Luther's First Sermon for the TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. Mark 7:31-37.
This sermon appeared in pamphlet form under the title: “Of the deaf and mute man, Mark 7, preached by Dr. Martin Luther at Wittenberg, 1522.” It is also one of the collection of 14 sermons Luther published.
Text. Mark 7:31-37. And again he went out from the borders of Tyre, and came through Sidon unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to lay his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude privately, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat, and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphata, that is, Be opened. And his ears were opened, and the bond or. his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. And he charged them that they should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it. And they were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.
OF FAITH AND LOVE; THE FAITH, INTERCESSION AND MERITS OF OTHERS; THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THIS GOSPEL.
The contents of this discourse. 1.
I. OF FAITH.
1. Faith springs out of the Gospel and Word of Christ. 2-3. The nature of the Gospel.
2. The true character and nature of faith. 4.
II. OF LOVE.
1. The nature of love. 5-6.
2. Love should be voluntary and free. 6,
III. OF THE FAITH,MERIT AND INTERCESSION OF OTHERS.
1. No one can be saved through the faith of others. 7f.
2. To what end are the faith, intercession and merit of others of service. 8-14.
3. The ground of intercession. 14-15.
4. What is required in intercession. 16-18.
5. The power of intercession. 18-19.
IV. THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
1. Of those who brought the deaf mute to Christ. 20-21.
2. Of Christ placing his fingers in the ears of the deaf mute.
3. Of the spittle Christ laid upon the tongue of the deaf mute.
4. Of the people praising God for the help.
5. Of Christ bringing the deaf mute to a certain place and looking up to heaven. 25.
The conclusion. 26.
SUMMARY OF THIS GOSPEL:
1. The faith of neighbors brings the deaf mute in order that he might believe when the devil is driven out of him.
2. The faith of others is helpful to one in so far as Christ gives him a personal faith. In this sense we pray for the Turks.
3. He, who is justified by faith hears the Word, and confesses Christ with the mouth, as these do here. This is new fruit of the new man.
4. That the Lord forbade them to tell any one, indicates Christ does not seek his own honor and glory.
1. Dearly Beloved: I hope you thoroughly understand this Gospel, for it is plain. However, as we have but one old story to preach, and since it is so precious and cannot be sufficiently considered, we will apply our text also to this old story, and briefly speak of faith and love. In the first place, we will look at the simple story of the text itself; then, if time permit, we will also speak a little of its spiritual meaning.
PART 1. THE STORY OR EXAMPLE ITSELF.
2. First, the story or example before us is good in itself, for here we see that many persons received the poor man, as though his distress were their own, bringing him to Jesus to be helped. By this, both faith and love are shown to us. Faith, in that they had heard of the Lord before, that he was kind and compassionate, and helped all those who came to him. For the Word must first have been heard, and must first have entered the human heart, showing us the mercy of God in such a way that we depend upon it.
Therefore the Word of Christ must here also have taught these people this; otherwise, where it does not come, there faith and works are all in vain.
3. And though this gospel lesson, like the preceding one, does not state that they had previously heard the tidings of the Gospel, yet we must nevertheless conclude, and the fact proves it, that they must have previously heard the good tidings and Gospel of Christ the Lord, through which they believed. For that is properly the Gospel which is called good tidings, a good report, not that which is written on paper, but that which is proclaimed in the world and becomes known by the living voice. Thus doubtless they had heard that Christ was kind, friendly, and helpful, willing to aid everybody; this was the beginning of their faith. Thus you must earnestly search the Gospel, and you will always find, that the tidings must first go forth and lead us to God, in order that he may’ lay the first stone; otherwise, all is lost. In the next place, you will learn that because they have clung to the tidings and trusted them for their comfort, they went thither, and hoped to receive of him what they had heard.
4. Now you here observe the nature of faith which grows out of the Word.
For the Word first sets forth to us the mercy and goodness of God; then faith causes us to cleave unto it with a firm confidence, and to obey the Word. For we are now conscious of this in our hearts, and are satisfied; for as soon as we believe, we are already with Christ in this inheritance, and are justified.
