Trostschriften etc.” Title: “The daughter of the ruler of the synagogue raised from the dead, Mat. 9.” Erl. 14. 349; W. 11, 2468; St. L.. 11, 1850. The pagination from the Baker edition has been maintained for referencing. This e-text was scanned and edited by Paul W. Meier. It is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction.
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I. TWO EXAMPLES OF FAITH.
1. This narrative is more fully and faithfully presented by the other Evangelists, Mark and Luke, and is a rich and beautiful Gospel, both in its doctrine and consolation, for it teaches the correct knowledge of the divine will in spiritual wisdom and understanding, (as may be noted in the Epistle for today) and affords consolation and strength under the cross and amid suffering. Let us note a few of its lessons.
2. First, the Lord is here represented surrounded by the people, as a kind and affable man, as St. Paul in Tit. 3, 4, says, that through him the grace and love of God have been made manifest, through which he shows himself willing and ready to help and serve all men, and also renders help to those who in true faith seek it from him.
3. But they are people who are in misery, trouble, sorrow and distress. He will be with them and permit himself to be found by them; for with such, his Word and work can be made effective. But his Word and miracles are useless and lost among the carnally secure, the mighty, the rich and prosperous, because they are not capable of receiving his grace and favors, for they are already satisfied and satiated, and seek comfort and happiness in other things or even in themselves. In order to receive the grace and benefits of Christ, men must realize they have no comfort and help in any creature, and that they experience nothing but trouble and sorrow; and it is true as the Church sings in Luke 1, 53: “The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent
4. From this you see how graciously and paternally God manifests himself toward us, since he comes to us so closely through his beloved Son and seeks the poor and miserable,
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in order to pour out his grace upon all, who are willing to receive it; because he sent his Son to us, in order to be with us and dwell among us, as St. John, 1, 14, says, and take care of us as his own flesh and blood. He assumed the same poverty and misery, so that he might deliver us from our misery, that is, from sin and death. Therefore, he also desires that we seek and expect such help from him through faith as he says in John 6, 40: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholdeth the Son and believeth on him, should have eternal life.”
5. This is the knowledge which Christians require and through which alone they become Christians and children of God, as Isaiah, 53, 11, says: “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” and John 1, 12: “To them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name. ” For whatever else can be taught, done, or comprehended, however great, beautiful, praiseworthy, valuable or holy it may appear, cannot make Christians of people, that is, persons who have obtained forgiveness of sins and a gracious God, unless they know and by faith lay hold of the Savior, the Son of God, who came into the world that by the shedding of his blood he might take away our sins and reconcile us to God.
6. This doctrine and knowledge of the Gospel should be cherished and lauded by the whole world, because it alone publishes this true and joyous consolation, that God has had mercy on poor, unworthy and miserable sinners, and does not wish to impute unto them their sins, but out of pure grace forgives them. No other doctrine or sermon on earth can save or give the same, as the whole world, Jews, Gentiles and Turks, must acknowledge.
7. Therefore, no person can of himself reach that point where he is before God free from horrible unbelief, and a condemned conscience, is able with a true heart to call upon God, and knows for a certainty that God will hear him, except alone through this knowledge of Christ, whom God himself has appointed as his Mediator and publicly testified that he will be gracious, hear and bless all who call upon
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him through Christ. Hence those only are Christians who render true service to God and can comfort themselves in the joyful assurance, that the true God is their God and that he will be with them and help them; whereas all others, who do not know Christ, are truly without God and cannot call upon him with true hearts, nor be comforted, but must perish before God in eternal and terrible doubt and destruction.
