Mark 16

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:1-8. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 1-3 (or Mt 28:1-3 or Lk 23:56-24:2 or Jn 20:1); the second in verses 4-6 (or Mt 28:4-6 or Lk 24:3-5 or Jn 20:2), and the last in verses 7-8 (or Mt 28:7-8 or Lk 24:6-7 or Jn 20:3).]]

A Sermon for Easter Sunday: The Fruit and Power of Christ’s Resurrection; Mark 16:1-8

The Fruit and Power of Christ's Resurrection

1 As we heard while explaining the meaning of Christ's passion, that it was not enough to know its mere narrative and history; so it is not enough to learn only how and when Christ our Lord arose from the dead; we must also preach and understand the benefit and use both of the sufferings and the resurrection of Christ, namely, what he thereby acquired for us. For if we preach only its history, it is an unprofitable sermon, which Satan and the godless know, read and understand as well as true Christians; but when we preach to what end it serves it becomes profitable, wholesome and comforting.

2 Christ himself pointed out the benefit of his sufferings and resurrection when he said to the women in Mt 28:10 - “Fear not: go tell my brethren that they depart into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” These are the very first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he therefore anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection.

3 The risen Christ waits not until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Do we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples all fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with its young. He should have called them deserters, yea, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also, when we are mired fast in our sins, temptations and condemnation.

4 These are words. full of all comfort that Christ receives desperate villains as you and I are and calls us his brethren, Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of? Just as it is among natural brothers, so is it also here. Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance, otherwise they would not be brothers: so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, and have in common with him one Father and one inheritance, which never decreases by being distributed, as other inheritances do; but it ever grows larger and larger; for it is a spiritual inheritance. But an earthly inheritance decreases when distributed among many persons. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance, has it all.

5 However, what is Christ's inheritance? His heritage is life and death, sin and grace, all that is in heaven and earth, eternal truth, power, wisdom, righteousness; he governs and rules over all, over hunger and thirst, over fortune and misfortune, over everything imaginable, whether in heaven or on earth, not only spiritual but also secular affairs; and the sum total of all is, he has all things in his hand, be they eternal or temporal. Now if I believe on him, I become partaker with him of all his possessions, and obtain not only a part or a piece; but, like him, I obtain all, eternal righteousness, eternal wisdom, eternal strength, and become a lord and reign over all. The stomach will not hunger, sins will not oppress, I will no more fear death, nor be terror-stricken by Satan, and I will never be in want, but will be like Christ the Lord himself.

6 In the light of this we now easily understand the sayings here and there in the prophets and especially in the Psalms; as when David in Ps 34:10 says: “The young lions (the rich) do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek Jehovah shall not want any good thing.” And in another Psalm: “Jehovah knoweth the days of the perfect; and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be put to shame in the time of evil; and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.” Ps 37:18-19. And immediately following in verse 25: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” All this comes of itself from the fact that we are and are called Christ's brethren; not because of our worthiness, but because of God's pure grace. Yes, if God gave us this in our heart, so that we experience it, then we would be saved; but it goes in one ear and out the other. And this it is that Paul praises so highly and strongly to the Romans when he says: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” Rom 8,14-17.

7 The title of being Christ's brothers is so high that the heart of man cannot understand it. If the Holy Spirit bestows not this grace, none can say: Christ is my brother. For reason is not bold enough to say so; although one may say it with the tongue, as the spirits of modern times do. It is not uttered in this way, it is necessary for the heart to experience it; otherwise it is pure hypocrisy. If you truly experience it in your heart it will be such a great thing that you will much prefer to keep silence than to speak about it, yea, in the presence of the magnitude of this inheritance you easily doubt and waver as to whether it is really true or not. Those who only cry: Christ is my brother! Christ is my brother! are not true Christians. A Christian acts quite differently, and it is very wonderful, so that the flesh shudders at it and dares indeed neither speak of it nor confess it.

8 We should bestir ourselves to hear this, not only with the natural ear, but also to experience it in our hearts, for then we would not be so forward and impudent, but would be surprised and amazed over it. True and godly Christians go along in life in contempt of themselves and in fear; they think thus: Ah, shall I, a poor, miserable person, who am steeped in sin, be now so exalted that God's Son becomes my brother? Ay, how is it that I, a miserable poor creature, am thus honored? I am at once confounded before it and feed upon it; for it truly requires a great effort to believe it; yea, when one experiences it thus, how it is in truth, he must from that hour die; for man, since he is flesh and blood, cannot understand it. Here in this life man's heart is in too great straits to lay hold of it; but after death, when the heart becomes larger and broader, we experience what we have heard through the Word.

9 In the Gospel of John Christ tells Mary Magdalene of the benefit and use of his death and resurrection still more plainly, when he says: “But go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” Jn 20,17. This is one of the great and comforting passages upon which we can venture, and of which we dare boast. As if Christ had said: Go hence, Mary, and say to my disciples who have deserted me on the field of battle, and who have well merited punishment and eternal condemnation, that my resurrection has taken place for their benefit; that is, by my resurrection I have brought it to pass that my Father is their Father, and my God is their God. These are few words and very short; but they contain a great thought, namely, that we have as great a confidence and refuge in God as Christ his Son himself has. Who can grasp such exceeding joy, unless one speaks of himself when he says a poor, corrupt sinner can and may call God his Father and his God, just like Christ himself does?

10 The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has grasped the words of Ps 22,23 and taken them well to heart, when he says of Christ: “For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing thy praise.” Heb 2,11-12. If any worldly lord were to condescend so low as to say to a thief, or a murderer or to a low French character, Thou art my brother; that would be a great thing and everyone would be amazed at it; but that this King, who in his glory sits at the right hand of God, his Father, says to a poor sinner: Thou art my brother, that no one takes to heart, no one receives it in earnest, and yet on that hangs our highest comfort and courage against sin, death, Satan, hell, law, and against all misfortune, both of the body and of the soul.

11 Since we are flesh and blood, and subject to all kinds of affliction, it follows that it must be thus also with our brother; or he would not be like us in all respects. Therefore, in that be becomes like us, he tastes of all that we do, in order to be our true brother and save us, so that we on the other hand may become like him. This the Epistle to the Hebrews paints and brings out very beautifully when it says: “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham. Therefore it behooveth him in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, be is able to succor them that are tempted.” Heb 2:14-18.

12 St. Paul in a very beautiful way condensed the benefit and use both of Christ's sufferings and his resurrection in one short passage, as in a nutshell, when he says to the Romans: “Who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.” Rom 4:25.

But on this theme enough has been said for the present; whoever desires may with profit meditate on it; more is written about it in the Postil; whoever desires to have it let him get it and read. We will now discuss another subject. Since people in many localities still cling to the papal abuses, so that they flock to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper on Easter, and this custom is so deeply drilled into them, that it is very difficult to root it out everywhere, we wish to give some instruction to the singleminded and plain people, how they should at the present time partake of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. (Rodt's Ed., 1525.) Of this the following sermon plainly speaks.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:1-8. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 1-3 (or Mt 28:1-3 or Lk 23:56-24:2 or Jn 20:1); the second in verses 4-6 (or Mt 28:4-6 or Lk 24:3-5 or Jn 20:2), and the last in verses 7-8 (or Mt 28:7-8 or Lk 24:6-7 or Jn 20:3).]]

Sermon for Easter Sunday: Christ’s Resurrection and its Benefits; Mark 16:1-8 (2nd Sermon)

Of Christ's Resurrection


1 In the first place we shall briefly examine the text of this narrative, and afterwards speak of the benefits of the resurrection of Christ, and how we should build upon it. The text reads: V.1. “And when the sabbath was past.” Here we must remember Mark writes of the sabbath according to the custom of the Hebrews, for according to the Jewish reckoning the day began in the evening and lasted until the evening of the next day, as the first chapter of Genesis says: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day,” “a second day,” “a third day,” and so forth. Thus the first and greatest Sabbath began on the evening of the day when Christ was crucified, that is to say at the time of sunset on the evening of Friday. Our reckoning conveys the wrong sense. Yesterday was the great Sabbath, when Christ lay in the grave; in addition to this the Jews had seven full days which they celebrated and all of which they called sabbaths, counting them from the first holiday after the great Sabbath and calling it prima sabbathorum (first of the sabbaths), and the third holiday secundarn sabbathorurn (second of the sabbaths), and so forth. On these days they ate only wafers and unleavened bread, for which reason they are also called by the Evangelist the days of unleavened bread. From this we must conclude that Christ rose before sunrise and before the angel descended in the earthquake. Afterwards the angel only came to open the empty grave, etc., as has been clearly described by the Evangelists.

2 The question now arises: How can we say that he rose on the third day, since he lay in the grave only one day and two nights? According to the Jewish calculation it was only a day and a half; how shall we then persist in believing there were three days? To this we reply that be was in the state of death for at least a part of all three days. For he died at about two o'clock on Friday and consequently was dead for about two hours on the first day. After that night he lay in the grave all day, which is the true Sabbath. On the third day, which we commemorate now, he rose from the dead and so remained in the state of death a part of this day, just as if we say that something occurred on Easter-day, although it happens in the evening, only a portion of the day. In this sense Paul and the Evangelists say that be rose on the third day.

3 For this period and no longer Christ was to lie in the grave, so that we might suppose that his body remained naturally uncorrupted and that decomposition had not yet set in. He came forth from the grave so soon that we might presume that corruption had not yet taken place according to the course of nature; for a corpse can lie no longer than three days before it begins to decompose. Therefore Christ was to rise on the third day, before he saw corruption.

4 The great longing and love of the women for the Lord must also be particularly noted here, so that unadvised and alone they go early to the grave, not thinking of the great stone which was rolled before the tomb. They might have thought of this and taken a man with them. But they act like timid and sorrowing persons, and therefore they go on their way without even thinking of the most necessary things. They do not even think of the watchers who were clad in armor, nor of the wrath of Pilate and the Jews, but boldly they freely risk it and alone they venture on their way. What urged these good women to hazard life and body? It was nothing but the great love they bore to the Lord, which had sunk so deeply into their hearts that for his sake they would have risked a thousand lives. Such courage they had not of themselves, but here the power of the resurrection of Christ was revealed, whose Spirit makes these women, who by nature are timid, so bold and courageous that they venture to do things which might - have daunted a man.

5 These women also show us a beautiful example of a spiritual heart that undertakes an impossible task, of which the whole world would despair. Yet a heart like this stands firm and accomplishes it, not thinking the task impossible. So much we say for the present on this narrative, and now let us see what are the fruits and benefits of the resurrection of Christ.


6 St. Paul writes in Romans 4:25 as follows: “Christ was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.” Paul is indeed the man who extols Christ in a masterly manner, telling us exactly why and for what purpose he suffered and how we should conform ourselves to his sufferings, namely, that he died for our sins. This is a correct interpretation of the sufferings of Christ, by which we may profit. And as it is not sufficient to know and believe that Christ has died, so it will not suffice to know and believe that he rose with a transfigured body and is now in a state of joy and blessedness, no longer subject to mortality, for all this would profit me nothing or very little. But when I come to understand the fact that all the works God does in Christ are done for me, nay, they are bestowed upon and given to me, the effect of his resurrection being that I also will arise and live with him; that will cause me to rejoice. This must be brought home to our hearts, and we must not merely hear it with the ears of our body nor merely confess it with our mouth.

7 You have heard in the story of the Passion how Christ is portrayed as our exemplar and helper, and that he who follows him and clings to him receives the Spirit, who will enable him also to suffer. But the words of Paul are more Christian and should come closer home to our hearts and comfort us more, when he says: “Christ was raised for our justification.” Here the Lamb is truly revealed, of whom John the Baptist testifies, when he says in Jn 1:29: “Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” Here is fulfilled that which was spoken to the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head,” which means that for all those who believe in him, hell, death, and the devil and sin have been destroyed. In the same manner the promise is fulfilled to-day which God gave to Abraham, when he said in Gen 22:18: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Here Christ is meant, who takes away our curse and the power of sin, death and the devil.

8 All this is done, I say, by faith. For if you believe that by this seed the serpent has been slain, then it is slain for you; and if you believe that in this seed all nations are to be blessed, then you are also blessed. For each one individually should have crushed the serpent under foot and redeemed himself from the curse, which would have been too difficult, nay impossible for us. But now it has been done easily, namely, by Christ, who has crushed the serpent once, who alone is given as a blessing and benediction,
Instead of benediction edition of 1532 has curse.
and who has caused this Gospel to be published throughout the world, so that he who believes, accepts it and clings to it, is also in possession of it, and is assured that it is as he believes. For in the heart of such a man the Word becomes so powerful that he will conquer death, the devil, sin and all adversity, like Christ himself did. So mighty is the Word that God himself would sooner be vanquished than that his Word should be conquered.

9 This is the meaning of the words by St. Paul: “Christ was raised for our justification.” Here Paul turns my eyes away from my sins and directs them to Christ, for if I look at my sins, they will destroy me. Therefore I must look unto Christ who has taken my sins upon himself, crushed the head of the serpent and become the blessing. Now they no longer burden my conscience, but rest upon Christ, whom they desire to destroy. Let us see how they treat him. They hurl him to the ground and kill him. O God; where is now my Christ and my Saviour? But
Instead of But editions of 1528 and 1531 have Yea.
then God appears, delivers Christ and makes him alive; and not only does he make him alive, but he translates him into heaven and lets him rule over all. What has now become of sin?
It is indeed on the gallows. If I then trust in this, I have a cheerful conscience etc. Editions of 1528 and 1531.
There it lies under his feet. If I then cling to this, I have a cheerful conscience like Christ, because I am without sin. Now I can defy death, the devil, sin and hell to do me any harm. As I am a child of Adam, they can indeed accomplish it that I must die. But since Christ has taken my sins upon himself, has died for them, has suffered himself to be slain on account of my sins, they can no longer harm me; for Christ is too strong for them, they cannot keep him, he breaks forth and overpowers them, ascends into heaven (takes sin and sorrow captive, Ed. 1531), and rules there over all throughout eternity. Now I have a clear conscience, am joyful and happy and am no longer afraid of this tyrant, for Christ has taken my sins away from me and made them his own. But they cannot remain upon him; what then becomes of them? They must disappear and be destroyed. This then is the effect of faith. He who believes that Christ has taken away our sin, is without sin, like Christ himself, and death, the devil and hell are vanquished as far as he is concerned and they can no longer harm him.

10 Here we also refer to the passage in Hosea 13:14, which Paul quotes in reference to the victory that Christ has won by his resurrection and by which he has conquered sin, death, hell and all our enemies. Paul says that death is swallowed up in this victory, and he defies death with these words: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” just as if Paul would say: O death, where are thy teeth? Come, bite off one of my fingers. Thou formerly hadst a spear, what has become of it now? Christ has taken it from thee. Death, where is now thy spear, etc.? Sin, where is now the edge of thy sword and thy power? Paul says that the power of sin is the law. The more clearly we understand the law, the more sin oppresses and stings us. For this reason Paul says that Christ has completely destroyed and annihilated the spear and whetstone of death. Now, this Gospel he has not taken with him into heaven, but he caused it to be preached throughout the world, so that for him who believes in Christ, spear and whetstone, nay, sin and death, should be destroyed. This is the true Gospel, which bestows life, strength, power and marrow, and of which all the passages of Scripture speak.

11 Therefore seek and learn to know Christ aright, for the whole Scriptures confer upon us the righteousness of the true knowledge of Christ. But this must be brought about by the Holy Spirit. Let us therefore pray God that his Gospel may prosper, that we all may truly learn to know Christ and thus rise with him and be honored by God as he was honored.

12 The question now arises: If Christ has taken away death and our sins by his resurrection and has justified us, why do we then still feel death and sin within us? For our sins torment us still, we are stung by our conscience, and this evil conscience creates the fear of hell.