5. In the third place, this Gospel lesson describes the works of love in this, that these people go and care for the poor man, just as Christ, without their merit, and without their doing, sends forth his Word, and spreads abroad his goodness and mercy. Thus as they have :laid hold and drank from the fountain, they again flow forth freely, and also impart themselves to their neighbor freely and without any merit. Thus love should do its work, not as though it needs it, but devotes itself solely to the benefit of its neighbor, as Paul, among other things, speaks to the Corinthians about love, Corinthians 13:5: “Love seeketh not its own”; and to the Philippians he says, Philippians 2:4: “Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.”
6. This we may also learn here in these good people. They do not need this work themselves, nor do they look to themselves, but to the poor man, and think how they may help him; they seek no reward, but act independently and freely. Thus you should by right do likewise; if not, you are no Christians. Therefore consider carefully how love is here described, that it takes upon itself the care of others. If we accept this lesson, it will be well for us; but if not, then God will punish us with blindness, as he has been doing, to our grief, for nearly four hundred years. This much we say briefly concerning faith and love. Furthermore, we must now, in the fourth place, treat of the faith of other persons.
7. You know the fundamental truth is, that man cannot be just and acceptable before God, save alone by faith. So that they have lied and spoken falsely who have taught heretofore that we may deal with God through our works. Moreover it was much more foolish that they taught us to rely upon the works and faith of other persons, pretending that nuns, monks and priests can help other persons by their wailing which they perform in their cloisters at night, and that in this manner they can help other people and distribute their treasures. Therefore, let everyone here remember, that no one dare undertake to be saved by the faith, or by the work of another person; in truth, it cannot be done by the faith or work of Mary, or of any saint, yea, not even by Christ’s work and faith, but through your own personal faith. For God will not permit Mary, or any other saint, not even Christ himself, to take your place, in order that you might be godly and righteous, unless you believe for your own self. If Christ’s faith and work will not do it, you will much less accomplish it by the work or faith of all the monks and priests. Hence our Gospel lesson gives us an occasion to speak of the faith of others.
For here we read that they led this person to Christ in their own faith and work; the man did nothing toward it, but merely suffered it to be done.
8. Therefore let everybody mark well, that he can never be saved through another person’s faith. But it of course may happen, that by the faith of other persons you may be brought to a faith of your own. Likewise the good works of other persons may be of service to me to obtain works of my own. Therefore those lie, who declare that we may be saved through the works or faith of other persons, whether we ourselves believe or not.
No, this is not so! Unless you yourself draw out from God’s kindness and mercy a faith of your own, you will not be saved. Thus it must be; otherwise no other person’s faith or works avail, not even Christ, though he is the Savior of all the world; his kindness, his help will do you no good whatever, unless you believe in it, and are enlightened by it.
9. Therefore, by all means beware of the preachers whom you have often heard among the monks, who approach a dying person and say: “Behold, my brave fellow, do not despair; if you have committed sins, be sorry for them; but in order that you may fare so much the better, I will make you a present of my righteous life and my good works.” If now, the dying person accept such a gift, he is as much a fool as the other, and with all these works, he ‘will go to the devil. Therefore, beware of such consolation, and say: If you are willing to serve me with your good works, approach God and speak thus: O heavenly Father, by thy grace I am now believing; therefore, I pray thee, my God, give also unto this poor man a faith of his own. This might help me; but that you would give me your own faith, this you cannot do, neither would it help me. You will have enough to do to be saved by your own faith.
10. This you may see in the case of the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps went out, said unto the wise virgins: “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out.” Then did the wise ones answer and say: “Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you.” Matthew 25:8-9. In that case I am in need even of more faith for myself; how then could I share it with another? For my own faith must stand before God’s judgment, and must fight so hard and cleave so firmly to God’s mercy, that the sweat will run down its face, if it is to prevail. That is the true meaning of St.
Peter’s words, 1 Peter 4-18: “The righteous is scarcely saved, where then shall the ungodly appear?” For when death makes its onslaught, then such fear and agony will seize him, that he can scarcely with all his strength, stand for himself and be kept in faith. Hence it is greatly to be deplored that they have established so much deception, putting monks’ cowls upon the dead, and inventing other foolish things, by which they led poor souls straightway to perdition. Beware of them.