8. This Gospel presents two beautiful examples both of the help of Christ and of faith which clings to and finds comfort in Christ, and obtains help from him. First, that is a beautiful faith of the ruler of the synagogue, which leads him to Christ in his distress, at the time when his daughter was lying at the point of death and when he could only say that she must die before he could return home; for he says: “My daughter is even now dead,” and when all men had given up the hope and thought that help could be secured for her. Yet he did not despair, but, while the rest of his household despaired, wept and lamented, and could think of nothing except how to layout the dead body and arrange it for the flute-players and others, he went to Christ in the firm confidence that if he brought him to his daughter, she would be restored to life. He believed Christ was the one who could help not only to restore and maintain health as long as body and soul were still united, but that he could also restore life after body and soul had been separated by death. This was certainly at the time a remarkable example of faith, since nothing like it had ever before been heard or seen, unless perhaps the miracle of the raising of the widow’s son to life, Luke 7, 11 sq., had occurred before and the report of it had reached his ears. Nor was it a greater mark of faith that he could without a doubt conclude in his heart that Christ would restore his daughter to life; for if he would have doubted and followed the human thoughts of reason, he would certainly not have gone to Christ, but would have thought that he had delayed too long; or that although Christ had restored someone else to life, it would not necessarily follow that his daughter should also be re-
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stored to life, since so many sons and daughters of parents were daily dying, none of whom were being restored to life.
9. This is the virtue of the right kind of faith, which was also, shortly afterwards, praised in the woman who had an issue of blood, namely, that it clings steadfastly to Christ, grasps and holds fast to the Word heard from him, does not inquire or look to that which the human mind may suggest, nor to what other people believe or do; but straightway concludes, with reference to the reports concerning Christ, that he is the one who can help in time of need; who has helped others and therefore will help now. Such a heart and faith truly find Christ and receive according to their faith.
10. In the second place, his faith concerning the Person of Christ was of such a character (which was indeed a great spiritual knowledge) that he rightly regarded him as the true Messiah sent by God, not such as the great mass of the Jews, especially the scribes, thought that he would come publicly before the people as a great and mighty lord and king with great pomp and show, so that everybody would regard and receive him as the one sent to them from God and in addition expected that he would deliver them from bodily slavery under the foreign dominion of the Roman Emperor and establish them as the mighty rulers of the world. On the contrary, over against such dreams and Jewish notions, he regarded him as the true Lord and Messiah, although he was not thus regarded and received by his own people, the Jews, who was sent from God, not to confer temporal power, possessions, honor and freedom, but to help in those things and necessities where no man can help, namely, to redeem us from the peril of death and the power of the devil, yea, to turn death into life and confer life. He must not be regarded as a mere man, but as that one who truly has in himself divine and eternal power and authority over all creatures, because he believes that he holds in his hands power over life and death, that is, that he truly is the Son of God, as the Scriptures declare.
11. The other example of faith deserves no less praise,
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namely, that of the poor woman who had an issue of blood twelve years, on account of which she suffered in her body and lost all her strength, and because of this she had long despaired of receiving human help and comfort. She came to Christ, as she had heard of him, and could come to him in the certain and undoubted confidence that he could help her in her great need, and with the heartfelt assurance that he was so good and gracious as to help her and not let her go away unaided. Of this she was so certain and confident that her heart was free from care and grief, although she had reason to doubt. She was concerned only with the thought of how she would be able to get to Christ, wondering and thinking: ‘Ah! If I could but touch the hem of his garment.” Then she firmly and confidently concluded in her heart, “I shall be made whole.” But she did not know how to reach him, because she saw the crowd was so great and she, a poor, sick woman, could not well break through such a crowd of people. Besides, the law did not permit her to come among the people; yet her faith and desire urged her not to desist, but to press through the crowd until she came behind him and touched his garment.
12. Behold here, how her faith overcame two obstacles. First, her faith was so strong that she believed she could obtain help, if only she could touch his garment. She did not deem it necessary to come to him and with many words present her complaint and pray that he would have mercy on her and help her, nor did others pray for her; but she sought only to reach him and touch him, for she thought, if only she could do this, she would receive help. She neither doubted his power, nor his willingness to help. Hence she did not deem it necessary to do more, in order to secure his help, than to touch merely the fringe of his outer garment. Therefore she did not deem it necessary that she should come before him to be touched by him; yea, she did not regard herself worthy to be addressed by him; nor was her heart so full of confidence that, notwthstanding this, she lacked courage to come into his presence, and hence was neither seen nor heard by him. But she was satisfied simply
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to come up behind him, secretly and unnoticed by the crowd, and did not doubt as to the help she expected to receive. Nor did her faith deceive her, for as soon as she touched the hem of his garment, the fountain of blood was stopped.