13 To this I reply: I have often said before that feeling and faith are two different things. It is the nature of faith not to feel, to lay aside reason and close the eyes, to submit absolutely to the Word, and follow it in life and death. Feeling however does not extend beyond that which may be apprehended by reason and the senses, which may be heard, seen, felt and known by the outward senses; For this cause feeling is opposed to faith and faith is opposed to feeling. Therefore the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes of faith: “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.” For if we would see Christ visibly in heaven, like the visible sun, we would not need to believe it. But since Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification, we cannot see it nor feel it, neither can we comprehend it with our reason. Therefore we must disregard our feeling and accept only the Word, write it into our heart and cling to it, even though it seems as if my sins were not taken from me, and even though I still feel them within me. Our feelings must not be considered, but we must constantly insist that death, sin and hell have been conquered, although I feel that I am still under the power of death, sin and hell. For although we feel that sin is still in us, it is only permitted that our faith may be developed and strengthened, that in spite of all our feelings we accept the Word, and that we unite our hearts and consciences more and more to Christ. Thus faith leads us quietly, contrary to all feeling and comprehension of reason, through sin, through death and through hell. Then we shall see salvation before our eyes, and then we shall know perfectly what we have believed, namely, that death and all sorrow have been conquered.

14 Take as an illustration the fish in the water. When they are caught in the net, you lead it quietly along, so that they imagine they are still in the water; but when you draw them to the shore, they are exposed and begin to struggle, and then they first feel they are caught. Thus it also happens with souls that are caught with the Gospel, which Christ compares with a net, Mt 13,47. When the heart has been conquered, the Word unites this poor heart to Christ and leads it gently and quietly from hell and from sin, although the soul still feels sin and imagines to be still under its power. Then a conflict begins, the feelings struggling against the Spirit and faith, and the Spirit and faith against our feelings; and the more faith increases, the more our feelings diminish, and vice versa. We have still sins within us, as for instance pride, avarice, anger and so forth, but only in order to lead us to faith, so that faith may increase from day to day, and the man become finally a thorough Christian and keep the true sabbath, consecrating himself to Christ entirely. Then the conscience must become calm and satisfied and all the surging waves of sin subside. For as upon the sea one billow follows and buffets the other, as though they would destroy the shore, yet they must disappear and destroy themselves, so also our sins strive against us and would fain bring us to despair, but finally they must desist, grow weary and disappear.

15 In the second place, death is still at our elbow. It also is to exercise the faith of him who believes that death has been killed and all his power taken away. Now, reason feels that death is still at our elbow and is continually troubling us. He who follows his feelings will perish, but he who clings to the Word with his heart will be delivered. Now, if the heart clings to the Word, reason will also follow; but if reason follows, everything will follow, desire and love and all that is in man. Yea, we desire that all may come to the point when they may consider death to be dead and powerless. But this cannot come to pass until the old man, that is the old Adam, be entirely destroyed, and meanwhile that process has been going on of which Christ speaks in Mt 13:33, where he compares the kingdom of God to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal. For even if the kneading has begun, the meal is not yet thoroughly leavened. So it is here. Although the heart clings to the belief that death and hell are destroyed, yet the leaven has not yet worked through it entirely. For it must penetrate and impregnate all the members of the body, until everything becomes leavened and pure, and there remains nothing but a pure faith. This will not be brought about before the old man is entirely destroyed; then all that is in man is Christlike from center to circumference.

16 These two things, sin and death, therefore remain with us to the end that we might cultivate and exercise our faith, in order that it may become more perfect in our heart from day to day and finally break forth, and all that we are, body and soul, become more Christlike. For when the heart clings to the Word, feelings and reasoning must fail. Then in the course of time the will also clings to the Word, and with the will everything else, our desire and love, till we surrender ourselves entirely to the Gospel, are renewed and leave the old sin behind. Then there comes a different light, different feelings, different seeing, different hearing, acting and speaking, and also a different outflow of good works. Now, our scholastics and papists have taught an external piety; they would command the eyes not to see, and the ears not to hear, and would put piety into our hearts from the outside. Ah, how far this is from the truth! But it comes in this way: When the heart and conscience cling to the Word in faith, they overflow in works, so that, when the heart is holy, all the members become holy, and good works follow naturally.

17 This is signified by the sabbath that was to be hallowed and on which the Lord lay quietly in the grave. It signifies that we should rest from all our works, should not stir, nay, should not allow any sin to stir within us, but we should firmly believe that death, hell, sin and the devil are destroyed by the death of Christ, and we are righteous, pious, holy and therefore contented, experiencing no longer any sin. Then all the members are calm and quiet, being convinced that sin and death are vanquished and prostrated. But this cannot be brought about, as I have said, until this impotent, wretched body and the old Adam are destroyed. Therefore it is indeed necessary that we are required to keep this sabbath. For as Christ lies in the grave on the sabbath, never feels nor moves, so it must be with us, as we have heard: Our feelings and actions must cease. And I say again that this cannot be accomplished before the old Adam is annihilated. Nevertheless we still experience sin and death within us, wrestle with them and fight against them. You may tie a hog ever so well, but you cannot prevent it from grunting (until it is strangled and killed Ed. 1530). Thus it is with the sins in our flesh. As they are not yet entirely conquered and killed, they are still active, but when death comes, they must also die, and then we are perfect Christians and pure, but not before. This is the reason why we must die, namely, that we may be entirely freed from sin and death. These words on the fruits of the resurrection of Christ may suffice for the present, and with them we will close. Let us pray God for grace that we may understand them and learn to know Christ aright.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:1-8. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 1-3 (or Mt 28:1-3 or Lk 23:56-24:2 or Jn 20:1); the second in verses 4-6 (or Mt 28:4-6 or Lk 24:3-5 or Jn 20:2), and the last in verses 7-8 (or Mt 28:7-8 or Lk 24:6-7 or Jn 20:3).]]

Sermon for Easter Sunday; Mark 16:1-8 (3rd Sermon)



1 This Gospel lesson is part of the general account and the first announcement of the resurrection of Christ, which was made by the angel to the women who went early to the tomb to anoint the dead body of the Lord, before Christ showed himself to them and talked with them; inasmuch as he wanted to reveal his resurrection through the Word, even before they should see him and experience the power of his resurrection.

2 And as we said there are two ways of considering Christ’s passion and death and the other doctrines of Christ, so there are also two things concerning the Lord’s resurrection that we ought to know and understand. First, the history which relates the events as they occurred, together with the different circumstances and how he revealed himself alive in various manifestations; so that we might have a sure record and testimony of everything as a foundation and support of our faith, inasmuch as this article of faith on the resurrection is the chief one upon which our salvation is finally based, and without which all others would be useless and altogether fruitless.

Now, what a person ought to know about the historical events, namely in what order these two events, the appearance of the angel — which is reported in part in this Gospel — and the manifestation of the Lord occurred, that should be discussed in connection with the full account, compiled and arranged in order from all the Evangelists; therefore, we will treat the part mentioned in this Gospel in connection with that account.


3 The second point, that is more important and necessary, and on account of which the narrative has been recorded and is preached, is the power, benefit and comfort of the joyous resurrection of the Lord; and the use we are to make of the same faith. Concerning this Paul and all the apostles and the entire Scriptures teach and preach gloriously and richly; but most gloriously of all did Christ the Lord himself preach, when he manifested himself first of all to the women. Therefore, in order that we too may hear and gather something useful from it, let us consider the words Christ spoke unto Mary Magdalene, as recorded in the Gospel according to John 20:17: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father; but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.”

4 This is the first sermon our Lord delivered after his resurrection and, without doubt, also the most comforting; although in words very brief, but exceedingly kind and tender, and spoken first of all to his beloved Mary Magdalene, and through her also to his disciples after their deep woe, grief and sorrow, caused by his departure and death, that he might comfort and gladden them by his resurrection. And since this Mary is far more deeply and tenderly concerned about the Lord than the others, and is first at the grave to anoint the body of Christ with costly spices; and especially because, when she fails to find him, she is frightened and bewildered, deeply troubled and in tears, supposing him to have been taken away; therefore, he permits her to enjoy this evidence of his love, in that he appears first of all to her, comforting her in her fears, and preaching this beautiful sermon, which we will now consider.

5 In the first place, when Jesus manifests himself to her not far from the tomb, before he speaks to her, she mistakes him for the gardener; but when he calls her by name and says “Mary,” she immediately recognizes the voice, and at once turns with that name upon her lips by which she as well as the other disciples had been accustomed to address him in their language, namely “Rabboni,” that is: O dear Master, or dear Lord, for they would say Master, whereas we generally say, My Lord, and immediately, as she was accustomed to do, she falls at his feet to touch him. But he restrains her and says: “Touch me not,” as though he meant to say: I know indeed that thou lovest me, but thou canst not yet rightly look upon nor touch me, as thou shouldest look upon and touch me.

For her joy is no higher or greater than the mere bodily, fleshly pleasure of having her Lord alive again as she had him before; clinging thus only to the fact of his return, and thinking that he will again be with them as he had been before, to eat and drink with them, to preach and do miracles; intending therefore, by her service and by touching his feet, to show him that love she had shown him before, when she anointed him both in life and in death.

6 He does not permit himself to be touched in this manner now, however, because he wants her to stand still and listen, and learn what as yet she knows not; namely, that he refuses to be touched and anointed or to be served and waited upon, as she had done heretofore; but he says ‘ I will tell thee something different and new’ I am not risen in order to walk and remain with you bodily and temporally, but that I may ascend to my Father; hence I do not need or desire such service and attention, nor will it do to look upon me as you look upon Lazarus and others, still living in the body. For it is not here that I intend to dwell and abide; but I would have you believe that I go to the Father, where I will rule and reign with him eternally, and whither I will also bring you out of your death and sorrow. There you shall have me visibly and tangibly with you indeed, and you shall rejoice forever in eternal communion with me and the Father.

Therefore, he wishes to say: Refrain henceforth from all such bodily service and reverence, and go rather and become a messenger, and proclaim what I tell thee unto my dear brethren, that I will no more be and abide here in bodily form, but that I have left this mortal state to enter upon a different existence, where ye may no more handle and touch me, but shall know and possess me only in faith.

7 Here he uses language entirely new, when he says: “Go and tell my brethren,” taken from Psalm 22:22, which treats entirely of Christ, and in which he speaks both of his passion and resurrection, saying: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren, etc.” Never had he spoken in this manner to his apostles before. For at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, he indeed calls them his “dear children” and his “friends,” John 13:33; John 15:14; but now he employs the most affectionate and glorious name possible and calls them his “brethren.” And it is of great importance to him; for he does not delay, but as soon as he is risen, his first concern is to have them told what he intends to do and why he is risen from the dead.

8 And, indeed, this is said in a manner that is lovely and sweet beyond all measure, so that whoever desires to believe, has reason enough to believe, all his life and as long as the world endures, that these things are true indeed; even as the dear apostles themselves had found in them encouragement enough, and more than enough, to believe. For the comfort is too great and the joy too glorious, and the heart of man too small and narrow to have attained it.

9 The Apostles crouched behind barred doors, not only discouraged and cowed, as sheep that are scattered without a shepherd, but also troubled in conscience. Peter had denied and renounced his Lord with an oath, and cursed himself; and the others had all fled and proved themselves to be disloyal. That was indeed a fall so deep and terrible that they might well think they would never be forgiven for denying the Son of God, and so shamefully forsaking their dear Lord and faithful Savior. How could it have ever entered their hearts that Christ would send such an affectionate greeting and such a kind good-morning to them who had been so disloyal and denied him, and would not only forgive everything, but also call them his dear brethren? Or who can believe and grasp it today? I myself would like to believe it at times, but I cannot get it into my heart so completely that I dare rely upon it wholly, and dare count it to be really true. Yea, if we only could, we would be in heavenly bliss already in this life, and would fear neither death, nor the devil, nor the world, but our hearts would constantly bound for joy, and sing to God an eternal Te Deum Laudamus, i.e. We praise thee, O God.

10 But alas, this is not the case upon earth; our miserable beggar’s bag, this old hide of ours, is too cramped. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must come to our rescue, not only to preach the Word to us, but also to enlarge and impel us from within, yea, even to employ the devil, the world and all kinds of afflictions and persecutions to this end. Just as a pig’s bladder must be rubbed with salt and thoroughly worked to distend it, so this old hide of ours must be well salted and plagued until we call for help and cry aloud, and so stretch and expand ourselves, both through internal and through external suffering, that we may finally succeed and attain this heart and cheer, joy and consolation, from Christ’s resurrection.

11 For, let us consider for a moment what manner of words these are, which Christ here uses; and let us not pass lightly over them, as has been done heretofore, and is still done in all popedom, where we have read, heard and sung them until we are weary; and nevertheless we have passed over them, as a cow walks by a sanctuary; so that it is a sin and a shame to have heard and known such words, and still to let them lie, cold and dead, outside of the heart, as if they were spoken and written altogether for naught; and that even Christians themselves, though they do not despise them as others do but use them daily, neither appreciate them as highly nor believe them as firmly as they would like to do.

12 For consider, I say, what these words contain and offer: Go my dear sister, for thus he would undoubtedly address these women, since he appeared unto them first, and tell the denying and disloyal disciples that they are called, and shall be, my dear brethren. Isaiah not this, in a word, including and placing us with Christ into the complete tenure and inheritance of heaven and of everything Christ has? Rich and blessed indeed must be the brethren and sisters who can boast of this Brother, not hanging now upon the cross, nor lying in the grave under the power of death, but a mighty Lord over sin, death, hell and the devil.

13 But how have these poor, frightened and discouraged disciples come to such honor and grace, and wherein have they deserved such brotherhood? Was it by Peter’s shameful denial of Christ, and by the disloyalty of all the others to him? And how have I and others deserved it to apply this also to ourselves? I, who have read the idolatrous mass for fifteen years blaspheming God and helping daily to crucify Christ afresh? Fine merit this, forsooth, riding to hell in the devil’s service and looking to other brotherhoods, — those of the devil and his clique, bearing the names of dead saints, St. Anthony, St. Francis, St. Sebastian, St. Christopher, St. George, St. Ann, St. Barbara, concerning some of whom it is not known whether they were saintly, yea, whether they ever lived at all. Fie! what a sin and shame for us, who are called Christians, to have had this brotherhood of Christ the Lord, so graciously offered us, and then to despise and reject it, and fall into such deep blindness as to have ourselves inscribed in the rascally brotherhood of the shameful monks and of the whole herd of the pope, and to preach about and praise this as though it were a precious thing indeed!

But that is what the world deserves. Why did we not appreciate the Word of God that was written, painted, played, sung and rung before our eyes and ears? And even now, that the Word of God itself points this out, and rebukes us, we cease not to blaspheme and to persecute; whereas we ought to thank and praise God for having so graciously delivered us, without, and contrary to, any merit of our own from such blindness and blasphemy, and for having vouchsafed unto us grace to recognize it.

14 Now let him who can believe it. For whether we believe it or not, it is the truth none the less. This brotherhood is founded among us, and is not such a brotherhood as our loose Kaland
The Kaland, i. e., a brotherhood that assembled monthly on the Calands, or first of every month, gradually became more noted for its feasts of revelry than for its piety. Sander's Fremdwoerterbuch.
, and the brotherhood of the monks, but it is that of Christ, wherein God is our Father and his own Son our brother, and where such inheritance is bestowed upon us as assures not merely a hundred thousand dollars, one or more kingdoms, but in which we are redeemed from the fellowship of the devil, from sin and death, and obtain the inheritance and possession of eternal life and eternal righteousness; and though we were once in sin, worthy of death and eternal damnation, and are so even now, we should know that this brotherhood is greater, mightier, stronger and superior to. the devil, sin and all things. We are not fallen so deeply’, and things are not so bad and ruined that this brotherhood cannot arrange and fully restore everything again, inasmuch as it is eternal, infinite and inexhaustible.

15 For who is he that has instituted this brotherhood? The only Son of God and almighty Lord of all creatures, so that on his own account he did not need to endure suffering or death. But I have done all this, he tells us, for your sake, as your dear Brother, who could not bear to see, that you, eternally separated from God by the devil, sin and death, should so miserably perish; hence I stepped into your place and took your misery upon myself, gave my body and life for you that you might be delivered; and I have risen again to proclaim and impart this deliverance and victory to you, and receive you into my brotherhood, that you might possess and enjoy with me all that I have and hold.