11. Now this I say, that you may know how far the faith of others may be of use to us, and how your own faith can help you. Other people’s merits will help you to attain a merit of your own, and nothing more. And though all the angels, yea, the mercy of God itself, were ready to stand for you, it would avail you nothing, unless you cleave unto it with a faith of your own. But it may effect this, that it will assist you to obtain a faith of your own, which will help you. Furthermore, even if Christ did die for us, and pledged and gave his body and life, blood and flesh for us, and became our advocate; yet it would avail nothing, unless we believe in him. But he can assist us in this way, that he appears before the Father and says: “O Father, this have I done for mankind; do thou give them faith, in order that they may enjoy it.” This then, will help us, if we feel assured that his works and merit are our own. In the same manner one should also speak of the other saints, that no saint’s intercession and merit avail unless we ourselves believe. You observe this also in our lesson. There lies the poor man, unable either to speak or to hear. They who bring him to the Lord can speak and hear. But they cannot make him speak by their hearing and speaking, and even though they all had come near him and said: “We will speak and hear for you”; yet he would, in spite of this, have remained speechless and deaf continually, and would never have been able to speak.
12. Likewise, if I were to give you a written declaration saying: “Go forth, this is my work; this shall be yours”; yet it will not help you a whit, but it will carry you into hell. In what way, then, will it help you? If I do, as these men do, who come to Christ and say: “O Lord, help this poor man, that he may receive his speech?’ They do not say: “We will hear and speak in your stead,” but they pray that Christ himself would give him speech. Likewise, if you take my part, and use your faith in such a way that it may help me to a faith of my own, this might help me; thus! thus it must be! God be thanked! Otherwise, no work nor any brotherhood, will avail.
13. Therefore say: I must neither rely upon your works nor you upon mine; but I will, by my own faith, pray God to give you a faith of your own. This is what is said, that we all are priests and kings, that we, like Christ himself, may intercede for one another before God, praying for personal faith.
Thus, if I happen to notice that you have no faith of your own, or a weak faith, I go and ask God to help, you to obtain faith, not by giving you my faith and my works, but your own faith and your own works; so that Christ may give him all his works and salvation through faith, as he hath given them to us by faith.
14. That is the meaning of the saying of Christ, John 16:26-27: “I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” This is a beautiful addition, as though he would say: I have prayed for you, and have entreated God that he would give you what is mine. Therefore know my name. For through my prayer he has accepted you and has given you faith, so that henceforth you may pray for yourselves, and I need not do it; provided that you do it in my name. Here he has crowned us, dedicated and anointed us with the Holy Spirit, so that we all are priests in Christ, and may exercise the priest’s office, go before God and pray for one another. This is what St. Peter means in writing thus in his First Epistle, 1 Peter 2:9-10: “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may shew forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
15. Hence we may all say: Christ was my priest, who prayed for me and purchased faith and the Spirit for me; therefore I am also a priest, and must go on praying in the world, that God may give faith also to this and that person. So we conclude, that we shall obtain whatever we earnestly pray for in the true faith, as the Lord says, John 16:24: “Ask, and ye shall receive.”
16. But to pray powerfully is not within our strength; for the Spirit does not always vouchsafe to us to pray with power. Paul prayed that all Israel might be saved, Romans 9:1f; why did it not come to pass? The difference lies in the faith, for the Spirit did not give it to him; had he been able to add this faith, it would surely have come to pass. For if Paul had said, “I pray for all Israel,” and had believed and said: “Lord, I am certain that thou wilt do it,” then it would certainly have come to pass. But though he often prayed for them from his heart, the Spirit did not vouchsafe, to him that he should confidently believe it. Therefore it is not within our power to pray in strong confidence; the Holy Spirit does it. Whenever we pray for anyone and are able to add, “It will be done,” then it will certainly be done; but whenever we pray, we must add, “Thy will be done.” If, then, I must let it go according to his will, I cannot suggest to him either the person, or the time, or the manner, but must freely leave it all to him; then, indeed, I am sure of it. In this manner Christ acted also, who himself prayed thus: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me,” but at once added: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39.