13. Now, that a poor, simple woman should be able to see and know that this man’s help and power were such that it was not necessary to speak to him at length, but that he was able to see in secret, even though he should not publicly show that he knows anything of our necessities or wished to help us, must be the result of a great and extraordinary illumination of the Spirit and the knowledge of faith. Accordingly, her faith produced such an assurance in her, that all doubt was removed, and she realized that if she could only reach him with even the most insignificant means, she would be helped. This, indeed, means a strong faith that this man must possess divine, almighty power and authority, that he can see and understand the secret thoughts and desires of the heart, although not a word is spoken; and that he can prove his work and help, although she sees and feels nothing externally except the words we heard him utter, which produced faith in her heart.
14. She desired nothing besides this Word, nor did she ask for more than merely to touch his garment, which she used as an external means and sign to gain the desired help. Likewise, we need nothing more in our lives and in the kingdom of faith than the external Word and Sacraments, in which he permits himself to be touched and seized as if by his garment.
15. Hence you may see what faith, which clings to the Person of Christ is and does, namely, a heart that regards him as the Lord and Savior, the Son of God, through whom God reveals himself and bestows upon us his grace, assuring us that through him and for his sake, he will hear and help us. This is the true spiritual and heartfelt worship of God, where the heart has to do with Christ and prays in his name, even though not a single word may be uttered aloud, and gives the honor due him, regards him as the true Savior, who can hear and know the secret desires of the heart and
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manifest his power and help, although he does not permit himself to be externally touched or approached, according to our thoughts.
16. The other master-piece of her faith is, that she is able to overcome the feeling of her own unworthiness and roll from her heart the heavy stone, which weighed her down so heavily, and yet makes her so diffident that she dare not publicly approach Christ like other persons. The judgment passed upon her by the law was that, as an unclean woman, she was not allowed to associate with other people. For, in Levit. 15, 19 we read that a woman like her shall be regarded unclean as long as she has the issue of blood; and that whatever she has on or about her, shall be unclean; and that whoever touches her or whatever she touches, shall be unclean. This proved no small distress to her, not only by reason of her malady and bodily uncleanness, but especially because she recognized and felt in it the punishment of God, imposed upon her before an people, and which separated her from the congregation of God’s people. This continued for twelve long years, during which time she had tried all kinds of remedies with many physicians and yet was not helped by any, but grew worse continually, so that she was compelled to conclude that God had punished her with special severity because of her sins and would not help her. She was now forced to despair of human aid and thought she had to die of her disease and punishment.
17. It was, therefore, not without a struggle and conflict that she maintained her faith in that which she sought in Christ; for she could not help but think: Behold, I am an unclean woman, punished of God, and everyone knows me. If I appear before this Lord, everyone and even he himself may simply condemn my boldness and impudence for coming into his presence and I may receive more wrath and severer punishment from God instead of mercy, and be forced to confess that I had been served rightly if he casted me from him in his anger. This trial and struggle show also that, as the text says, after she had been discovered, she was terrified and trembled, even though she had received the
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desired help; and yet she was filled with fear, lest he would speak harshly to her and censure her, because she had no been afraid to come to him and secretly steal the desired help.
18. But her faith, which clearly set before her the good and gracious heart of Christ, broke through all these barriers; besides, her great need, yea, even her despair compelled her to become impudent before God and, regardless of the prohibition and judgment of the law, her own shame urged her to conclude: This Savior must be laid hold of, in spite of what the law, her own heart and all the world, yea, what even he himself may say. Here is the man who can help and who is also a good, gracious and faithful Savior. On the other hand, I am a poor, miserable woman, who needs his help. He will certainly not become other than he is, because of me, nor permit his grace and help to fail me. Let his will be done in me; it will be better for me that I should be covered with shame, than the injury I would receive if I should fail to seek the help which I may be able to receive from him. She fixed her heart on the idea that if she could only touch this man, her need would be removed and the desired help received; and she would afterwards speak with Moses and the law, so that she might remain uncondemned by him, etc.