16 Thus you see, it is not enough for Christ that the historical fact has occurred, and that as far as he is concerned everything is accomplished; he infuses it into us and creates a brotherhood from it, so that it may become the common possession and inheritance of us all; he does not place it in praedicamento absoluto, but relationis, namely, he has done this, not for himself personally nor for his own sake, but as our Brother and alone for our good. And he does not want to be considered and known otherwise than as being ours with all these blessings, and that we, on the other hand, are his; and that we are therefore so closely united that we could not be more intimately related, having a common Father, enjoying an equal, common and undivided estate, and authorized to use all his power, honor and estate, to boast of it, and to comfort ourselves with it, as though it were our own.

17 Who can fully, comprehend this? and what heart can sufficiently believe that the Lord is so completely ours? For, indeed, it is a thing too great and unspeakable, that we poor, miserable children of Adam, born and grown old in sin, are to be the real brethren of supreme Majesty, joint-heirs and joint-rulers in eternal life; as St. Paul so gloriously declares, Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7: “And if children then heirs, heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ, etc.” For all this follows in order: if we are called the children of God, then we must truly be also his heirs, and brethren and joint-heirs of Christ the Lord, who is the only essential Son of God.

18 Hence, let him who can learn rightly to begin to pray the Lord’s Prayer; and to know what it signifies for me to call God my Father, and for me most truly and fully to regard and consider myself his dear child and the brother of Christ the Lord, who has shared with me everything that he has and placed me in possession of his eternal treasures. Here examine and ask your own heart, whether without doubt and wavering you can thus say from the bottom of your heart: “Our Father;” whether you are firmly grounded upon and can be assured before God: I consider myself thy dear child, and thee my dear Father, not because I have merited it, or could ever merit it, but because my dear Lord wants to be my Brother, and of his own accord has proclaimed it and invited me to regard him as my Brother, and has said that he would also regard me as such.

Only begin this, I say, and see how you will succeed in the task; and you will soon discover what an unbelieving knave is hidden in your bosom, and that your heart is too dull to believe it. O, I am such a poor sinner, nature exclaims, how dare I exalt myself so highly, seat myself in heaven and boast that Christ is mine, and I am his brother! For this greatness and glory is so exceedingly high, beyond all human sense, heart and thought, that we cannot comprehend it; even as Paul himself also confesses in Philippians 3:12, that he is pressing on to. lay hold of it, but has not yet attained it. Yea, man is astounded and terrified at himself for presuming to receive and boast of such honor and glory.

19 But, what shall we do? We must indeed say, and it is true, that we are poor sinners, and with St. Peter, we have denied our Lord (I especially above others). But what shall we do about it? It is enough and more than enough that which I did against him in falling away from him and making myself a knave. Should I, in addition, make him a liar and a knave, and deny this comforting proclamation, and blaspheme? God forbid!

20 Yea, says the devil, through my flesh thou art not worthy of this. Alas, it is true; but if I would not believe and accept it, I would have to, make my Lord a liar, and declare that it is not true when he tells me that he is my Brother. God forbid that I should do this, for that would be rejecting my God and all my salvation and eternal blessedness, and to trample it under foot.

21 This, therefore, will I say: I know very well that I am an unworthy being, worthy to be the brother of the devil, not of Christ and his saints; but now Christ has said that I, for whom he died and rose again, as well as for St. Peter, who like myself was a sinner, am his brother; and he earnestly would have me to believe him, without doubt and wavering, and would not have me consider that I am unworthy and full of sin, because he himself will not so consider nor remember it, as indeed he well might do, having abundant cause to repay his followers and visit upon them what they committed against him. But it is all forgotten and blotted out of his heart; yea, he has slain, covered and buried it; and he knows nothing to say of them now but that which is kind and good, and he greets them and addresses them affectionately as his faithful, dearest friends and pious children, as though they had not done any wrong, nor grieved him, but had done only good to him; so that their hearts may not be uneasy or worried with the thought that he would remember it and charge it against or visit it upon them. Since then he does not want it remembered, but wants it slain and buried, why ,should not I leave it at that, and thank, praise and love my dear Lord with my whole heart, for being so gracious and merciful? Even though I am laden with sin, why should I go on and brand as a falsehood this gracious Word, which I hear himself speak; and willfully reject the proffered brotherhood? If I do not believe it, I will not receive its benefits; but that neither renders it false nor proves that anything is lacking in Christ.

22 If anyone now desires to load himself down with new sins, and does not want forgotten what he has forgotten, let him then so sin that it never will be forgotten, and he never can be helped; as we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hebrews 4:4-6, and Hebrews 10:26, concerning those who have sinned by falling away from God’s Word and rebuking it as a lie. This is the sin against the Holy Ghost and is described as crucifying the Son of God afresh and putting the Spirit of grace to an open shame. From this may God protect all who desire to be Christians!

Alas, there is too much of the old blindness and folly, in which we have been enveloped hitherto. This ought to perish and be forgotten, now that we have become his brethren, if we only accept it. If we cannot believe as firmly as we ought, let us begin, like young children, to drink at least a little spoonful of this milk, until we become stronger, and not thrust it from us altogether.

23 Therefore, though your own unworthiness rebukes you, when you engage in prayer, and though you think: Alas, my sins are too many, and I am afraid that I cannot be Christ’s brother, strike out about you and defend yourself as best you can, that such thoughts may find no room in your mind. For here you are in great danger of committing the sin against the Holy Ghost. With all confidence and boldness reply to such thoughts of the devil: I know very well what I am, and you need not tell nor teach me, for it is not your business to judge this case; therefore, away, thou lying spirit! I will not and must not listen to thee. Here is my Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who died for me and rose again from the dead; he tells me that all my sins are forgotten, and that he will be my Brother, and that I likewise am to be his brother; and it is his will that I should believe this from my heart without wavering.

24 A knave and a villain, yea, a brother of the wretched devil himself must he be who would not accept this. Though I be not worthy of it, yet am I in great need of it; and even if that were not so, God at least is worthy that I should honor him and judge him to be the true God. But should I not believe, I would, in addition to all other sins, in this worst possible way heap dishonor upon him in violation of the first commandment, in making him a liar and a vain God. What greater wickedness and blasphemy has any man ever heard or proclaimed?

Much rather do thus: When you feel that it is too hard for you to believe, fall down upon your knees and complain to God of your inability; and say with the apostles: “O, Lord, increase our faith.” Luke 17:57. I would at heart gladly count thee my dearest Father, and Christ my Brother, but my flesh, alas, will not submit; therefore help my unbelief that I may honor thy name and hold thy Word to be true.

25 See, in this way you will yourself experience what a great conflict it requires to believe God’s Word and to pray the Lord’s Prayer aright; not as though this Word in itself were not sure, steadfast and strong enough, but that we are so weak, yea, so much like wretched, unstable mercury that we cannot hold fast that which is well worthy of being held with hands and hearts of steel and adamant.

26 Formerly, when we were led astray and cheated with lies and false worship, we could hold fast and comfort ourselves with firm, though false, faith in all the saints and the brotherhoods of the monks; and joyfully said: Help, dear lord St. George, or St. Anthony, and St. Francis, and let me enjoy the benefit of thy intercessions! There was no doubting or opposition then; this occupation was agreeable to us, and we had fists and strength of iron to believe. But here where Christ, the Truth itself, offers us his fellowship, even invites and urges us in the most affectionate manner, saying: Beloved, receive me as your Brother, he cannot succeed in leading us to believe and accept it. So mightily do the flesh and the devil resist and oppose it.

27 Therefore, I say, it is best for each one, when he goes into his closet and begins to pray, to make an effort to understand what he is saying, and properly to weigh two words, “Our Father.” For example: My friend, what are you praying? How does your heart respond? Do you truly regard God as your Father, and yourself as his dear child? No, indeed, says the heart, I do not know; how can I presume to ascribe a thing so great and glorious to myself? Then why do you not refrain from prayer, when with your lips you call God your Father, while your heart gives the lie to yourself and to him as he has revealed himself in his Word? Rather, confess your weakness and say: I indeed call thee my Father, and ought to call thee so, according to thy Word and command; but I am afraid that my heart is lying like a knave. And the worst of it is, not that I myself alone am lying; but that I accuse thee also of falsehood. Help me, dear Lord and Father, that I may not make thee a liar; for I can not become a liar myself without first having made thee one.

28 Therefore, though I realize and experience, alas, that I cannot say “Our Father” with my whole heart, as indeed no man on earth fully can, else we would already be in heavenly blessedness, yet will I make an attempt and begin, as a little child begins to nurse at its mother’s breast. If I cannot believe it fully, yet will not I count it a falsehood, nor say, nay. Though I cannot play the game as is proper, I will beware lest I play in opposition as the monks and the despairing hearts do, who fail to regard Christ as their Brother, but as an enemy and a taskmaster; for that would be turning him into the very devil. But I would daily spell at the letters, until I am able to repeat “Our Father” and this Sermon of Christ as well or as poorly as I may. God grant that though I stammer and stutter or lisp, I may to some degree at least accomplish it.

29 For, as already stated, this is the sin of all sins, that when God is gracious and wants all our sins forgiven, man by his unbelief rejects God’s truth and grace, and casts it away from him, and will not let the death and resurrection of Christ the Lord avail. For, indeed, I cannot say that this brotherhood, which brings us forgiveness of sins and every blessing, is my work and doings, or that of any man, or that anybody labored or sought for it. For this resurrection occurred and was accomplished before any man knew aught about it; and that it is proclaimed and preached to us is likewise not done through the word of man but by that of God; wherefore it cannot fail or lie. Since then it is solely the truth and work of God, it behooves us, under penalty of God’s extreme wrath and displeasure, to accept it as coming from God, and to hold it fast by faith, so that we may not fall into the sin that is unpardonable.

30 For whatever other sins there are, contrary to God’s command and Law, which consist of all that we are to do and that God demands of us, these are all covered by forgiveness, since we are never entirely free from them during our whole life; and if God were to reckon with us according to our life and conduct, we could never be saved. But he who will not believe the Word of Christ nor accept his work, sins a hundred thousand times more; for he strives against grace, and robs himself of forgiveness. For it is grace that saith: The law shall not hurt nor condemn thee, although thou hast sinned against it exceedingly, but these sins shall all be forgiven and taken away by Christ; since that is why he (lied for thee and rose again, and now presents all this to thee, through this proclamation of his brotherhood.

Now if you will not believe nor accept this, but stubbornly set your head against it, and say: I want no grace, what will then help you? Or what will you seek further, to obtain forgiveness and be saved? Yea, I will be a Carthusian friar, go barefooted to Rome and buy an indulgence, etc. Very well, go ahead as you will, not in God’s, but in the wretched devil’s name; for by this you have denied not only grace, but also the law, and are fallen from God completely, inasmuch as you seek such works and holiness as are not commanded by God, yea, are even forbidden.

31 Should not God be angry and punish us for daily babbling, singing and reading the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed without understanding, faith and heart, and for thinking nothing not only of Christ, but also of God’s Law; boasting instead and bringing before God only our own efforts and false spirituality, over and above and opposed to his grace and command, expecting thereby to reconcile him and earn heaven from him? This is what we deserve for despising God’s Word and this glorious, comforting proclamation of Christ; to. be shamefully blinded and cheated by the devil, and punished and plagued by the pope; as though God thereby said: Very well, if you will not have my Son as your Brother, and me for your dear Father, then take the pope with his monks, who point you away from the Gospel, the Creed and the Ten Commandments, to their shabby, stinking cowls and the devil’s brotherhood.

32 For since they did not want Christ to be and remain our Brother without our merit and worthiness, and to bring us God’s grace and forgiveness of sin; what is this but really and actually denying faith in God and his Son, as St. Paul says, Titus 1:16, even though they confess him with their lips? Just as I too did in my former blindness, when I helped to sing and read these words with others, and yet thought far more highly of my monkery and my own works.

For if I had accepted as true and certain what St. Paul says in Romans 4:25 that Christ died for our sins and was raised again for our justification, in order that we might become his brethren, then I would thereby have learned that my own works and my monk’s hood could not obtain this for me. Otherwise what need would there have been for Christ to go and take my sins and the wrath of God upon himself in his cross and death, and by his resurrection to place me into the inheritance of the forgiveness of sins, of eternal salvation and glory?

33 But now, inasmuch as they cling to their monkery, and seek God’s grace by their own merits, desiring thereby to get rid of and atone for their sins, they bear witness against themselves that they do not believe what they say with their lips: I believe in Jesus Christ who died for me and rose again, etc.; but they believe, on the contrary, in the cowl and cord of the barefooted monks, in St. Ann, St. Anthony, and in the devil (pardon me), in his rump. Because it is impossible for one who knows Christ in this brotherhood to be engaged in such follies as are taught and observed no.t only without faith and contrary to it, but also contrary to the commandments, and which are real diabolical sins, the sins of all sins.

34 Therefore, in opposition to all this, a Christian ought to acquire the custom of praying the Lord’s Prayer, firmly crossing himself and saying in thought: Keep me, dear Lord, from the sin against the Holy Ghost, that I may no.t fall from faith and thy Word, and may not become a Turk, a Jew or a monk and a papal saint, who believe and live contrary to this brotherhood; but that I may hold fast to a little fringe of the garment of this brotherhood. Let it be sufficient that we have believed and lived contrary to it so long; now it is time to pray God to make this faith sure and steadfast in us.

For if we have this faith, then are we healed and delivered from sin, death and hell, and are able to try all other spirits, to discern and reject all error, deception, and false faith, and to pronounce the sentence: He who dons the cowl and shaves his head in order to become holy, or joins the brotherhood of monks, is a mad, senseless fool, yea, a blind, miserable, unhappy and despairing creature; he who tortures himself with much fasting and castigation, like the Carthusian friars or Turkish saints, is already separated from God and Christ and condemned to hell.

For all this is nothing but blasphemy and contradiction of the blessed heavenly brotherhood of Christ. They may indeed pray and read a great deal about it, as Isaiah 29:13 says: “This people draweth nigh to me with their lips,” cometh before my face in the churches: with singing and ringing, “but their hearts are far from me.” What pleasure, think you, can he have in such saints, who outwardly act as though they were real children of God, reading and singing the Gospel, employing the most beautiful words and celebrating a glorious Easter festival in processions, with banners and candles, and yet, do not try to understand or believe it, but rather oppose it by their doctrine and life ?

35 For if they understood and believed it, they would not cling to their mockery and vanities, but would forthwith trample their cowls and cords under foot, and say: Fie upon this shameful brotherhood! To the wretched devil with it, for opposing the brotherhood taught me by the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer! For it is not worthy of notice or attention.

Thus Paul in Philippians 3:5, pronounces judgment upon his own holy life in Judaism: I was, says he, a pious, blameless man, not only in my own vain estimation, but according to the law of Moses; but when I learned to know Christ, I counted all my righteousness under the law loss, yea, not only loss, but I counted it refuse and filth. I indeed thought I was a great saint, that I had kept the law strictly and with all diligence, and counted this my highest treasure and greatest gain; but when I heard of this brotherhood and inheritance of the Lord Jesus Christ, O how my pride and the boast of my own righteousness left me so completely that I now shudder at it, and do not even want to think of it.

36 See, he extols the righteousness this brotherhood brings us in such a way that he belittles and thoroughly despises the life and the holiness of all men even when it is at its best according to the law of God, which law must indeed be kept, and than which there is verily nothing more praiseworthy and better on earth. And yet, because it still is our own effort and life, it cannot and shall not have the honor and glory of making us God’s children, and of acquiring the forgiveness of sins and eternal life; but this is effected when you hear the word of Christ, saying: Good-morning, my dear brother; in me thy sin and death are overcome, for all I have done, I have done for thee, etc.