17. Therefore, when I am to pray for an entire city or community, I ought to say: “O Father, I pray for all of them.” Nevertheless, however, I must give honor to his name or will, and say: “Dear Father, I pray for these; I know it is thy will, that I should pray, that I should not despise prayer; but thy will shall be done always; for I might ask something for some one who is not worthy of it before thee; or again, I might possibly east aside some one who is worthy; therefore do thou act according to thy divine will, for thou wilt certainly do better than I could ever conceive.” Thus you see that we cannot always add these words: It will be so. But if we are certain in our hearts that we may add: “It will be certainly so,” then it will come to pass.
18. This we see in our text. These people approach the Lord in strong confidence, praying for the poor man, and their prayer is also heard. In the same manner, when baptism is performed we see this take place in the children’s faith. There are the infants, bare and naked in body and soul, having neither faith nor works. Then the Christian Church comes forward and prays, that God would pour faith into the child; not that our faith should help the child, but that it may obtain a faith of its own. If it has faith, then after that whatever it does is well done, whether it suckle its mother’s breast, or whether it soil itself, or whatever it may please to do. But if it does not obtain faith, our faith is of no value to the child.
19. Therefore my faith can help you in no way except that it may assist you to obtain a faith of your own. Hence, to sum up all, everything depends upon personal faith, as strong as it is, so much does it need the faith and prayer of other people in order to increase in strength. Now you can easily judge, that those people were the greatest fools, who held masses and vigils with the brotherhoods; for the wise virgins have sufficient oil only for themselves, and scarcely have enough. This is a simple explanation of the story of the Gospel lesson. Now let us briefly consider the meaning which our Lord puts into it.
PART 2. THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
20. The people bring the poor man to the Lord, the Lord takes him to a special place, lays his fingers into the man’s ears, spits, and touches his tongue with the spittle, looks up toward heaven, and sighing, says, Ephphata, that is, Be opened! This is a lovely picture, and its meaning is good. For by those who here bring the deafmute to the Lord, the office of the ministry is meant. Ministers and the Apostles lead the poor consciences of men to God. This is done in three ways, by preaching, by a godly life, and by intercession. With the Word and preaching, they are brought to God; a godly life serves to show the Word so much the mightier in its power. But the Word itself leads to Christ, though it be preached by a sinner. Yet, a good life serves as an emphasis and a furtherance of the Gospel; while a wicked life dulls its edge. Their third duty, to pray for the people, likewise leads them on the road both to faith and to works.
21. Now if the Word go on its way in this threefold manner, it cannot fail to bring forth fruit, as God says, Isaiah 55:11: “My Word, that goeth forth out of my mouth, shall not return to me void.” This is indicated by the action of the pious persons who carry the mute into Christ’s presence; this signifies the ministers, who bring forward the sinner; then God appears, giving growth and increase, as Paul says, 1 Corinthians 3:7, He opens the sinner’s eyes, ears, and mouth. This happens in a wink of the eye, for God’s Word is like lightning, which in a moment passes from sunrise to the ends of the earth. Thus when such persons are brought to God, he gives them grace to believe.
22. This is signified by the act of laying his fingers into the man’s ears; through the Word he breathes the Holy Spirit into him, making the heart believing, decent, chaste, and holy; for the finger signifies the Holy Spirit.
23. Again, the spittle that is laid on the man’s tongue, typifies the Word of God; this is put into his mouth in order that he may be able to speak it. And this spittle, the Word of God, is a noble thing, but very bitter to the Old Adam.
24. Then they praise God, saying: “He hath done all things well, he has made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.” For wherever there is true faith, there the Spirit will not allow you any rest; you will break forth, become a priest, teach other people also, as we read Psalm 116:10: “I believe, for I will speak.” There the heart is full, and the mouth must run over. Then when they are persecuted, they will not care.
25. But the part of the story, that Christ took the man apart from the others, looks up to heaven, has this meaning: If God do not take me alone to a separate place, and give me the Holy Spirit, so that I cling to the Word which I have heard, then all preaching is in vain. But why does this require so much that he looks up to heaven and makes use of divine power, calling upon God’s grace to come and to act? By this he teaches us that such power must come from heaven, working in the heart of man by divine strength; then help comes to him. Again the spittle which is the Word of God is a noble thing for the Old Adam. Then they go forth to praise and glorify God.