19. Behold, that is a beautiful faith, which realizes it: unworthiness and yet does not permit itself to be hindered on this account to place its confidence in Christ, nor to doubt his grace and help, but breaks through the law and everything that frightens it away from him; yea, if the whole world would attempt to hinder and thwart, yet it docs not think of leaving this man until it has laid hold on him. Therefore it presses through all barriers and attains what it seeks in Christ, and immediately experiences the power and work of Christ, even before he begins to speak. For it cannot apply to Christ in vain, even as Christ himself testifies, when he says: “Thy faith hath made thee whole!’
20. Besides, faith like this is so pleasing to Christ that he
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does not wish it to remain concealed in her and that the power and work made effective by it should remain a secret, but what is in her heart must be published to everybody so that her faith may be praised before the whole world and be strengthened in her. Therefore, turning and looking around, he asked and desired to know who touched him; for he felt that power had gone forth from him. When she found she had to be discovered, she became afraid and began to tremble; for a heart filled with the great and implicit trust which she had in him, and yet also with humility and the knowledge of her unworthiness, must regard itself guilty, because she had gone contrary to Moses and because she realized he might justly be angry with her, because she could be so bold and impudent as to press through the crowd to him. And hence in the midst of the work, after she had already been healed and her heart was filled with joy, her faith had to contend with fear and terror, and yet only to enjoy all the more consolation and joy in Christ. For Christ does not wish faith to remain concealed in the heart, but desires it to be publicly confessed, so that the glory of God may thereby be praised and others also be spurred on to believe.
21. Therefore, when this woman was in fear and danger, lest she should be disgraced before all and be condemned according to the law, yea, even she herself be compelled to make a public confession, Christ began to confirm her faith, to say she had done well
in disregarding Moses and the law, that is, the judgment passed upon her unworthiness; and now he publicly shows the same disregard, will have her unaccused and uncondenmed, yea, esteems her faith so highly that he ascribes to it alone the power and efficacy that helped her, just as if he had done nothing in the matter. In like manner, he was accustomed to speak at other times, as to the ruler, Mat. 8, 13,”As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” and again to the Canaanite woman, Mat. 15, 28, “Be it done unto thee, even as thou wilt.”
22. We should learn from this woman to realize the power of faith, and in our temptations and conflicts to call for
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help. For, as I have already stated, it is through such faith that we become Christians, and a distinction is shown between us and all other people on the earth, the Turks, heathen and Jews. For we must know that it is one thing to be a good man, perform many and great deeds, live a good, honorable and virtuous life, but quite another thing to be a Christian. For in that which concerns our lives and work we often receive great praise and honor before men, even from Jews and Turks, as many great and excellent men have been highly praised in pagan histories for their uprightness and virtue. Again, there have been many among the Jews, as Gamaliel, Paul before his conversion, Nicodemus and others (as this poor woman), who have with all zeal lived according to the law, so that in their external life before the world, they surpassed many true Christians.
23. But even here a difference as great as between heaven and earth must be noted between Christians and others. A Christian is one who has a different kind of light in his heart, that is faith, which truly knows and lays hold on God and truly worships him. Through the Word of God he knows and realizes his own unworthiness and receives the true fear of God; and again finds comfort in his faith, believes and trusts he has obtained forgiveness of sin and redemption in Christ, the Son of God, and for his sake is acceptable to God and elected to eternal life; and in all his need, when he feels his own weakness, or is tempted, can find refuge in God, appeal to him and expect his help; and he knows he shall be heard.
24. No other person than a Christian has this faith and assurance, be he Jew, Turk, Papist, or whatever he may be called, no matter how pious and good his life may be, or how much he may pride himself that he worships and serves God and hopes for eternal life; for the service, worship and life of such persons still lack two great things, which prevent them from being acceptable to God: first, they do not have the true God, that is, do not know him as he has revealed himself and will be known, towit, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, his Sou. Hence they walk in blind-
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ness and miss God, because they seek him according to their own notions and apart from Christ, and are deprived of the knowledge of the true Divine Being.