37 This is the ground of St. Paul’s defiance of sin and death: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 and Hosea 13:14. As though he wished to say: In times past you were mighty, terrible foes, before whom all men, no matter how holy and pious, had to tremble and despair; but where are you now? How did I lose you so completely? Why, he replies, everything is swallowed up and completely drowned in a victory. But where is the victory, or whose is the victory? “Thanks be to God”, he replies in verse 51, “who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

38 This indeed is glorious and great boldness, possible, however, for such faith alone as that of St. Paul; yet which, as he himself laments, was not as strong as he desired it to be; still, he certainly had it, and was able to maintain it against the wrath and power of the devil. That we are not able to do likewise and are still so fearful and terrified at death and hell, is an evidence that we still have too little faith. Therefore we have the more reason to impel us to call upon God and pray and also to ask the supplications of our brethren to that end, and daily to work the Word into our hearts, until we too, in some degree, obtain this assurance.

39 Let our adversaries laugh us to scorn and derisively say that we know how to teach nothing but faith, and let them cry that we must rise far higher and do far more. But if we only had faith enough, we would soon attend to everything else. For the chief and most necessary thing, of which they know nothing, is, how to get rid of the terror of sin, death and hell, and how to acquire a peaceful conscience before God, so that we may be able truly and heartily to pray “Our Father.” Where this has not been found everything else is in vain, though we should torture ourselves to death with our works. But since everybody comes short in this respect, we need not be ashamed of learning and being concerned about these things daily, as we are about our daily bread, and in addition we should ask God to give us power and strength. Amen.

No Commentary on these verses is yet included

This module currently includes commentaries on:

  • I. Gen 4:8-9:29
  • II. Ps 82
  • III. the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7)
  • IV. the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-Luke 1:55)
  • V. Galatians
Also included are Prefaces to:

  • I. Old Testament (at Gen.0.0)
  • II. Job
  • III. Psalms
  • IV. Proverbs
  • V. Ecclesiastes
  • VI. the Prophetic Books (not including Lamentations)
  • VII. the New Testament (at Matt.0.0)
  • VIII. Acts
  • IX. all Epistles
  • X. Revelations
Lastly, this module contains sermons/commentaries from Luther's Church Postil. These mostly cover the readings from the standard 1-year lectionary, including:

  • I. Matthew:
    • {Mt 1:25 linked from Lk 2:21}
    • 2:1-12
    • {Mt 2:13-23 linked from Lk 2:39}
    • 4:1-11 {links to Mk 1:12-13, Lk 4:1-13}
    • {Mt 4:18-22 linked from Lk 5:1-11}
    • Mt 5-7 postil entries not included because of the more complete commentary on the Sermon on the Mount
    • 8:1-13 {links to Mk 1:40-45; Lk 5:12-16; Lk 7:1-10}
    • 8:23-27 {links to Mk 4:35-41; Lk 8:22-25}
    • 9:1-8 {links to Mk 2:1-12; Lk 5:17-26}
    • 9:18-26 {links to Mk 5:21-43; Lk 8:40-56}
    • 11:2-10 {links to Lk 7:18-35}
    • {Mt 12:22-30,43-45 linked from Lk 11:14-28}
    • {Mt 13:1-9,18-23 linked from Lk 8:4-15}
    • {Mt 13:16-17 linked from Lk 10:23-37}
    • 13:24-30
    • {Mt 14:13-21 linked from Jn 6:1-15}
    • 15:21-28 {links to Mk 7:24-30}
    • {Mt 15:29-39 linked from Mk 8:1-9}
    • {Mt 18:12-14 linked from Lk 15:1-10}
    • 18:23-35
    • 20:1-16
    • {Mt 20:17-19,29-34 linked from Lk 18:31-43}
    • 21:1-9 {links to Mk 11:1-11, Lk 19:29-40, Jn 12:12-19}
    • {Mt 21:12-13 linked from Lk 19:41-48}
    • 22:1-14
    • 22:15-22 {links to Mk 12:13-17; Lk 20:19-26}
    • 22:34-46 {links to Mk 12:28-37, Lk 20:41-44}
    • 23:34-39 {links to Lk 11:49-51; Lk 13:34-35}
    • 24:15-28 {links to Mk 13:14-23, Lk 21:20-24}
    • {Mt 24:29-51 linked from Lk 21:25-36}
    • 25:31-46
    • {Mt 28:1-8 linked from Mk 16:1-8}
    • {Mt 28:16-20 linked from Mk 16:14-20}
  • II. Mark:
    • {Mk 1:12-13 linked from Mt 4:1-11}
    • {Mk 1:16-20 linked from Lk 5:1-11}
    • {Mk 1:40-45 linked from Mt 8:1-13}
    • {Mk 2:1-12 linked from Mt 9:1-8}
    • {Mk 3:22-30 linked from Lk 11:14-28}
    • {Mk 4:2-20 linked from Lk 8:4-15}
    • {Mk 4:35-41 linked from Mt 8:23-27}
    • {Mk 5:21-43 linked from Mt 9:18-26}
    • {Mk 6:31-46 linked from Jn 6:1-15}
    • {Mk 7:24-30 linked from Mt 15:21-28}
    • 7:31-37
    • 8:1-9 {links to Mt 15:29-39}
    • {Mk 10:32-34,46-52 linked from Lk 18:31-43}
    • {Mk 11:1-11 linked from Mt 21:1-9}
    • {Mk 11:15-19 linked from Lk 19:41-48}
    • {Mk 12:13-17 linked from Mt 22:15-22}
    • {Mk 12:28-37 linked from Mt 22:34-46}
    • {Mk 13:14-23 linked from Mt 24:15-28}
    • {Mk 13:24-37 linked from Lk 21:25-36}
    • 16:1-8 {links to Mt 28:1-8, Lk 23:56-24:7, Jn 20:1-2}
    • {Mk 16:12-13 linked from Lk 24:13-35}
    • 16:14-20 {links to Mt 28:16-20})
  • III. Luke:
    • 2:1-14
    • 2:21 {links to Mt 1:25}
    • 2:33-40 {v.39 links to Mt 2:13-23}
    • 2:41-52
    • {Lk 4:1-13 linked from Mt 4:1-11}
    • 5:1-11 {links to Mt 4:18-22, Mk 1:16-20}
    • {Lk 5:12-16 linked from Mt 8:1-13}
    • {Lk 5:17-26 linked from Mt 9:1-8}
    • 6:36-42
    • {Lk 7:1-10 linked from Mt 8:1-13}
    • 7:11-17
    • {Lk 7:18-35 linked from Mt 11:2-10}
    • 8:4-15 {links to Mt 13:1-9,18-23, Mk 4:2-20}
    • {Lk 8:22-25 linked from Mt 8:23-27}
    • {Lk 8:40-56 linked from Mt 9:18-26}
    • {Lk 9:10-17 linked from Jn 6:1-15}
    • 10:23-37 {links to Mt 13:16-17}
    • 11:14-28 {links to Mt 12:22-30,43-45; Mk 3:22-30}
    • {Lk 11:49-51 linked from Mt 23:34-39}
    • {Lk 13:34-35 linked from Mt 23:34-39}
    • 14:1-11
    • 14:16-24
    • 15:1-10 {links to Mt 18:12-14}
    • 16:1-9
    • 16:19-31
    • 17:11-19
    • 18:9-14
    • 18:31-43 {links to Mt 20:17-19,29-34; Mk 10:32-34,46-52}
    • {Lk 19:29-40 linked from Mt 21:1-9}
    • 19:41-48 {links to Mt 21:12-13; Mk 11:15-19}
    • {Lk 20:19-26 linked from Mt 22:15-22}
    • {Lk 20:41-44 linked from Mt 22:34-46}
    • {Lk 21:20-24 linked from Mt 24:15-28}
    • 21:25-36 {links to Mt 24:29-51; Mk 13:24-37}
    • {Lk 23:56-24:7 linked from Mk 16:1-8}
    • 24:13-35 {links to Mk 16:12-13}
    • 24:36-47 {links to Jn 20:19-29}
  • IV. John:
    • 1:1-14
    • 1:19-28
    • 2:1-11
    • 3:1-15
    • 3:16-21
    • 4:46-54
    • 6:1-15 {links to Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:31-46; Lk 9:10-17}
    • 6:44-54
    • 8:46-59
    • 10:1-10
    • 10:11-16
    • {Jn 12:12-19 linked from Mt 21:1-9}
    • 14:23-31
    • 15:26-16:4
    • 16:5-15
    • 16:16-22
    • 16:23-30
    • {Jn 20:1-2 linked from Mk 16:1-8}
    • 20:19-31
    • 21:19-24
  • V. Acts (1:1-11; 2:1-13; 6:8-14 and 7:54-60; 10:34-43; 13:26-39)
  • VI. Romans (6:3-11; 6:19-23; 8:12-17; 8:18-22; 11:33-36; 12:1-5; 12:6-15; 12:16-21; 13:8-10; 13:11-14; 15:4-13)
  • VII. 1 Corinthians (1:4-9; 4:1-5; 5:6-8; 9:24-27; 10:1-5; 10:6-13; 12:1-11; 13:1-13)
  • VIII. 2 Corinthians (3:4-11; 6:1-10; 11:19-23, 12:1-9)
  • VIII. Ephesians (3:13-21; 4:1-6; 4:22-28; 5:1-9; 5:15-21; 6:10-17)
  • IX. Phillipians (1:3-11; 2:5-11; 3:17-21; 4:4-7)
  • X. Colossians (1:3-14; 3:1-7; 3:12-17)
  • XI. 1 Thessalonians (4:1-7; 4:13-18)
  • XII. 2 Thessalonians (1:3-10)
  • XIII. Titus (2:11-15; 3:4-8)
  • XIV. Hebrews (1:1-12; 9:11-15)
  • XV. James (1:16-21)
  • XVI. 1 Peter (2:11-20; 2:21-25; 3:8-15; 4:8-11; 5:5-11)
  • XVII. 1 John (3:13-18; 5:4-12)
  • XVIII. Isaiah (60:1-6)
[[Luther published two sermons for Luke 24:13-35. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 13-24 (or Mk 16:12); the other in verses 25-35 (or Mk 16:13).]]

A Sermon for Easter Monday: An Explanation of this Gospel and Further Instructions on the Lord's Supper; Luke 24:13-35



1 This Gospel, in one part, teaches and urges us to take pleasure in speaking and working for our Lord Jesus Christ. It does so by showing what fruit follows from such a course, although that fruit is not understood; and grasped so clearly as it ought to be. You see here that the two disciples are still full of unbelief; yet, as they are speaking about Jesus, and seemingly in vain, he can not remain absent from them; but draws near, opens their eyes and interprets to them the Scriptures. You ought to faithfully lay hold of this and retain it, for it is a precious thing. However, before I treat further of the Gospel, which is easy as to its history, I must first, for the sake of the simple and plain people, say a few things about the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

2 Beloved, you have heard that we preached who are worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper, namely, those who by the Word of God are moved in their hearts to believe, and that those who are not thus prepared ought to refrain from it. And it is right to deter everyone from rushing to it or going in one’s own preparation, as was formerly common. That is the right way to preach, and I would to God that many might be thus terrified. But again I notice in many, and in myself also, that the devil spirit presses the other side also too much, so as to cause hearts to be weary and backward in partaking of the communion, so that they never approach it unless they feel for a certainty that they are fervid in faith. This is also dangerous, since thereby we would do away with the preparation which was formerly customary, but would establish a new preparation that would also not be right.

3 We have rejected those who prepare to receive the sacrament by their own works, a thing that God abhors. But by so doing we may easily cause people to become slow, so as always to wait until God comes and gives us perfect faith, so that they may go. Hence we can never preach enough about faith, even if we preach long and earnestly about it, for our reason can never understand it. Hence, to meet this evil, we will treat it more at length and must divide it into two parts, or rather, into the two classes of persons who prepare to go to the Lord’s Supper.

4 In the first place we have taught that it did not profit any one to prepare for the sacrament by his own strength, as those did who endeavored by their confession and other works to make themselves worthy to receive it. This is a terrible error and abuse, and the only true advice we can give those who undertake such things is to refrain from them and to keep far from the sacrament.

5 The other preparation, that is made in faith, and of which we have said enough before, is right, as it comes and proceeds from God. It is not done in such a way that one always feels confident he is worthy. Where would faith be if that were the case? But it takes place thus: Without any of my preparing and doing, God’s Word comes to me. I may indeed go and hear it, or read and preach it, so that it thus enters my heart. And that is the right preparation, which is not made by the power and cunning of man, but by the strength of God. Hence there is no better preparation for all the sacraments than to permit and suffer God to prepare us. This is a brief talk about the preparation. And now we will consider the communicants.


6 The Gospel and Word of God, which is a speech or discourse about Christ, sometimes falls upon the ears of those who do not accept it or even despise it; and, as Christ says in Luke 8:5, it falls by the wayside, that is, into hard, unprepared hearts.

7 Then there are others who are vile rascals and live in open vice. Matthew 13:22. Even though they hear the Gospel and never really oppose it, they are not much concerned about it. As you see our fanatics do now, who can greatly talk and spit about it, especially when they are full, and make light of it. They have grasped nothing of it, except a glibness in talking about it. They are all wicked hearts. Of this class are also those who live in deep avarice, so materialistic that they feel it. And thus they live in other gross sins and have little reverence for the holy Gospel, even if they are able to talk glibly about it. But we never care to preach to them, for all is lost on them and the Gospel makes them neither humble nor hungry.

8 Thirdly, the very worst are those who besides persecute the Gospel. Of them Christ says in Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine.” These three sects do not belong to the Gospel Church, and we are not preaching to them. And I wish the law were enforced and they were punished, — these rude swine, — who talk so foolishly about the Gospel as if it were a story of Theodocius of Bern, or some other tale. If any one will be a pig let him know what is becoming a pig. I really wish I could exclude them from my preaching, that they might never hear it, and be far away from it. They can do nothing but misuse the Gospel to their own injury, and disgrace us, so that for their own sake the Word of God must suffer dishonor and abuse. Out with the dirty swine!

9 Finally, there are some who are like the people here in this Gospel. Behold, how they still lack in faith, for they speak in this wise: V.21. “We hoped he would redeem Israel.” As if they meant to say: We do not know what the result will be. It is clearly evident that it will amount to nothing. He is dead now and even if he came to life again and arose from the dead, he surely cannot redeem the people and become a king. And so they thought redemption was a failure. Therefore the two disciples here are the multitude that taste the Gospel in their hearts and dislike to have it despised and disobeyed; but still they are so timid that they hesitate to draw near because they feel they are neither strong nor fervid enough. They draw back and do not want to approach near until they feel and experience that they are strong in faith. These are persons to whom the Gospel belongs, even though they stumble at times, so that they become disgusted with themselves, feel their disease and wish to get rid of it, and are not hard of heart. These should be urged and drawn to Christ. We have never yet preached to any but such people.

10 For it is the nature of faith that a man knows his faults and earnestly desires to be free from them. No one dare wait until God performs a miraculous sign for him, and treats him differently from other people to whom he gives the signs in the Gospel and in the sacraments. God gave us the treasure and revealed it for the purpose alone that we should go and get it. Hence, when you feel your weakness, you ought to go and say: My Lord, I have fallen. I want to be strong. Now thou hast instituted the Lord’s Supper for us to kindle and strengthen our faith thereby and that we might be thus helped. So here I am and wish to receive it. This should be our comfort and we ought joyfully to use the Word and the sacraments when we feel our lack of faith, and rejoice to receive aid to seek help and strength. There our souls find it within us.

11 For you must not make Christ a tyrant, but accept him for what he in truth is and let him be unto you nothing but rich, abounding grace. However, if you feel in your heart you have not reached this point and do not believe, and yet would like to believe, you must after all not despair and shun the communion, but seek your help right there, so that your faith may be kindled and increased.