26. Thus have you learned, from the story and from its spiritual or secret meaning, that we must first hear the Word of God and thus, through the intercession of Christ, obtain a faith of our own, and then we come out, confessing this and praising God forever. May this be sufficient on this Gospel lesson. Let us pray to God for grace.
Luther's Second Sermon for the TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. Mark 7:31-37.
KJV Mark 7:31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee,
through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. 32 And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an
impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. 33 And he took him aside from
the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; 34 And looking up to
heaven, he sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha, that is, Be opened. 35 And straightway his ears were
opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. 36 And he charged them that they
should tell no man: but the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it; 37 And
were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear,
and the dumb to speak.
This sermon is given in place of the preceding sermon in edition c and appeared in pamphlet form under the title: “A sermon on the Gospel of Mark, 7th chapter, preached in the Castle Church at Wittenberg before the Elector and Duke Henry of Saxony by Dr. Martin Luther. Wittenberg, 1534.” At the close stands: Printed at Wittenberg by Nicholas Schirlenz, 1534. It appeared also in the edition of the Postil of 1543.
1. As the Gospel everywhere shows Christ our Lord to be a merciful and gracious man, ready to help every one by word and deed, in body and soul, so does this Gospel lesson picture to us how willingly he helped this poor man, who was deaf and dumb, in order that we might be invited to believe, trusting to obtain from him all that is good, and also thereby to show unto us an example and a pattern, which every Christian ought to follow, helping his neighbor in the same manner.
2. For a Christian life consists entirely in the following: First, that we believe and trust in Christ our Savior, being fully assured that we are not deserted by him, whatever need or danger may betide us. Secondly, that every Christian person also conducts himself toward friend or foe in the same way, as he sees Christ does, who is so willing to help everyone.
Whoever does this, is a Christian; but he who does it not, is no Christian, though he calls himself one. For these two cannot be separated; faith must be followed by its fruits, or it is not true faith. That is the sum of this Gospel lesson.
3. Now some have been agitated over the fact that in this miracle Christ first takes the poor man and leads him apart from the people, performs particular ceremonies, places his fingers in the man’s ears, and spits, and touches his tongue, looks up to heaven, sighs and uses peculiar language; whereas he had before helped other mutes and many not mutes without any such ceremonies, merely by a word. All this, I say, has set some to thinking, and they have explained it ‘that Christ in this case called to mind how this same man, whom he was now helping would afterward sin with his tongue and ears; therefore he had pity on him who would commit such sins after this great work was done, and that this deed of mercy would be so ‘little appreciated, in that a speechless tongue should become a blaspheming tongue, which would not only defame his neighbors, but even dishonor God in heaven; and the ears, which were opened in order to hear God’s Word, would rather hear all manner of erroneous and false doctrine, than the Word of God. This, they say. was the reason Christ sighed and looked up to heaven.
4. I will not reject this opinion; [so that it may not be said, that we are never pleased with anything, but want to have everything new and changed.] But, we must not, as it were, confine Christ too narrowly as though he had regard to one person only; we must regard him more highly than that he would help only this man. For all the Holy Scriptures, and particularly the prophets and psalms, declare, that he was sent to have deep compassion on all the misery and need of the whole human race, and that Christ was the person, chosen particularly above all saints, to be so minded toward us as surely to take upon himself all our need and sorrow as though they were his own, as in Psalm 40:12 he says of our sins, “Mine iniquities have over-taken me, so that I am not able to look up,” and in Psalm 41:4, “O Lord, have mercy upon me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” Here our merciful Lord speaks in our person, bearing our sins as though they were his own, and as though he had committed them himself. And again, Psalm 69:5: “O God, thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee”; again, Isaiah 53:6’ “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”; and vs. 4-5: “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” etc. And other passages of Scripture bear witness to this.
5. For the Lord Christ must be painted in such a manner that he is the only person who takes upon himself the misfortune, not of one country, or of one city, but of the whole world; even as St. John names him, John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.”
But if he bears the sins, it follows that he must also have borne whatever belongs to sin, and what follows sin, as the devil, death and hell.