25. Secondly, they lack the possibility of the true and assured knowledge of the will of God, because they do not have the Gospel. Hence, they cannot be certain that God will assuredly hear them, and must always remain in doubt whether or not God will hear them and interest himself in their behalf. Accordingly their appeals and prayers can be nothing more than mere vain and useless thoughts and babblings, through which the heart finds no consolation in God, nor expect anything from him, but rather flee from him and are therefore truly without God, and use the name of God in vain.
26. But the Christian’s prayer consists in this that he prays to the true God, namely, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has revealed himself to men through his Word; and besides he has the certain confidence and assurance against all doubt that God will be gracious to him and hear his prayer for the sake of Christ, his beloved Son.
27. This is the beautiful example of the woman. Now we turn to the daughter of the ruler of the Synagogue. But here, too, faith must contend and be strengthened; for although, as we have already heard, he had an excellent faith, yet it could scarcely have been maintained, had it not been strengthened. For, while Christ was still speaking with the woman, Mark 5, 35-36 and Luke 8,49, say a message was brought, stating the man’s daughter had died, and requesting him not to trouble the Master. This meant all would amount to nothing, since they had delayed too long; hence he should leave the matter and think only of how to bury his child.
28. This must have been a severe blow to the ruler’s faith. But the fact that the woman had just been healed, must have prevented his faith from failing, and indeed strengthened it to resist the doubts concerning his daughter. And Christ himself is present to comfort and strengthen him against this stumbling-block, in order to show that he is un-
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willing that even such weak faith should be injured in any way, but be established and strengthened; and in view of this he admonishes and encourages all persons by saying: “Doubt not, only believe, etc.” This he said in order to see how highly he was pleased with the faith that clings to him, and that he was ready to guard against its being overcome; as he spoke to the Apostles, and especially to Peter, who fell so easily, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
29. Now when Christ came to the house, this man’s faith had to receive another blow; for there they saw and heard nothing but the tumult, weeping and wailing, and the blowing of trumpets (which they used at the death of their friends, as we do bells). All this cries in his heart that nothing was left but death, and his faith had nothing on which to lay hold against despair, except the word which Christ spoke against the tumult and lamentations: “The child is not dead, but sleepeth,” on account of which he was mocked and laughed ‘at as a fool; for they all saw and knew that the maid was dead, and that there was no breath nor spark of life in her. They could not but think: See, our master or ruler must be mad or silly to bring this fool here, who tries to convince us that the maid is not dead, when everyone can clearly see she lies stiff in death, a dead corpse, ready to be placed under ground.
30. They had come together at the synagogue, as at a common gathering-place, as we do at our churches, where on the Sabbath the Word of God was taught, because throughout the whole country there was neither church nor temple, except at Jerusalem. And this ruler of the synagogue occupied the same position among them that bur pastors occupy, and others occupied the place of assistants or readers, who read Moses or preached, circumcised the children and instructed the young, and visited the sick and sorrowing to comfort them. These had to be together in the synagogue and testified concerning this work of Christ, even with their mocking and scornful laughter, namely, that the maiden had certainly died and been raised from the
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dead. The ruler therefore, before he could experience the work of Christ, was compelled, in the face of this offence and mockery, to cling to the one word of Christ and with him be regarded as a fool and in his folly learn this spiritual wisdom that death is not death to Christ, but only a sleep.
PART II. CHRIST’S CALL FROM THE DEAD.
31. Let us learn from this to become fools with Christ and this ruler and teacher, in order that we may understand these words. Although this man’s words may be despised by the world and be regarded as foolishness, yet they are very precious, for in them there certainly lies hid the highest wisdom of heaven and earth. For this passage, as a general expression, teaches you that your death in Christ is nothing more than a mere sleep, so that you may be able to look through and beyond the horrible sight and frightful larva of death and the grave, yea, apprehend the same truth of death, if only you hear these words in faith and accept them as true in Christ.