For, though some have been terribly punished for partaking of the sacrament unworthily and without faith, they are only those whom we described above, namely, the hardened, wicked hearts. You must do and think thus: Lord, see, that is thy Word and this is my sickness and failing. Thou thyself hast said, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. Do you think he said that to those who are already fervid and strong in faith? His kingdom is not established to the end of furthering the righteous, Matthew 9:3, but of helping sinners and making them righteous. 1 Timothy 1:15. Hence, whoever is weak and experiences it, should go to the communion and let God help him.

12 But there is another herd not on the right track. We have prophets abroad in the land who teach the people too freely to be bold and defiant, who speak with the divine Majesty as they would with a cobbler’s apprentice. These impudent and proud spirits are by no means to be followed. It is well for you to be backward and timid, and to fear and tremble. I like such fear. You just abide in it and go and have your conscience calmed. But such proud minds and unbroken hearts that act so defiantly and deal with God as if he must be afraid of them, he cannot tolerate.

13 Therefore you must humble yourself, and abide in fear so as to feel your struggles and weaknesses, and desire faith. If you experience that, then thank God, for that is a sure sign the Word has struck and moved you, and exercises, constrains and impels you.

What sort of faith would that be if I went and had no fear and anguish of heart to exercise my faith? For it is the very nature of faith, that it proves its strength in fear, in death and sins, and in all things that make a human being afraid and timid. Therefore if you feel thus, it is the proper time for you to go, for then your faith will find something to do. And to this end private confession is helpful. It is well to go to a pious man, and point out your need to him and ask advice, whether he thinks you are worthy to go to the Lord’s Supper, and then follow his advice. That is the real’ purpose of confession and of the sacrament. They are of no other use and are instituted for the purpose of assisting weak consciences that are burdened by their sins.

14 But you say: How then, if I am so inert and cold that I have no desire for it, still I feel that I need it; yet the Gospel and the sacrament do not satisfy me so that almost every spark in my heart is extinguished? Answer: You must not desist. For as long as you feel that you are not yet lost and not yet so wicked as those described above; for you always wish to burn with zeal. Therefore you must do as follows: Take to yourself the Word of God, go and hear it preached, read it, write it or even sing it, only so you live it and keep busy with it, then you will experience something. Then go to the Lord’s Supper and say: Lord, I am a lazy character; but I come that thou shouldst help me and kindle my heart. Add to it whatever words and thought you can think and say. You must not stop to think how to prepare yourself to be worthy for the communion; you are already prepared if you feel that you would gladly be helped, and your need constrains you to go.

15 It has often happened to me that I hesitated and thus departed farther from it, until I saw nothing helped me and I had to go. Thus you also will find that it is the devil’s spectre that draws people away so that the more they are afraid and wait until they experience faith in their hearts, the farther they drift from it. And at last, if they continue in this state, all desire and impulse, both toward the Word and the sacrament, dies out in them, and they never come. Hence you must put aside such thoughts and fear, and go and ask God to help you. If you do so often, you will experience that you will gain more and more desire for it, a thing you would not have gained otherwise. Therefore I wish you would do this, and that there were many to go to the sacrament in such a frame of mind and would gain more and more pleasure in it, and become stronger and stronger. But if you do not go, you will always remain cold and will ever grow colder and colder.

16 This ought to comfort you, and you will experience it if you try it. For it is impossible for God’s Word not to produce fruit and be a blessing. God spake as follows: “For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven and returneth not thither but watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11.

This Scripture ought to make us very bold and happy, if we have already grown cold. By the grace of God we have God’s Word and we ought to raise our hands and thank him for it. How many are there in the world who do not possess it? How could you otherwise have obtained it? There you have the whole supply and the preparation that serves it, and yet you have knavery enough to contend with it. Therefore, as God says that his Word will not return without fruit and if you use it not to make a mockery of it, but are in earnest about it, you will undoubtedly feel and experience something, and the more you use it, the more you will have this experience.

You cannot have evil thoughts in your heart if you take a portion of the Scriptures before you and read it, or you meet another person and converse with him about it. If you do this, evil lusts will succumb and the flesh will be subdued. I have often tried it, and if you try it you will also find the fruits and experience that it is as God says. What more do you wish prepared for you?

17 Isaiah it not enough that you possess God’s Word that draws you, and besides that you feel your distress driving you to it? And then Christ is there and waits to help you. What more shall he do? And there is nobody excluded but proud, insolent persons and the castaways that are not in earnest. Therefore you must go and remember that Christ looks more deeply into your heart than you do yourself, as you see in this Gospel. These two poor men would not have dared to wish for what meets them. Yet such grace is bestowed upon them that Christ himself comes to them, while speaking of him, and reveals himself so that they know him. This fills their hearts with joy that they could not tarry there but ran and told the other disciples how the Lord manifested himself to them. Then they are full of joy, as they would not have dared to wish; but still it was so deep in their hearts that they themselves did not perceive that they desired it, although their hearts were so set upon it that they would have loved to see nothing better than for the Lord Jesus Christ to rise from the dead and be king. Therefore God looks more deeply into the depths of the heart than we ourselves, and he also gives us more than we desire. Thus he does also here. If you feel that you are not so fervent as you would like to be, he looks more deeply into your heart than you do, since you are anxious to be fully set on fire and become a burning light. Therefore you ought not to flee from him, but approach boldly.

18 To this end many passages in Paul’s writings serve. For example, he says to the Ephesians: “The Lord is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20. Now we clearly see what he gives us when we receive it and we feel that we receive it with joy. Therefore St. Paul says that we do not see nor even think of it while we desire it; but the Lord, who searcheth the hearts, sees and understands our desire, and therefore he bestows upon us his grace abundantly. Thus we read of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, that she wept for her son during nine long years. It was her heart’s desire for him to become a Christian, and she devised many plans by which to bring him to Christ. She wanted him to marry a Christian woman who should make a plain Christian husband of him. But she did not dare to hope or expect him to become the man he did later, although she would have gladly seen it.

19 Then look at the examples all through the Gospel. St. Peter was too timid when the Lord wished to wash his feet and said, “Shouldest thou wash my feet?” and did not understand that his need compelled him, and his heart urged him, to see the necessity of Christ’s washing him, as he said soon after, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” John 13:9. And our heart is in the same condition, that we wish to see the Lord Jesus present, to help us, and yet we are so timid that we are afraid of him and do not think as much of his loving kindness as we freely profess to do. For, if we considered him to be what he is, we would say as Peter did, “Wash not my feet only, but also my hands and my head,” and think, now I will gladly go to him, even if I had a greater burden of sin.

There is likewise another example of St. Peter in Luke 5:6-8, when they sat in the ship and caught so many fishes that their nets broke. Then Peter was amazed, fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me, I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

Notice he was frightened and bids him to go away at the very time he ought to pray him to come. Thus our timid nature is ever afraid of Christ, in whom there is nothing but good, and who has come to help everybody.

That is why I said, we must not make a tyrant of Christ, but suffer him to be a dear Lord and Savior, who has no other desire but to help sinners, and to invite and attract everybody by his words and example.

20 This exposition of the nature of faith is clear enough, for our great trouble is that we do not really understand the nature of faith. Therefore do this: Begin and try it and you will experience it; and the more you practice it, the more comfort and strength you will experience; and the more unworthy you feel you are, the more you must appropriate God’s Word to yourself and practice it, hear or read it and speak about it, and you will always find and prove something that pleases and moves you. You should besides pray to God and say as the apostles did in Luke 17:5: “Lord, increase my faith.” Thus go and you will be strengthened. But if you dwell too much on your timidity you will never go; for then you will persist to feel and not to believe. You must experience your misery and struggles of conscience. Then is the time for you to go to the Lord’s Supper. Even if you are weak in faith you must not on that account step back, for he will not reject you since he has come for the sole purpose of strengthening the weak and comforting the despondent.

21 But I do not wish to have all this preached to hardened insolent characters and the fanatics, but only to consciences that are faint and weak, and occasionally fall, so that they do not despond, but know where to find help and comfort. On this point a father in the desert uttered a wise saying. When he saw that a brother was weak and faint, he said: No, my brother, thou must not withdraw thus and go back, for thou mightest go back so far that thou couldest not return. For it is to be feared that the longer we stay away, the colder and lazier we become. They ought to stay away, as we have said at length, who lead a wicked and immoral life and do not intend to amend their ways. But those who know their weaknesses and want to be rid of them and see that they cannot help themselves, they should come to the communion for help.

22 From this you see why God instituted and ordained that his Word should be preached; and therefore it ought not to be despised. It is true that the Word without the Spirit is of no use; but since God Almighty himself said, as we have heard, “My Word that goeth forth out of my mouth, shall not return unto me void,” it must not be despised. For through his Word he gives the Holy Spirit into your hearts and will not suffer you to gape and wait for a miraculous sign from heaven, to be done on you, and thus to ignore his Word and sacrament. He himself highly esteems and praises the Word, for he has decreed to give his grace through it, as Christ says, “No man can come to me, except the Father that sent me, draw him.” John 6:44. How does the Father draw us? Through Christ. How through Christ? By the Word. Thus he invites and calls you. If your need impels you, go then joyfully, tell your trouble bravely; but always bring the Word with you.

23 But leave it to God, how you may remain steadfast, and go now, while you have the Word and feel your misery. Then the Word itself will teach you how to prepare yourself aright. For then you must accuse yourself before God and say: Lord, I am a sinner and cannot help myself by my own strength, so I come to thee for help. If I have sufficient grace only to delight in the Word of God with my whole heart and I have joy and pleasure in it, I can surely remain steadfast. For it must be something great for God to give me his Word and cause it to be pleasing and attractive to me. Even if I am not so strong now as I ought to be, I shall grow stronger in time and at last reach the point when I can confess his grace without fear and devote my life to it. Therefore Christ says: “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you, for everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8.

24 Therefore I would faithfully admonish you to act wisely in this matter. We have justly condemned those who undertake to prepare themselves by their own works; but we have invited those who feel their need and see they can do nothing by their own power, and can find neither counsel nor help, for these use the Lord’s, Supper unto their personal salvation. Therefore, if you feel thus, go first to a pious man and tell him your distress and say, Lo, I have fallen and would like to obtain help and I ask for counsel what to do. Then he should comfort him and welcome him to the sacrament, so that he may exercise his faith and be strengthened. For it is instituted for this very purpose of ministering comfort and strength. Therefore let nothing keep you from the communion. If you feel bashful, it is well, for you must feel your unworthiness. If you however do not feel your guilt, you are not in a fit frame of mind to go, and it will be better for you to refrain from going.

25 Take the Gospel and the Holy Scriptures before you, the more the better, even if you already know them and have often read them. For it is certainly a suggestion of the devil who tries to tear from you your delight in the Word. He hates to have you come to it, for he knows very well what fruit it bears in you. If you are thus busy with the Word and strive to live it the best you can, you will see that Christ is with you and a fire is kindled in your heart. But the best is, for two or three earnestly to speak among themselves about it, so that the living voice is heard. Then you will be much stronger and the devil must yield. Thus all evil lust and thoughts disappear and thus will ensue such a light and knowledge, you have never before experienced. The only trouble is that we fools have such a great treasure lying before our doors and do not know how to use it. And the devil deceives us in order to draw us away from it and make us indifferent, because he can not overcome it. Therefore we must prepare to resist the devil’s suggestions and influence. In like manner Christ will come and reveal himself even though at first you are not aware of it; the more you speak about it and discuss it the more clearly you will recognize Christ and feel that he kindles your heart within you, as you heard in this Gospel of the two disciples journeying to, the village of Emmaus.


26 This I had to preach now concerning the Lord’s Supper and the Gospel, as God gave us the light, and I admonish you, my friends, to grasp and faithfully use it. If there be fanatics, who disgrace the Gospel, they ought to be punished by the civil authorities. But we must let them also hear, for the sake of the righteous, for we are to preach God’s Word publicly to everybody, since we do not know whom it may strike.

[[Luther published two sermons for Luke 24:13-35. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 13-24 (or Mk 16:12); the other in verses 25-35 (or Mk 16:13).]]

Sermon for Easter Monday; Luke 24:13-35


1 This Gospel brings out and enforces especially three thoughts on the article of faith concerning Christ's resurrection. First, that this narrative transpired and was written along with others as a sure witness and proof of our faith in this article of our Creed. First, in that we see these two disciples leave the company of the others, full of unbelief in the resurrection. They commune together about the things that transpired as if they despair of Christ, and he is now dead and forever buried in their hearts, who does nothing more and is unable to do anything. This appears from their own confession where they say: V.21. “We hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yea, and besides this, it is now the third day since he is dead.” And though they had heard from the women that these had seen a vision of angels who told them that Christ had risen and was alive, yet they urged that he had not been seen or found by anyone. In the second place--and this is the most important fact--we here see Christ not only showing himself alive to the unbelieving disciples, so that they might become assured of his resurrection and return at once to announce it to the others, and to hear the same truth from them, the testimony on both sides agreeing and being thereby established; but also that Christ, before they knew him, proved fully and clearly from the Scriptures that it behooved Christ both to die and to rise again from the dead. For this reason he upbraided them for their unbelief because they ought to have known the Scriptures concerning Christ, since he himself had taught them that his sufferings were foretold in the Scriptures.

2 The second thought this Gospel presents is an example of the power and fruit of the resurrection as manifested in these two disciples while they are talking of him and listening to his preaching. This also is nothing less than a portion of the proof of his resurrection. For Christ here proves by word and deed that he is not dead, as they believed before, but works in them and exercises his power through the Word, even before they know him, and makes believers of them who have another mind, reason, heart, and will. This they also recognize and confess, saying: V.32. “Was not our heart burning within us while he spake to us, etc?” After this manner he still works in the whole Christian church; though unseen, he yet carries on his work and shows his dominion in that, as the living Lord, he enlightens them through his Word, comforts and strengthens them, defends them with his power and keeps them against the wrath of the devil and the world.

3 As a third truth, we are here shown in what manner Christ reveals his resurrection, and how it may be be known and apprehended, namely, above all first through the Word and faith, rather than through bodily vision or sensation. Therefore he is unknown to them at first when he comes to them and walks with them, though he is with them in very truth, the selfsame Christ whom they had so often seen and heard and known full well. Yet now they do not know him at all, because they know that he had died and had been buried the third day before; and hence can think of him only as a dead man. So strange and unknowable had he become to them that they would not have known him, had he stayed with them ever so long, until he announced to them his resurrection and preached about it. The text says: V.16. “Their eyes were holden, that they should not know him.” It was not he who had been changed, nor was it his will to remain unknown to them, but their hearts and thoughts had become estranged and far removed from his. In the same way neither Magdalene nor the other disciples recognized him until they had heard the Word of his resurrection.

4 His purpose is to show and teach us that the power of his resurrection and dominion will be exercised here on earth, and manifest itself in this life only through the Word, and through faith which holds fast to Christ, though it does not see him, and thus conquers sin and death in him, lays hold of righteousness and life, etc. This is a brief summary of the story contained in this Gospel, in so far as it pertains to the article of faith on the resurrection in general; of which we lately heard more.

5 But the special purpose of this Gospel is to show us how weak in faith the disciples were, and how Christ in his kingdom manifests himself to such persons of weak faith, and how he deals with them. For we see from the whole story of Christ's resurrection, as recorded in the Gospels, how the Apostles, and all the other disciples after them, were so weak in their faith in this doctrine, even to the time of his ascension, that he had to upbraid them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen, Mk 16:14. They manifested this weakness, though he had often told them from the Scriptures that he must be crucified and rise again on the third day, etc.

6 From this we learn, in the first place, that even in those who have become true Christians, weakness and frailties remain, especially in the deeper matters of doctrine and faith, they being unable to understand them or to grasp them as firmly and strongly as they ought. For faith is not so light or easy a matter as ignorant and inexperienced people fancy, and as our coarse blockheads, the popish dunces, pretend, who believe that faith is no more than to have heard the history and to know it. Having heard or read just once what the Gospel tells of Christ, these people fancy that they have fully understood and believed it, and henceforth need no longer to learn and believe it.