6. That is the reason he sighs so here, as the person who was to do it, of whom the prophets had long before announced that he would have deep compassion upon all the evils of the whole human race. He was not alone concerned about the tongue and the ears of only this poor man; but it was a common sigh over all tongues and ears in general, yea, over all hearts, bodies, and souls, and all men, from Adam to the last human being, who is yet to be born. Hence he does not chiefly sigh because this man would in the future commit many sins; but the chief reason is that he, Christ the Lord, viewed the entire mass of flesh and blood which the devil afflicted with a fatal hurt in Paradise, making mankind deaf and dumb, and thus thrust them into death and hell fire. This view being before the eyes of Christ, he looked far about him, seeing how great the damage was, inflicted in Paradise by the devil through the fall of one man. He looks not upon those two ears, but upon the whole number of men who had come from Adam, and were yet to come. Therefore this Gospel lesson sets forth Christ as being the man who is concerned about you and me, and about us all in a way that we ought to be concerned about ourselves, as though he were sunk in those sins and afflictions ‘in which we are sunk, and that he sighs over the fact, that the very devil has brought about this ruin.
7. This surely is why he shows such great earnestness in this case, and makes use of special ways and means. As though he would say: “Your deplorable condition, your bondage in sin and death, affects me so deeply, that moved by nothing but by my own thoughts, I must act in a special manner.” For so extraordinary are his actions in this case, compared to his other works, that it is truly astonishing. He often healed others, or casted out devils, with a single word; indeed, he actually helped some whom he never visited, as for instance the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8:13; here, however, on account of two diseased organs, the tongue and the ear, his actions are very peculiar, as though he were especially concerned. By this he shows us that at this time he had a special view and special thoughts of the human race.
8. For as we admit that Christ, our Lord and God, had all other human traits, sin excepted, we must also concede, that he did not always have the same thoughts, was not always equally disposed, nor always equally fervent; but was variously actuated, just as other saints. Therefore, as his emotions and thoughts were peculiar in this case, his actions were also peculiar, so that we must see how truly human he was in body and soul, whose mind was not at all times alike disposed, just as little as he was always hungry and sleepy at the same time. As these conditions are variable in men, so they were variable in him, as St. Paul says, Philippians 2:7: “He took upon himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man,” etc. This must not be understood merely of external appearances, but of his soul and the thoughts of his heart, that, being ardent at one time, he was more ardent at another time, etc. This, then, is one reason why Christ here acted thus, namely, because he is a real man; but at the same time a person who stood in the place of all men and took upon himself at the same time the diseases of this man, and of all men.
9. The other thought is also true, that he was deeply grieved by the knowledge that this man, if he would heal him, might sin greatly after he was healed. But it is too narrow to explain it as referring only to the future sins of this man. For it was the task of Christ, our Lord God, to concern himself, and to suffer, not only for one man’s sin but, as we read in Revelation 13:8, for all sins that would be committed from the beginning of the world, from Adam to our time, even unto the last man to be born before the day of judgment. Therefore their view is too narrow who explain it only of those sins which this man would yet do in the future.
Although he showed in other instances that he took account of the future life of certain persons, as he said to the paralytic, John :14: “Thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee.”
10. For Christ, our dear Lord, has so kind a heart that he grieves to think of a person sinning. For he is well aware that sins cannot remain unpunished; therefore he even wept over the city of Jerusalem, because he saw that her sins had to be punished. So kind and loving’ is his heart that he has by no means pleasure where sin is committed.
11. He addresses here particularly two organs of the body, the ear and the tongue; for you know the Kingdom of Christ is founded upon the Word, which cannot be apprehended or understood except by these two organs, the ear and the tongue, and he rules in the hearts of men alone by the Word and by faith. The ears apprehend the Word, the heart believes it; the tongue, however, speaks or confesses that which the heart believes. Hence, barring the tongue and ears, there is no perceptible difference between the Kingdom of Christ and that of the world.
12. For in regard to the outward life a Christian has duties like an unbeliever; he tills the ground, works his fields, and plows just like others, and he undertakes no peculiar work or deed, either in eating, drinking, working, sleeping, or anything else. But these two organs of the body make a difference between a Christian and an unbeliever; a Christian speaks and hears differently; he has a tongue which praises the grace of God and preaches Christ the Lord as being the only Savior, etc. This the world does not do; it speaks of avarice and other vices, preaches and praises its own glory.