32. Here we have nothing to do with ox-eyes, or even man’s eyes, but with the eyes with which Christ sees, and with the ears with which Christ hears, yea, a mind and heart like Christ himself has. A swine, when it sees the dead body of a man lying before it, can only conclude that it is a carcass like any other dead body, which is devoured by birds or animals, or is decomposed. So also a person without faith neither sees nor understands more, and in this respect cannot be distinguished from the brute, except in so far as he carries his head upright, while that of the brute is turned to the ground; for his thoughts can reach only as far as this life is concerned. Therefore, it is not to be wondered at that the mind should affect such so-called wisdom as this: “How can a person be said to sleep when he no longer has either breath or life, is buried under ground and is in process of decomposition?” On the other hand, he who desires to learn how to perceive and understand God’s kingdom, power and work, must shut his mind and
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understanding, purify his eyes, cleanse his ears, and see and hear what Christ says in this matter, and how it is in his sight apart from this life, where our understanding, mind and thought cannot reach.
33. In this passage you hear that Christ says that to him the dying of a person is not death, but a sleep, yea, from his point of view none of those who have lived and died before our time are dead, but are all alive, as those we see standing before us; for he has
concluded that all shall live, yea, he holds their lives in his hands. For you must here clearly distinguish between the thoughts and actions of Christ, and tae views, thoughts and understanding of the world, as I have said before, so that you may not remain in the blind and brutish thought and opinion concerning the dead and putrifying body, but rather perceive that this is the Lord of all creatures, whether to us they be dead or alive, and that all life comes from him and is maintained in and by him, so that if he would not maintain life no one could live a single moment.
34. Besides the regular daily maintenance of life, he must maintain it without our will and help when we sleep, a condition in which man has no control over his mind and life, and does not know how he falls asleep and wakes again. Therefore it is not difficult for Christ, in the hour when body and soul are separated, to hold in his hand the soul and spirit of man, even though we ourselves neither feel nor see anything, yea, even though the body be entirely consumed. For, since he can preserve the breath of life and spirit, apart from the body, so he can again bring the body together out of dust and ashes. This he has proved in this and similar examples, when he restored to life with one word those who had truly died and whose body and soul had been separated. Hence we must conclude that he holds in his hand the life of those who have died; for if this power did not belong to him, he could not restore life.
35. In the second place, you must not calculate how far life and death are apart, or how many years may pass while the body is wasting in the grave, and how one after another
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dies, but endeavor to grasp the thought of Christ with reference to the conditions apart from this time and hour. For he does not calculate time by tens, hundreds or thousands of years, nor measure the years consecutively, the one preceding, the other following, as we must do in this life; but he grasps everything in a moment, the beginning, middle
and end of the whole human race and of all time. And what we regard and measure according to time, as by a long drawn out rule, all this he sees as at a glance, and thus both the death and life of the last as well as of the first man are to him as only a moment of time.
36. Thus we should learn to view our death in the right light, so that we need not become alarmed on account of it, as unbelief does; because in Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep, which brings us release from this vale of tears, from sin and from the fear and extremity of real death and from all the misfortunes of this life, and we shall be secure and without care, rest sweetly and gently for a brief moment, as on a sofa, until the time when he shall call and awaken us together with all his dear children to his eternal glory and joy. For since we call it a sleep, we know that we shall not remain in it, but be again awakened and live, and that the time during which we sleep, shall seem no longer than if we had just fallen asleep. Hence, we shall censure ourselves that we were surprised or alarmed at such a sleep in the hour of death, and suddenly come alive out of the grave and from decomposition, and entirely well, fresh, with a pure, clear, glorified life, meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the clouds.
37. Therefore we should entrust and commend to our true Savior and Redeemer ourselves, body, soul and life, with all confidence and joy, just as we must commend to him our life without care in our bodily sleep and rest, assured that we shall not lose it, but be truly and carefully preserved in his hand, maintained and again restored. Here you see, as he shows in reality, how easy it is for him: to awaken men from the dead and restore them to life, as he came to the
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maiden, took her by the hand, as someone else might do to awaken one from sleep, and with a word called, “Maid, arise!” and the maiden suddenly arose, as if she had been awakened from sleep. We see here neither sleep nor death, but wakefulness and freshness, even as Lazarus came forth from his tomb.