7 That this is naught but an idle, vain fancy, is proved by their own confession that this knowledge of the Bible story rests in their hearts as a cold, lifeless thing, a mere empty husk, lacking all life-giving power, of no use or help to them, neither giving strength nor making them better; whereas this great, exalted miracle of Christ's resurrection was peformed and is to be preached, learned, and known, to the end that it may be fruitful in us, quicken and kindle our hearts, and work in us new thoughts, new knowledge, new forces, life, joy, comfort and strength. If this does not take place, the story has been heard in vain, and is dead within you, being of nor more value to you than to Turks and heathen who have never heard it, or have not believed it to be true. You dare not boast of faith, though

froth on your tongue, or a sound in your ears, or a dream in your memory give witness that you have heard the story, of which your heart has neither experienced nor tasted aught.

The papists show plainly, in all their doctrine and life, that they do not from their hearts believe and hold fast to this article of faith, because they seek the power and effect which ought to come from the resurrection of Christ in themselves and outside of Christ, teaching that it must be sought and obtained through their own works and merits, while they condemn, blaspheme, and persecute the saving doctrine that tells us to turn from these foolish lies to Christ and to the power of his resurrection.

8 Christians, however, and true believers know by sad experience in others as well as in themselves how weak they are, and they deplore the fact that they are unable to grasp this doctrine, or to hold it fast in their hearts with as strong a faith as they ought. Their entire life is spent in combating this weakness, as even Paul says in Phil 3:12, that he had not grasped it, nor was already made perfect, but that he was pressing on, if so be that he might lay hold of it, and obtain a knowledge of the power of Christ's resurrection, etc.

9 For though this doctrine is most delightful and comforting in itself, full of joy and blessedness, and ought to find its way gently and easily into the heart, yet it is hindered by two great obstacles which make it difficult to believe. In the first place, this work of God is much too exalted and too great in itself for us ever to understand thoroughly in this life, even if our faith were perfectly strong and without weakness; for not until we are in the life beyond will we ever truly see and feel its full force and power. In the second place, our own flesh and blood, and the hearts of all men, are by nature much too weak and too fearful to believe God's Word; and must be filled with fear and terror when they contrast the greatness of this work with themselves and their own unworthiness.

10 God cannot overlook the first cause and obstacle nor have patience with it; for this work must and shall remain as great as it is, and it dare not be belittled; yea, it must be the power to which all creatures, men, angels, the devil, and hell, must yield and be subjected, because it is necessary for our salvation. For if this were not so, we would continue in sin, death and the eternal wrath of God. The other obstacle, namely, that we are too weak to grasp this great work and power by our faith, God may overlook and have patience with; as we here see Christ doing with his disciples, who had certainly heard he had risen, and yet were full of such great and heavy doubts that they almost despaired of Christ entirely saying, V.21. “We hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel.”

11 Behold, how earnestly he looks after these two of weak faith, and cares for them, doing everything to lift them out of their weakness, and to strengthen their faith. Because he sees and knows that in great sorrow and sadness they had departed from the other Apostles and do not know what to think or hope, he is determined not to leave them in such doubt and temptation. In order to help them out of it, he becomes their companion on the way, leaving behind all the other Apostles, though they too were assembled in great sorrow and very weak faith. But because these two are in great danger of total unbelief, he at once comes to them, as if he had nothing else to do now that he was risen; he speaks to them in the friendliest way, and reasons with them from the Scriptures, gives them occasion to retain him and to ask him to abide with them, to eat and to drink in their company, until their faith is quickened once more, and they are relieved of all doubts. Their faith grows so strong that they recognize him as the same Christ who had been with them before in life, and whom they had seen crucified three days ago, but had been unable to recognize on the way by reason of doubt and the weakness of their faith.

12 It is, therefore, his purpose to teach us by this narrative, given for our instruction and consolation, how his work is to be done in the Christian church after his resurrection, namely, that he will not reject nor cast out those who are weak in their faith, yea, not even those who are held in error or ignorance, or who are otherwise weak, fearful, and despairing. They are rather the very persons in whom he will exercise and manifest the power of his resurrection, not only by inviting them to come to him, but also by coming to them, and treating them in the gentlest and kindest way, talking with them, teaching and instructing them, yea, even eating with them, until at length they grow strong and secure in their faith; while their hearts, so sad and sorrowful for a time, are again filled with joy. Thus we also should know and have this comforting assurance that he is our Lord who is able to bear with our infirmities and to overlook them; that he will not reject and condemn those unable to believe and live at once as they should, if only they do not in their hearts despise and deny Christ and his Word, but delight in him and love him, and truly desire to become strong and perfect in faith and life.

13 Looking at these disciples, weak and unreasonable as they are, one sees that their hearts nevertheless were in a state that they felt kindly toward Christ, delighted both to speak of him and to hear him spoken of, and had no greater desire than that what they had heard concerning his resurrection might be true. But the thing was much too great for them to believe, so that they were as yet quite unable to accept it as true--just as it is also too high and too great for us. This our dear Lord knows and sees full well, and so he is better able to have patience with us, is satisfied and pleased if only we listen to him as his pupils and are willing to be taught and directed by him.

14 Furthermore, he thereby wishes to teach us how to conduct ourselves in his kingdom, particularly towards those who are weak and infirm in faith. We also ought not hastily to reject and condemn those whom we see erring or stumbling; but also have patience with them, even as Christ had with us and still must have every day. For though in his own person by virtue of his resurrection he is in divine might and power Lord of heaven and earth, yet he rules his Church in a way to exercise and manifest the power of his resurrection in his poor, weak band by serving them with this power and might for their consolation and growth.

15 In harmony with this example, though we be strong we ought not to take pleasure in ourselves nor boast, but rather let our gifts and powers serve the weak, striving to uphold and reform them by instruction, consolation, encouragement, friendly admonition and reproof, etc., just as one must act kindly and considerately toward weak, frail children and invalids, nursing, lifting and carrying them until they are grown and can stand on their own feet.

16 This is one of the chief points of knowledge to be gained from the Gospel, in regard to the kingdom of Christ, how it is arranged and governed, namely that it is a government under which Christians, who have begun to believe and are holy, are nevertheless beset with frailty, ignorance, and other sinful infirmities. He bears and overlooks these shortcomings, but with the expectation that improvement shall ensue. Hence we must not dream of a church on earth in which there is neither frailty nor error in faith, as the papists boast that their church and church councils cannot err, etc. For here we are told that not only these two disciples, but all the other apostles erred in the leading and most necessary article of faith, abiding in their unbelief until Christ himself drew them out by means of many and various sermons and revelations. During the three days after Christ's crucifixion, faith in his resurrection had completely died in all hearts; indeed, that light was kept burning nowhere except with Mary, his mother, who preserved within her heart all that she had heard from him and others, and was comforted and sustained thereby in her great grief over the sufferings and death of her son.

17 For faith in Christ must always continue and be preserved somewhere in the Church; there must always be some who have the truth and confess it, though their number be small, and the most fall into error, as they did here. If there are not more, there must be a Mary to keep the faith. He permits it to happen that many great saints err and stumble, in order that we may not trust in men, though they be many, great, and holy. We must be led to rely upon the Word that is sure and cannot deceive, as here these two men, and all the others afterward, were directed to the Scriptures.

18 Aside from this, let us not overlook the example contained in this Gospel which urges and admonishes us to speak and hear of Christ gladly, and to study the Scriptures and God's Word, though it may not always be understood and affect us as it ought. The Gospel also shows us the power, blessing and effect of the Word, if approached with a sincere heart.

19 For, in the first place, although these two disciples were still filled with unbelief, yet he will not and cannot be separated from them, because they went their way communing sorrowfully with one another about Christ, and questioning together almost without result. He at once drew near and went with them and soon touched their hearts and minds. He began a beautiful, masterly sermon, such as they had never heard before, concerning the very article of faith which caused them trouble and doubt. Then, in the second place, they immediately feel its power; their hearts are no longer heavy, slow, and cold to believe as before, but are moved and kindled, and enlightened and receive a new understanding, so that now they begin to know the Scriptures aright, and what they had never understood before, becomes clear and manifest to their souls. Finally the mask and cover are taken away from their hearts and eyes, so that they no longer look upon him as a guest and a stranger, but truly know him and feel that he is no longer far from them, but at their side, and works certainty in their faith. Henceforth they no longer need bodily, visible revelations, but go forth at once to preach to others, and to strengthen and aid them against doubt and unbelief.

20 Therefore we should follow their example, and gladly hear the Word of God, without growing weary. For this is not only a needful practice for the strong and for the weak, for the wise and for the unwise, by which a knowledge of everything we need unto salvation is given-- such study can never exhaust it--but it is also the punishment through which God wishes to work within our hearts, to give faith and the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says in Rom 10:17: “Belief cometh by hearing the Word of God.” If man studies earnestly, even though the heart be cold and unwilling at first, if he only continues in the work, it will not be in vain, and the effect will be produced that the unwise and erring will be brought in and made better, the weak will be strengthened, and at last the heart will be kindled and enlightened, so that Christ is better understood and known from the Scriptures.

21 And even though there were no other benefit to be derived from this study, we ought to be urged to it by the fact that it pleases God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and renders him a service. We know that he will surely not be far from us when we do so, as he himself has promised, Mt 18:20: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” If he is with us, the angels certainly are near also and take pleasure in our work, while the devil is driven away and has to retreat as he left Christ when he conquered him with the Word of God. Mt 4:11.

22 There is a legend, telling us that an old patriarch living in the desert received peculiar visions and revelations from God. When he happened to be among young people, listening to their conversation, he saw that whenever they spoke of the Scriptures and things divine, beautiful young men consorted with them and joyfully smiled upon them; but on the other hand, whenever their conversation became wanton and silly, the same young men turned away displeased and sad, and dirty black hogs came and wollowed at their feet etc.


23 Let this be enough concerning the chief points of the story of this Gospel. There remains one other important part, the sermon Christ preached to the disciples from the Scriptures, in which he briefly showed them that it behooved Christ to suffer and thus to enter into his glory etc. Of this, sermon the Evangelist speaks as follows:

V.27. “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

24 Without doubt this was a very beautiful and a model sermon. Now it is true we all would gladly know just the passages the Lord quoted referring to himself, by which he thereby enlightened, strengthened and convinced these disciples, since Moses contains so little, or nothing, as it would seem, of a plain statement on that of which Christ here speaks, that it behooved him to suffer, and to rise on the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name etc. For the Jews, who have had Moses so long and read him diligently enough even until the present day, have never yet discovered this rare truth in Moses.

25 But the Evangelist answers this and analyzes this argument by stating their heart burned within them while he opened to them the Scriptures, and in the Gospel following says Christ opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. Here is the point: Moses certainly writes concerning Christ and Christ is found in the books of Moses; but it is necessary not only to read, but also to understand what is said. Hence Paul says in 2 Cor 3,14-15 that the veil of Moses remains before the face of the Jews when they read the Old Testament, which only Christ alone can take away. And to his apostles Christ says, in Mt 13:11: “Unto you is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; the others, however, though they see and hear, yet they do not understand.”

26 Therefore the Bible is a book that must not only be read and preached, but it also requires the true interpreter, that is, the revelation of the Holy Spirit; as we learn from our own experience now-a-days that it is of no avail to prove most clearly from Scripture the articles of the true doctrine to our opponents and to point out their errors. Not a single article of faith has ever been preached that was not more than once attacked and denied by heretics, though they read the same Scriptures that we have.

27 But this revelation also requires pupils of the right kind, who are willing to learn and to be instructed, like these pious and simple-minded disciples, not wise and puffed up minds and self-made masters who reach beyond the very heavens with their knowledge. For this is a doctrine that makes our wisdom foolishness and blinds our own reason, before it can be believed and understood; for it is not born of man's wisdom, like other sciences and arts on earth, which have sprung from reason and can be grasped by means of reason. Hence it is impossible to attain to it by reason, and if you undertake to measure and reckon how far it agrees with reason, you will not succeed. All heresies from the beginning have had their origin here, and both Jews and Gentiles, and the Turks at present, grow foolishly violent in regard to our doctrine because it does not agree with reason and human wisdom. Only the pious, simple-minded people can grasp and understand it, who are true to this rule, and say: “God hath said it, therefore will I believe it;” as Christ himself declares in Mt 11:25 and thanks the Father with a joyful heart that he hides these things from the wise and understanding and reveals them unto babes.

28 There is no way out of it, wise people and proud reason cannot be taught these wonderful things, concerning Christ, that true man is God's Son from eternity, and yet he died and rose again, that in his human nature he has become Lord of heaven and earth, that he rules all creatures with divine power though no one sees him, and that we are saved by his merits alone, if we believe in him etc. Therefore God must needs establish the order that no one shall understand unless he is willing to be a fool, become a child, and believe in the simplicity of the heart.

29 Behold, what kind of people did he employ to be his first messengers, to proclaim and to witness his grandest work, the resurrection? Poor, ignorant women came to the sepulchre after useless expense and trouble in purchasing costly ointment and without considering that the tomb was covered with a heavy stone, yea, even sealed and guarded by soldiers. Yet these foolish persons are the first to whom Christ reveals his resurrection, and calls to be its preachers and witnesses. So also does he give these disciples a knowledge of the Scriptures which all the learned scribes did not possess, so that now they view Moses with different eyes and are forced to say: Behold, how often have I read and heard this before, but never understood it.

30 God would seem to say by this act: Very well, I see plainly that it is of no avail though everything be spoken and written in the very clearest manner; for in truth, all articles of faith are set forth clearly and tersely enough in the Scriptures. Take only the article on God and the creation, which certainly is told and given in the very plainest way; yet see the rabble of heretics it has made, Manichaeans, Valentinians, Marcionites, etc. Again, what did it avail that Christ himself, among his own people, confirmed his doctrine clearly and publicly by great miracles? Nothing more than that they began to twist both his words and his deeds, and called them the words and deeds of the devil and Beelzebub. Hence God must continue and say: Since they will not have and receive this Word as I give it to them, it shall remain hidden and unknown to them. I shall indeed have it written and preached in clear language; but reveal it to some few, simple-minded people who seek my Word. To the others it shall be mere darkness which may be felt, as among the Egyptians (though it shines and is preached most clearly), yea, it shall be naught but an offense and poison, against which they must stumble and fall in their blasphemies and contradictions, until they break to pieces.

31 Thus the Jews have had and have read Moses unto this day; yet all of them know nothing of what he speaks concerning Christ, yea, not even in minor articles of faith, just as their forefathers knew nothing of it, save some few who believed, as the prophets and the apostles after them, who elaborated their whole books from a single Bible passage. This enabled them to preach what everyone was compelled to acknowledge as true.

32 How did Christ stop the mouth of the Sadducees (who did not believe the resurrection of the dead and accepted no other Scripture but Moses), and convince them of the resurrection of the dead? He took the commonest saying in their religion, which all Jews knew and quoted every day, when God says, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob etc.” With these words he revealed Moses and drew the following conclusion: If you believe God to be God of those that are dead, how can he be God of those who have altogether ceased to be? Therefore, if he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as he himself declares, these men must be alive, though they have died as far as this life is concerned, and lie in their graves; for he cannot be God of that which does not exist. Hence Abraham, who now lies under the earth, and all the saints, must be alive before God, though they are dead before you; for this is, and will be, his name forever that he is the God of Abraham and of all who believe as he had promised him and all believers, saying: “I shall be thy God” etc.

33 Now who would have thought that these short, simple words are so full of meaning and furnish such an excellent, rich sermon, yea, that a big book might be written upon them? Though they know the books of Moses well enough, they yet declared that not a word concerning the resurrection of the dead was to be found in them. This was also the reason why they accepted Moses alone and rejected the prophets who nevertheless based all their preaching of the important articles of the faith in Christ upon Moses.