13. In like manner the ears of both differ. A Christian’s ears have the same Word which the tongue preaches, and the heart believes; but the world prefers to hear one speak of her wisdom, understanding, honor and glory.
The ears and tongues of Christians are thus different from the ears and tongues of the world, or of unbelievers, caring nought for silver or gold, but only for that which is said of Christ, and how to speak and preach Christ.
14. Surely our dear Lord foresaw how much harm and misery would yet be caused by tongues and ears. It does great harm that Christians are persecuted, drowned, burned, and hanged, and that the world sets itself forcibly against the Word; but this harm does not penetrate all, nor will it win. For when it becomes known that persons are dealt with so very unjustly, they only grow bold and fearless thereby and despise such torture and suffering. Hence that is not the greatest injury with which tyrants afflict Christendom; but that piece of flesh which lurks behind the teeth, offers the greatest harm to the Kingdom of Christ. I am not now referring to people lying about and defaming one another; I am speaking of the higher things, that the tongue after Christ has loosed it and has given it the Gospel, should thenceforth inflict such notorious injury. It is true, the injury is not so glaring, and it appears to be much worse if a person’s head is struck off, than if a false prophet or writer comes forward; but a false sermon, yea even a false word, which comes whirling along in God’s name, will cut off a great number of souls, so that an entire city or country may fall under it.
15. This now is one of the afflictions which caused Christ to sigh; as though he would say: Be watchful! Beware of deceitful tongues which meddle with the Scriptures, more than of those which hold forth in the winehouse or in the grocery-store; though the latter are not harmless, yet when those tongues begin to speak which I have made loose so that they can boast of Christ, beware of them, etc. And in very deed, it is worth while to deplore the fact that those who have the Word and can talk much about it, should nevertheless persecute the Word with tongue and fist. The Turk also is a menace to Christendom, but his harm is inflicted only by the sword, and is in no way equal to the harm done by sectarians. There is need even now that one should sigh because such tongues which mislead so many people and still claim to be Christians, and to have improved the Christian Church. This is the first point, namely, that the devil, after the tongue is loosed and people know what Christ is, still inflicts injury by subverting the doctrine.
16. Hence Christ says, one will find corrupt ears which, though I have opened them, wish to hear nothing else but what such false, evil tongues say. As Paul says, 2 Timothy 4:3’ “The lime will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside unto fables,” etc. Preachers who teach thus, are rogues and apostles of the devil. Now the others ought to be so godly as to say, I will not listen to their tongues. Aye, says St. Paul, they do not wish to hear the blessed tongue, but seek another; and in truth they find it, as it now happens among the sectarians of our day. Therefore, says St.
Paul, as their ears itch, so will he send them preachers who will forcibly lead them into error. Just as we saw, while under the Pope, that no one was able to withstand the slightest error, but their fictitious purgatory, indulgences, haunting spirits, and whatever was only new, was immediately held to be an article of faith. Thus did the devil rub their ears, so that they were much more willing to listen to such deceit than to the Word of God.
17. It is so even now. Our Lord God opens the ears so that the true Gospel is heard; yet wherever a sectarian turns up, the people immediately accept him, becoming so frenzied and so hostile to the true preachers that I am greatly perplexed how such excellent hearts to whom I would have entrusted body and soul, can grow so spitefully hostile to us, as though they were full of satan and sin much more grievously with tongues and ears than before they had the Gospel, so that it were much better that Christ had never made them whole, and that they had not heard his Word at all.
18. The meaning of Christ’s sighs then is, not only that he reviewed in his mind all afflictions from the beginning of the world, but that he deplored the certainty that after the revelation of the Gospel, his Kingdom should suffer so much harm through the very persons whom he would help, and that his Kingdom should be so buffeted and rent, which would not have happened, if men had not first been rescued by him. To be sure, he must bear it, and we must also bear it; but nevertheless, he will not on that account have sighed in vain.