38. Behold, this Word of Christ is not a matter of laughter and foolishness to faith (as to others among the prudent and the saints according to the law, who nevertheless remain in fear and terror of death, have to do with their thoughts about death and works), but of great wisdom, by which death and all the images of death are swallowed up, and in their place true comfort, joy and life are obtained. The act and experience must assuredly follow this Word of Christ and faith in his Word cannot fail. Let this be regarded as a master-piece and a wonderful work of alchemy or a science, which indeed does not turn copper and lead into gold, but turns death into sleep, your grave into a soft sofa, the time from the death of Abel until the last day into a brief hour, a work which no creature has nor can attempt except through faith in Christ. If you can believe this, that is, let the Word of Christ be true and not a lie, you have already overcome both death and the sting of death, and in their place have obtained sweet rest.
39. Scripture everywhere affords such consolation, which speaks of the death of the saints, as if they fell asleep and were gathered to their fathers, that is, had overcome death through this faith and comfort in Christ, and awaited the resurrection, together with the saints who preceded them in death. Therefore the early Christians (undoubtedly from the Apostles or their disciples) followed the custom of bringing their dead to honorable burial and wherever possible interred them in separate places, which they called, not places of burial or grave-yards, but coemeteria, sleepingchambers, dormitoria, houses of sleep, names which have remained in use until our time; and we Germans from ancient times call such places of burial God’s acres, as St. Paul, 1 Cor. 15, 44, says: “It is sown a natural body;” for what
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we now call church-yards were not at first places of burial. This is the teaching and comfort of this Gospel lesson.
40. Further, we are shown here, as in a painting, both in the woman with the bloody flux and in the maiden, the result of attempting to govern conscience by means of the law, without a knowledge of Christ. There are two classes of people: One class consists of the sick, poor timid consciences, who feel their secret need and sins, as well as the judgment and curse of the law, that is, that they are under the wrath of God, desire earnestly to be freed from it, seek help and counsel from many physicians, expend all their possessions, body and life, and yet receive no help, neither improvement nor comfort, but continually grow worse; until they at last give up in despair and resign themselves to death; finally Christ comes to them with his Gospel. Many good-hearted
people have hitherto experienced this under the Papacy, who earnestly strove to become pious, did everything as they were directed and taught, and yet gained from it only terrified and timid consciences, and on account of the fear and horror of death and of the judgment day, would gladly have ended their lives. This is the result of all teaching at its best, apart from the knowledge of Christ.
41. The other class, like the daughter of the ruler, are those who are without the law, whether they be Jews or Gentiles, that is, are free and live securely, do not feel the terrors of the law, think they are prosperous and safe until they are suddenly struck down and die, as St. Paul, speaking of himself, Rom. 7, 11, says that he lived without the law, but afterwards through the law sin became alive and slew him.
42. Since both the woman and the daughter were delivered from their need and from death, there is no counsel or help other than that which acknowledges Christ and hears the truly comforting, living voice of the Gospel, which has the power to abolish sin and death, and to give to the conscience everlasting comfort, joy and life, wherever these are accepted in true faith. And here the doctrine is clearly set forth, that we are justified and saved, without our merit,
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gratuitously, alone through faith and so are delivered from sin and death. The poor woman brought nothing to Christ, except her great unworthiness, so that she had to be ashamed of it, yea, was filled with fear and terror when forced to make herself known. There was even far less personal merit or worthiness in the ruler’s daughter, because she lay there in death and was altogether without life and action. In a word, we must confess that in ourselves we have nothing, nor are able to live or do anything to please or to bring us favor and life, unless his pure grace be conferred upon us.
43. But after we have received forgiveness of sin, consolation and life, let us begin to teach and do good works. Just as the woman, after she had been healed, and the maiden, after she had been restored to life, did good and living deeds. Thus we too have power in Christ to live according to the will of God, and know that our lives and works begun in Christ are acceptable to him. Whatever else might be said here, how Christ performs his works and wonders in his Church, in which are seen the fruits of faith, though secretly and obscurely, as in both these instances of the woman and the maiden, so that the world was not allowed to see them, would make our present discussion too lengthy.