34 But let us look more closely at Christ's sermon and consider one of the passages from Moses which he quoted. Genesis 3:15 is the first word which promises grace, and was given to Adam and Eve, when he spoke to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” These words are read by Jews, Turks and heathens, and by human reason, but they all find them to be only hard pebbles, yea, dead and useless words, from which they cannot take anything even by their best efforts. But as soon as revelation comes to our aid, we understand them to mean: Through sin the serpent, that is the devil, has brought upon Adam and Eve sin and the eternal wrath of God. But in order to help them out of this dreadful fall and misery, into which they were led by Satan, God in his unfathomable mercy has found within himself this remedy that by the woman's seed, that is, by the natural offspring of a woman, that very head of the serpent, that is, sin, death, and everlasting wrath, shall be crushed and robbed of his power, so that he may no longer be lord of death, nor be able to keep man either in sin, or in God's wrath and condemnation.

35 From this an entire New Testament springs forth, all the discourses of St. Paul and the apostles, who do not tell a great deal of the life and miracles of Christ, but, where it is possible, use such a passage as a flower, so to say, with which to cover a great meadow, doing so by the aid of revelation and the Holy Ghost who knows how to grind and press the words thoroughly, so that they give forth the juice and power they possess. For these words show, in the first place, that this seed must be a natural child, born of a woman, but without sin; for the Scriptures testify that whatever is born into this world of man and woman, is born in sin and is under the wrath of God, as David says, Ps. 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity” etc. For this flesh and blood is completely permeated and corrupted with evil lusts and disobedience against God, and as this substance is corrupted in father and mother, it must remain so in the child; hence no man can be born from man and woman without a sinful nature. God, therefore, hath ordained to take a woman alone for the conception and birth of Christ, the promised seed without a man, she becomes the little child's mother, by the Holy Ghost, who causes this conception and birth in her, in order that he may be a natural man, having our flesh and blood, but without sin and power of Satan, whose head he was to bruise.

36 In the second place, if he was to be lord over sin and death, to subdue the devil and pluck us out of his hand, he had to have divine, almighty power. For though a man were altogether pure and without blemish of body or soul, as Adam was first created, yet were it not in his power and strength to take away this eternal misery and corruption, and to obtain and give in their stead unchangeable blessings and eternal life. Thus it follows that his power must be greater than that of all creatures, even all angels. Such power is found nowhere except in God himself, the Lord of all creation.

37 From this follows further that if he is born of a woman he is also mortal and must die in the body as others. And since he became man for our sake, and was sent by God to deliver us from sin and death, he had to take our place, to become a sacrifice for us, to bear and atone for that wrath and curse under which we had fallen and lay. But it was not possible for him to remain in death; since he was an eternal being he could not be held by it, as St. Peter says in Acts 2:31, and in like passages; but even his body ere it had seen corruption and decay. must needs pass through death unscathed and by his resurrection and eternal life begin to rule in everlasting power and eternal glory, in order to bring his own out of sin and death, and the power of Satan unto everlasting righteousness and life.

38 Note that this is but a simple passage, which Christ surely did not overlook but interpreted from his own wealth of knowledge, as being the first and chief passage, from which later on all the others flow. Here we see that these are words, or miracles, rather, which reason can never grasp or fathom. They can only be understood when the Holy Ghost accompanies them, and preaches and reveals them unto those who believe with singleness of heart and abide in them. Then they begin to taste the sweet savor, and receive spiritual nourishment, so that they must say: This will do it, this will enlighten the heart and set it aflame.

39 Thus the prophets viewed the saying of Moses and drew therefrom their glorious prophecies concerning Christ, as Isaiah (7:14) bases his prophecy of Christ's birth upon this passage with the plain statement, “Behold, a virgin shall receive and bear a son” etc., also the whole 53 chapter concerning his suffering and resurrection, how that he would offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins etc. All these words Christ doubtless quoted in his sermon.

40 The apostles likewise, being ignorant fishermen, learned to know the Scriptures, not in the schools of the great scribes, but through the revelation by which Christ led them into the Scriptures. Thus they were enabled to understand and to write on the basis of a single passage a book or a sermon the world cannot understand. And if I had the same Spirit Isaiah or Paul had, I could take this passage and develop from it a New Testament, if that were not already written.

41 How did St. Peter know, or where is written in Moses that which he says in 1 Pet 1:10-11: “Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you, searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto?” Who told him that the Spirit of Christ existed and prophesied of Christ, before there were prophets and, above all, before Christ and the Holy Ghost were present? Are these the words of a fisherman, or of a learned, wise scribe? Nay, it is the revelation of the Holy Spirit who had also revealed it to the prophets before. Again, where is written in Moses what the Epistle to the Hebrews says in 1:3-4, that Christ sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, to be Lord over all, having become much better and higher than the angels? etc. He certainly took it from the Old Testament, but he found it not by his own reason, but by revelation, hence he argues: thus: If Christ is a Son of God and Lord of the angels, he must certainly be more and of a better nature than the angels. Now every angel is more powerful than all the world and combined human nature; yet if this true child of a virgin is to be Lord, not alone of the evil spirits, but also of the good and holy angels, he must be of one power and essence with God. This nobody will say or believe, except by revelation. Therefore I would agree to take Moses, the Psalms, Isaiah, together with the Spirit whom these men had, and make a New Testament every whit as good as that which the apostles wrote; but because we have not the same wealth and power of the Spirit, we must be taught by them and drink from the fountain which they gave us.

42 Let this be enough concerning a single portion or a single passage of the sermon Christ spoke to these disciples, and wherewith he well and fully earned, yea, paid for the entertainment they furnished him at the inn. But to set forth all the other words of Moses and the prophets which they spoke of Christ, and which he explained, would be by far too great a task for one sermon; for it would in itself amount to a book as large as the Bible. But without doubt they were the same passages the apostles quoted afterwards as they heard them from his own mouth on this occasion, and learned to understand them better on the following day of Pentecost. A goodly number of these passages were quoted by them in their sermons, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles; and they are recommended for close study to every Christian, as he reads and ponders the Holy Scriptures. Then the Holy Ghost will be present with his power to give the right understanding, as we have heard, since he is the true interpreter, if only we treat them seriously and in the simplicity of the heart. The fruit thereof will be that we shall find Christ therein and learn to know him aright. This will quicken and kindle the heart, and fill it with comfort and joy.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:14-20. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 14-15 (or Mt 28:16); the second in verses 16-17 (or Mt 28:17), and the last in verses 18 (or Mt 28:18) (Parts 1,2), 19 (or Mt 28:19) (Part 3a), and 20 (or Mt 28:20) (Part 3b).]]

Sermon for the Day of Christ’s Ascension; Mark 16:14-20

1 We are to consider today the article of faith in which we say: “I believe in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father.” Our Gospel lesson briefly reviews the story of this ascension. But Luke treats the matter at greater length and writes, The Lord gathered all the disciples together, fully forty days after his resurrection, just as he had often shown himself to them, and spoke with them and gave them commandment what they should do; and as they were assembled together and spake with him out at Bethany, whither he had led them, some asked him, saying: “Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And he said unto them: “It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within his own authority. But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” And when he had said these things, he blessed them and bade them good night and departed from them and was taken up while they beheld him, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And as they stood there, gazing after him, gaping at the heavens, behold, there came and stood hard by them two men in white apparel, who said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.” Hereupon they returned from Bethany, from the mount of Olives, to Jerusalem and assembled in the upper room of the house where they were abiding, and continued with one accord in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus. This is the story of our Lord Jesus Christ's ascension. Now let us consider the Gospel.

2 In the first place, there are in this Gospel two parts: one where the Lord commands the apostles to preach the Gospel in all the world; the other, treating of his ascension. We shall pass over the beginning of the text, where the Lord reproves their unbelief and hardness of heart, and take up the part where he says: V.15. “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” Here you have in English what the Gospel really is, to wit: V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized, is saved.” In these words all is comprehended; he that has them, has the Gospel.


3 We have often said heretofore that the Gospel, properly speaking, is not something written in books, but an oral proclamation, which shall be heard in all the world and shall be cried out freely before all creatures, so that all would have to hear it if they had ears; that is to say, it shall be preached so publicly that to preach it more publicly would be impossible. For the Law, which was of old, and what the prophets preached, was not cried out in all the world before all creatures, but it was preached by the Jews in their synagogues. But the Gospel shall not be thus confined; it shall be preached freely unto all the world.

4 There is no need, therefore, of commenting on the text as some have done, and saying that omnis creatura (every creature) means a man. For there is no indication in these words that the Gospel shall be preached to men alone, but it shall be cried out before the whole creation, so that earth shall not have a nook or corner into which it shall not penetrate before the last day. Such is the counsel of God, wherein he has decreed that even they who cannot read and have not heard Moses and the prophets shall, nevertheless, hear the Gospel.

5 What is the Gospel? It is these words which the Lord speaks: V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We have often said--and I think we ought to thoroughly understand it by this time--that the Gospel cannot suffer us to preach works, however good and great these may be; for it seeks to pluck us down from our presumption and to set and plant us solely upon God's mercy, that his work and grace alone may be extolled. Therefore, it suffers us not to rely upon our works. For one of these two must perish: if I stand upon God's grace and mercy, I do not stand upon my merit and works; and, vice versa, if I stand upon my works and merit, I do not stand upon God's grace. For, “if it is by grace,” says St. Paul, Rom 11:6, “it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.” I cannot say that God owes me a reward, but I must confess that he has given it to me entirely as a free gift.

6 Hence, he that would preach the Gospel must cast aside all works that are calculated to make men just, and suffer nothing to remain but faith, or I must believe that God, without any merit of mine and regardless of all my works, has granted me his grace and eternal life, so that I am constrained to thank him and say: I rejoice, praise and thank God that he has freely and out of pure grace given me this most excellent boon. Likewise that the Gospel is, as Scripture says, nothing more nor less than a declaration of the honor, praise and glory of God. As we read in Ps 19:1-2: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” Therefore, we must preach in a way that the glory and praise will be given to God and not to ourselves. Now, there is no greater praise and glory that we can give to God than this, that we confess that he, out of pure grace and mercy, takes away from us sin, death, and hell, and gives his beloved Son for us, and all his treasures to us. Such a confession must give glory and honor and praise to him alone.

7 And this is the trend of all those passages in the prophets where God boasts that he will establish a preaching that will show forth his praise; as when he says in Is 43:21: “The people which I formed for myself, that they might set forth my praise.” As if to say: You hypocrites do no more than praise yourselves in your hearts and thus my praise must perish; for you make me a stern judge and an unfriendly God, so that secretly the people hate me and think within themselves: Ah, if we but had another God, one that would not require so much of us; such a one we would love. Therefore, I will form for myself another people, which shall know me and love me. When they see that I will not regard their works but will give them every good thing freely, their hearts will teem with joy and will never weary of my praise.

8 Therefore, beware of glossing the text and seeking to improve upon the words of Christ. Our doctors and colleges have tried to better them and have said these words must be understood thus: “He that believeth” (understand: and doeth good works), “shall be saved.” Who authorized them to make that insertion? Do you think the Holy Spirit was too stupid to make it? Thus they have utterly obscured, yea, perverted, this precious statement with their insertion. Therefore, take heed and let no one make an insertion for you, but abide by the text as it reads and understand it thus: “He that believeth shall be saved” without his merit, without any works. Why? For this reason: because God has caused to be preached and proclaimed unto us that he had his Son Jesus Christ come and take away sin and all evil. For he saw that we were not able to do it, that it was an impossibility for us to blot out sin with our works and powers. Otherwise he could have saved himself the trouble and expense of delivering up his own Son to suffer and die; and he has this preached to us in the Gospel.

9 Now what does such preaching call for? It calls for this, that I believe in it, for in no other way can I apprehend it. If you write it in a book, it will be of no use to any man, though you indulge in much thinking about it. Again, you may preach and speak about it, or hear it; it will be to no purpose. You must believe it and confidently rely upon it that the thing is as the Gospel says, that not your works but the Lord Jesus Christ's death and resurrection takes away your sin and death. This you can not attain to except by faith.

10 Again, Christ says: V.16. “He that disbelieveth,” even though he be baptized, “shall be damned.” These words, too, you must allow to remain just as they are. For he does not say thus: He that disbelieves and does evil works besides; but, without any varnish he says: If thou hadst the chastity of all virgins, the sufferings of all martyrs, and, to be concise, if thou hadst all the works that ever were done by all the saints--if thou hadst all these in a heap, yet, if faith were lacking, all would be lost.

11 Therefore, this is the passage whereby all cloistery, priest-craft, monkery and nunnery is overthrown; for it is a lost case. Do what you will, the sentence is already passed and the decree is already gone forth: If thou disbelieve thou art condemned already. Thus heavily and mightily do these two sentences butt against all doctrine and doing that are founded upon the works and powers of man.

12 Now, place the two side by side, and you can rightly conclude: Where there is faith, there cannot be so many sins, but they will surely be swallowed up and exterminated by faith; where there is unbelief, you will never be able to do good works enough to blot out the least sin. Little, therefore as sin can stand in the presence of faith, so little can good works abide with unbelief. Therefore, nothing is needed, in order to do good works, but faith; and nothing more is required, in order to do sin and evil works, than unbelief. Thus it follows that he who believes has no sin and does nothing but good works; on the other hand, he who does not believe, verily, does no good work, but all he does is sin.

13 Therefore I say, however, you cannot have committed so many sins, neither is Satan such an invincible enemy of yours, but that all is taken away and forgiven as soon as you begin to believe. For through faith you have Christ as your own treasure, who was given to you for the very purpose of taking away sin; and who will be so bold as to condemn Christ? For this reason, no sins can remain, however great they may be, if you believe. Thus, you are then God's dear child and all is well, and whatever you do is all right. If you do not believe, you are damned, all you may do to the contrary notwithstanding; for since you have not Christ, it is impossible for you to blot out a single sin.

14 Now, since there is no other means for taking away sin than Christ, you might ask: How is it then, that we are nevertheless required to do good works; if as you say, all depends upon faith? I reply: Where faith is genuine it cannot exist without good works. just as, on the other hand, where there is unbelief there can be no good work. Hence, if you believe, there must necessarily follow from your faith naught but good works. For, as faith brings you salvation and eternal life, so it also brings you good works; they cannot be restrained. Just as a living person cannot refrain from moving about, eating and drinking and laboring, it being impossible that such activities should cease while he lives, no one need command and drive him to do such works but--spare his life and he'll do them; just as all this is true in the physical life, so nothing more is required, in order that good works may be done, than faith. Only believe, and you will do all of your own accord.

15 Thus, there is no need of your demanding good works of him who believes, for faith teaches him all that; and, being done in faith, all he does is well done and all are good and precious works, however insignificant they may seem. Faith is such a noble thing that it ennobles the whole man. Now, it is not possible for a man to live on earth and not have anything to do. Hence all such works as are done by faith are precious works. On the other hand, where there is unbelief, a man cannot be without works, either; therefore, such works are likewise all sin. Christ is not there, therefore all is lost. Hence, the statement of St. Paul to the Romans, 14:23: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” As though he would say, on the contrary: Whatsoever is of faith is all grace and righteousness; that is a foregone conclusion. Hence, there is no need of asking whether good works shall be done, for they come of themselves, unbidden. Such is also the sense of the Psalmist, Ps 25:10: “All the paths of Jehovah are lovingkindness and truth.” That is to say, when God works and creates faith in us, all that we do is lovingkindness, and all is truth; that is, all is done sincerely and not from hypocrisy. It follows, however, on the other hand, that all the ways of men are not lovingkindness but sheerest wrath, not truth but mere sham and hypocrisy, because they spring from unbelief.

16 Beware, then, lest under any circumstances you gloss the text, and say: Faith alone is not sufficient; works, also, are necessary in order to justify. For it is sufficiently clear from what we have said that works contribute nothing to this end. Nothing does any harm but unbelief. Works are not sufficient. If faith were present, all would be well. Therefore, as works contribute nothing toward the evil in unbelief, so in faith they contribute nothing toward the good; but unbelief alone corrupts all works and faith makes all works good.