19. And though the nature of his sighs is not fully stated here--for it cannot be written, as St. Paul says, Romans 8:26, that such sighs ca, not be expressed in written or spoken words — yet for all that, woe betide those who do such injury and make so little of this sighing, and go forth as though they had done well. For Christ was troubled by this with many and various harrassing thoughts, such as these: Behold, so much does it cost me, so much fear and torture I must bear, until I bring it about that these people hear my Word and preach it; and yet they will so shamelessly falsify and subvert it, and will do to me and my kingdom, such great injury’ This ingratitude toward the Word must hurt every Christian soul; hence it is not astonishing that it also moved Christ the lord so greatly, that he here uses special ways and ceremonies, because this thought struck him forcibly at that time.
20. We should learn now from these ceremonies and demonstrative actions, which Christ uses here, how earnestly Christ our Lord cares for us; we should diligently be on our guard to keep our ears and tongues in the condition in which he gave them to us, and fortify ourselves against the devil and against men, lest they change our ears and tongues to the contrary. Secondly, we should also, every one in his calling, show our gratitude toward his Word for this blessing in such a manner that a ruler in his country, a preacher in the pulpit, father and mother in the home, rightly fulfill the duties of their calling, while the others should hear it, keeping open their ears as Christ has opened them, and diligently see to it, as Christ acted in the case of this man, that they may also be as serious, and thank God for it.
21. Among us, God be praised, the tongue has been so developed that we speak purely, and that the ears gladly hear it; for there still are many pious people everywhere who take delight in hearing God’s Word. But side by side with this there is great ingratitude also among us, and frightful contempt for the Word of God, perhaps, indeed, a secret persecution and suffering. Other princes persecute it openly; but we here sit under shelter, as in a garden of roses, and yet secretly there are so many, citizens and peasants, and the noblemen with their golden chains, who would gladly hound all pastors and preachers out of tile country, if only they could do it.
This shows that they despise the Word and hate it secretly; as we see it is the case that, where the Word is persecuted openly, there only it would live, and where it is unhindered and public, there they do not want it.
22. But our Lord God will surely not have sighed in vain. Some think, indeed, that it will always remain so, because he keeps so silent about it; but it happens very quickly that a pulpit changes its character. Therefore our Lord God wants us here to take warning, as it was also predicted by St. Paul, in order that we should beware. Tongues will change their speech, and the ears of the people will itch after false preachers, even as it came to pass under the Pope’s rule, where people were so willing and eager to hear and to do, whenever anyone came along who had something new to say, no matter how unreasonable and foolish it might be. At that time, if anyone had risen to preach that a church should be built in the river Elbe, they would have done it. But now that the Word is being taught and preached from the pulpit, to trust in God and to serve our neighbor, the lives of the people nowhere are conformed to it. That is the doings of the very devil, but this does not excuse us.
23. For since the doctrine has been brought into such shape and form that the articles of faith are preached in their purity, and since the tongues are now loosed and the ears are opened, we should also apply ourselves that this doctrine may show itself in our daily lives. But I fear it will not be done before lightning and thunder strike down upon us, as St. Paul says. God has already made a beginning with the Pope, striking the Antichrist with the lightning of the Gospel, which is the Spirit of his mouth, which is now opened and speaks, and is still striking among the wicked; but I fear the teaching will not be followed by right living, until he will come and strike everything to the ground completely, making an end of ungodliness by the manifestation of his glorious coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
24. Now since righteous works and living do not seem to follow the doctrine so perfectly among us as they indeed ought, I fear that our Lord God, unless the day of judgment should break in upon us, will not let his punishment be deferred; for our lives are not at all in agreement with the doctrine, not even in the least thing, as that we should serve our neighbor, which truly is not a great requirement. For there is no need to run to Rome nor to St. James, nor to give money or anything valuable to obtain it; all you need is to give your will to do it. But since we are such desperate people who, after having done only too much under the Pope, do nothing now so either the day of judgment must strike in our midst, or our Lord God will send heresies and then we will be compelled again to do unnecessary works. It is a matter of great concern to Christ, the Lord, that his Word should thus be despised and per secured; therefore those who are the cause of it will not go unpunished. Let this suffice concerning this text. [Let us pray to our Lord God to give us his grace, that we may so act and live as he has enabled us to speak and hear. Amen.]