17 But there is still one more thing here, that Christ says: V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Here you might say: I perceive, then, that baptism is also required. To be sure it is, but baptism is not a work that we do. It is to be coupled, however, with faith, because God would not have faith to be hidden in the heart, but would have it burst forth and manifest itself to the world. For this reason, he ordained such outward signs, by means of which everyone may show and confess his faith, to the end that we may come to the holy cross. For, if faith were to be kept as a secret, hidden in the heart, we would be pretty sure of not having to bear the cross or to follow Christ; if the world knew not that we believed, we would not be persecuted.

18 In the second place, we would never be the means of leading a soul to repentance and faith if we did not openly confess the Gospel and observe an external sign whereby men might know who and where the Christians are. Now, God has so ordained that our faith should be manifested before the heathen; hence, whosoever is a Christian and has received baptism, is in danger of his life among the heathen and unbelievers. It is necessary that we receive baptism if we are Christians; or, if that is beyond our reach, that we say, at least: I sincerely desire to be baptized.

19 Moreover, the sign of baptism is given us also to show that God himself will help us, and that we should be certain of his grace, and that everyone be able to say: Hereunto did God give me a sign, that I should be assured of my salvation, which he has promised me in the Gospel. For he has given us the Word, that is, the written document; and beside the Word, baptism, that is the seal. So faith, which apprehends the Word, may be strengthened by the sign and seal.

20 But you see no work of man in this transaction; for baptism is not my work but God's. He that baptized me stands in God's stead and does not the work of a man, but rather it is God's hand and work. God is the real worker. Therefore, I may and should say: God, my Lord, baptized me himself, by the hand of a man. Of this I may boast, and on this I am to rely, and say: God, who will not and cannot lie, has given me this sign to assure me that he is gracious to me and willing to save me and has through his Son given me all that he has. Thus, on our side there is nothing but faith alone; and on his side, only the Word and the sign. But we have dwelt upon this matter often enough and there is no need of enlarging upon it now.

21 The following portion of our text speaks of the signs that shall accompany them that believe. We will not discuss these either at present, but pass on to the other part that we Have chosen to consider, and that treats of Christ's ascension.

22 In passing, be it said, however: We must not suppose that the signs here mentioned by Christ are all the signs that believers will do, neither must we imagine that all the Christians will do them; but Jesus means: All Christians can and may do the signs. Or, if I believe, then am I able to do them; I have the power. Through faith I obtain so much that nothing is impossible to me. If it were necessary and conducive to the spreading of the Gospel, we could do easily the signs; but since it is not necessary, we do not do them. For Christ does not teach that Christians practice the spectacular, but he says they have the power and can do these things. And we have many such promises throughout the Scriptures; for example, in Jo 14:12, where Christ says: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” Therefore, we must allow these words to remain and not gloss them away, as some have done who said that these signs were manifestations of the Spirit in the beginning of the Christian era and that now they have ceased. That is not right; for the same power is in the church still. And though it is not exercised, that does not matter; we still have the power to do such signs.


23 Now we must consider the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the first place, it is easily said and understood that the Lord ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. But they are dead words to the understanding if they are not grasped with the heart.

24 We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic and continuous, and must not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here. Nay, he ascended up thither for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion. Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have wrought so effectually, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near.

25 Reason cannot comprehend how this can be. Therefore it is an article of faith. Here one must close his eyes and not follow his reason, but lay hold of all by faith. For how can reason grasp the thought that there should be a being like ourselves, who is all-seeing and knows all hearts and gives all men faith and the Spirit; or that he sits above in heaven, and yet is present with us and in us and rules over us? Therefore, strive not to comprehend, but say: This is Scripture and this is God's Word, which is immeasurably higher than all understanding and reason. Cease your reasoning and lay hold of the Scriptures, which testify of this being-- how he ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God and exercises dominion. Let us examine some Scripture bearing upon this matter.

26 In the first place, Ps 8:4-6 says of Christ: “What is man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, and crownest him with glory and honor. Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” Here the prophet speaks to God concerning a man and marvels that God humbled, for a time, that man, when he suffered him to die, humbled him to the extent that it seemed as if God were not with him. But after a little while God exalted him, so that all things must obey him, both in heaven and on earth. To these words we must hold, to these words we must cling, in these words we must believe; for reason will not submit nor adapt itself to them, but says they are lies. Now, if all things are to be subject to this being and to fall at his feet, he must sit where he can look into the whole world, into heaven and hell and every heart; where he can see all sin and all righteousness, and can not only see all things, but can rule accordingly.

27 Hence, these are majestic and powerful words. They afford the heart great comfort, so that they who believe this are filled with joy and courage and defiantly say: My Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over death, Satan, sin, righteousness, body, life, foes and friends. What shall I fear? For while my enemies stand before my very door and plan to slay me, my faith reasons thus: Christ is ascended into heaven and become Lord over all creatures, hence my enemies, too, must be subject to him and thus it is not in their power to do me harm. I challenge them to raise a finger against me or to injure a hair of my head against the will of my Lord Jesus Christ. When faith grasps and stands upon this article, it stands firm and waxes bold and defiant, so as even to say: If my Lord so wills that they, mine enemies, slay me, blessed am I; I gladly depart. Thus you will see that he is ascended into heaven, not to remain in indifference, but to exercise dominion; and all for our good, to afford us comfort and joy. This is one passage.

28 Furthermore, in the second Psalm, verses 7 and 8, we read that God says to Christ: “Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possessions.” Here you see again that Christ is appointed of God a Lord over all the earth. Now, if he is my friend and I am persuaded that he died for me and gave me all things and for my sake sits in heaven and watches over me, who then can do aught to me? Or if any man should do aught, what harm can come of it?

29 Furthermore, David says again in the 110th Psalm, verse 1: “Jehovah saith unto my lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” And further on, in verses 5, 6, 7: “The Lord at thy right hand will strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He will judge among the nations, he will fill the places with dead bodies; he will strike through the head in many countries. He will drink of the brook in the way; therefore will he lift up the head.”

30 Again in still another Psalm, David says (Ps 68:18): “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led away captives; thou hast received gifts among men, yea among the rebellious also, that Jehovah God might dwell with them.” And all the prophets took great pains to describe Christ's ascension and his kingdom. For, as his sufferings and death are deeply founded in the Scriptures, so are also his kingdom, his resurrection and ascension. In this manner we must view the ascension of Christ. Otherwise it will afford us neither pleasure nor profit. For what good will it do you if you merely preach that he ascended up to heaven and sits there with folded hands? This is what the prophet would say in the Psalm: Christ is ascended on high and has led captivity captive. That is to say, not only does he sit up there but he is also down here. And for this purpose did he ascend up thither, that he might be down here, that he might fill all things and be everywhere present; which thing he could not do had he remained on earth, for here in the body he could not have been present with all. He ascended to heaven, where all hearts can see him, where he can deal with all men, that he might fill all creation. He is present everywhere and all things are filled with his fulness. Nothing is so great, be it in heaven or on earth, but he has power over it, and it must be in perfect obedience to him. He not only governs and fills all creation (that would not help my faith any nor take away my sins), but also has led captivity captive.

31 This captivity some have interpreted to mean that he delivered the sainted patriarchs out of the stronghold of hell; but that interpretation does not benefit our faith any either, for it is not particularly edifying to faith. Therefore, we must simply understand the matter thus: that he means that captivity which captures us and holds us captive. I am Adam's child, full of sin and foully besmirched; therefore, the law has taken me captive, so that I am fettered in conscience and sentenced to death.

32 From this captivity no one can free himself, save only that one man Christ. What did he do? He made sin, death, and Satan his debtors. Sin fell upon him as though it would vanquish him, but it lost the day; he devoured sin. And Satan, death, and hell fared the same way. But we are unable to do this unless he be present to aid us. Alone, we must needs perish. But he, since he had done no sin and was full of righteousness, trod under foot Satan, death and hell, and devoured them, and took everything captive that fain would capture us, so that sin and death no longer can do harm.

33 This, then, is the power he causes to be preached, that all who believe in him are released from captivity. I believe in him by whom sin, death, and all things that afflict us, were led captive. It is a pleasing discourse, and full of comfort, when we are told that death is taken away and slain, so that it is no longer felt. However, it affords pleasure and comfort only to those who believe it. You will not find release from captivity in your works, fastings, prayers, castigations, tonsures, and gowns, and whatever more things you may do; but only in the place where Christ sits, whither he ascended and whither he led captivity with him. Hence, he who would be freed from sin and delivered from Satan and death, must come thither where Christ is. Now, where is he? He is here with us, and for this purpose did he sit down in heaven, that he might be near unto us. Thus, we are with him up there and he is with us down here. Through the word he comes down and through faith we ascend up.

34 So, we see everywhere in the Scriptures that faith is such an unspeakably great thing that we can never preach about it sufficiently nor reach it with words. It cannot be heard and seen, therefore it must be believed. Such is the nature of faith that it feels nothing at all, but merely follows the words which it hears, and clings to them. If you believe, you have; if you believe not, you have not. In this wise must we understand this article of faith, that Christ is ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:14-20. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 14-15 (or Mt 28:16); the second in verses 16-17 (or Mt 28:17), and the last in verses 18 (or Mt 28:18) (Parts 1,2), 19 (or Mt 28:19) (Part 3a), and 20 (or Mt 28:20) (Part 3b).]]

Sermon for the Day of Christ’s Ascension; Mark 16:14-20 (2nd Sermon)

1 In today's Gospel there is again presented to us the essence of a Christian life, namely faith and love; just what you constantly hear in all the Gospel lessons. Since the Gospel ever holds up before you this theme, we must continually preach and discuss it; for Jesus says to his disciples: V.15, 16. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” We will consider the thoughts of this Gospel text in order.


2 First, Christ upbraids his disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart, and reproves them for it, and shows them their faults. He does not reject them, nor deal too severely with them, but reproves them; just as we would say to a person: Are you not ashamed that you dared to do such a thing? Meaning thereby to bring him to a knowledge of himself and make him blush with shame, that he may desist from his wicked intent or deed, though we do not reject him, nor turn our love from him.

3 However, it is not an insignificant matter here that the Lord rebuked the disciples; for unbelief is the greatest sin that can be named. Christ tells them the cause of their unbelief when he says that their hearts are hardened, yet he deals mildly and gently with them.

4 This is given to us all for our comfort, lest we despair when, lacking in faith, we doubt, stumble and fall; it is to help us to rise again, to strengthen our faith and lift up our hearts to God, that we may grasp and hold fast the confidence of God, who does not deal with us severely, but can indeed bear with us and overlook much. And whoever believes him to be thus, shall find him so; if we hold him to be a merciful God, he allows himself to be found merciful, and shows himself thus to us; but a bad conscience and an unbelieving heart have no such trust in God, but flee from him, and deem him a harsh Judge, which he, therefore, is found to be.

5 So should we also deal with our neighbor. If we see him fall from the faith, or err and sin, we should not strengthen him in his wickedness, nor justify his cause, but admonish him, and in meekness reprove his faults, yet neither hold enmity, nor turn our love from him. Thus St. Paul speaks to the Galatians: Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Gal 6:1. But our lord pope, the bishops, priests, monks and nuns allow no one to reprove them when they do evil; they are never willing to acknowledge that any fault is theirs, but always that of their subjects, and their policy toward subjects is one of strictness and severity.

6 To sum up all: We should expose and reprove what is wrong, and exercise truth and love toward everybody; we should be plain-spoken, not letting ourselves be silenced, for none of us, since we are flesh and blood, will so live as to be found without blame in all things. I in this, you in that. We all see, that even the apostles were lacking in the chief things yet they were corner stones, the foundations and the very best part of Christendom.

7 But let no one think that the apostles were altogether unbelieving; they believed what was written in the Law and the prophets, although their faith was not yet perfect. There was a faith there and yet no faith; they did not yet believe all things, although they believed that God created heaven and earth, and was the Maker of every creature. So the apostles were not altogether without faith, for they had faith in part. Faith is a thing that always grows. It is with faith as with a man who is ill and begins to get well - is increasing in strength. Therefore the Lord shows where they did not believe, and what they lacked; it was that they did not believe the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Although they believed the other things, they were still lacking in this. I hold that they believed that they had a gracious God. Yet this was not enough; they must believe also the resurrection of Christ. The Lord upbraided them with their unbelief, reproved them and said that in spite of all they had seen, they were not believing, they still lacked in a certain article of faith, namely the article on the resurrection. Hence Christ's words to them at the Last Supper: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Jn 14:1.

8 What does it mean, then, to believe the resurrection of Christ, this thing which is so important, and concerning which the disciples were called unbelieving and faithless, and without which nothing else that they believed would help them? To believe the resurrection of Christ, is nothing else than to believe that we have a Mediator before God. Who is Christ, who makes us holy and acceptable to God the Father. For man's possessions, by birth and nature, are but sin and corruption, by which he brings down upon himself the wrath of God. But God is eternal righteousness and purity, and therefore, from his very nature, hates sin. Hence there is always enmity between God and the natural man, and they cannot be friends and in harmony with one another.

9 For this cause, Christ became man and took upon himself our sins and also the wrath of the Father, and drowned them both in himself, thus reconciling us to God the Father. Without this faith, we are children of wrath, able to do no good work that is pleasing to God, nor can our prayers be acceptable before him. For thus it is written in Ps 18:41: “They cried, but there was none to save; even unto Jehovah, but he answered them not.” Yea, even our noblest deeds, by which we had thought to obtain from God mercy, help and comfort, are counted to us for sin; as the prophet says, Ps 109:7: “Let his prayer be turned into sin”; seeing God could not be reconciled by all our strength, for there is truly no strength in us.

10 Therefore Christ must come, that he might go before the Father's face, reconcile us to him, and obtain for us everything we lacked. Through this same Christ we must ask of God all we need. You have heard in last Sunday's Gospel that the Lord says: “If ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.” Whatever we obtain from God, we must receive through this Christ, who has gained for us a merciful Father. For Christ is our support and refuge, where we may hide ourselves, like the young chickens hide under the wings of the mother hen. Through him alone is our prayer acceptable before God and through him is it answered, and we obtain the favor and mercy of the Father; for Christ has made atonement for our sins, and an angry judge he has changed into a gracious and merciful God. To believe in the resurrection of Christ means, then, to believe, as I said, that Christ has taken upon his head our sins and the sins of the whole world, also the wrath of the Father, and thus drowned them both in himself, whereby we are become reconciled with God and altogether righteous.

11 Now, observe for yourselves how few Christians there are who have this faith, by which alone man is freed from his sins and becomes entirely holy; for they believe not in the resurrection of Christ, that their sins are taken away through Christ, since they attempt to become holy through their own works, This one runs to a cloister, that one becomes a nun, one does this, another that, in order to be free from sin; and yet they always say they believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, notwithstanding that their works prove the contrary.

12 The apostles have insisted upon and preached this article more than any other; thus St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians: “If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.” I Cor 15:14. And shortly, after in verse 17 he says: “If Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” What sort of a conclusion is this? What is its logical analysis? This: If Christ be not risen from the dead, then sin and death have devoured and slain him, and we cannot get rid of our sins ourselves. Jesus Christ took them upon himself, so that he might tread under foot sin, death and hell, and become their master. But if he be not risen, then he has not overcome sin, but has been overcome by sin. Also, if he has been overcome by sin, then he is not risen: if he be not risen, then he has not redeemed you; then you are yet in your sins. Likewise Paul speaks to the Romans: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Rom 10:9. Thereto all the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments agree.

13 Now, it is not enough that we believe the historic fact of the resurrection of Christ; for this all the wicked believe, yea, even the devil believes that Christ has suffered and is risen. But we must believe also the meaning--the spiritual significance of Christ's resurrection, realizing its fruit and benefits, that which we have received through it, namely, forgiveness and redemption from all sins; we must believe that Christ has suffered death, and thereby has overcome and trodden under foot sin and death, yea, everything that can harm us, and is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven as Almighty Lord over sin and devil, death and hell, and all that harms us, and that all this took place for our good. This the wicked do not believe.

14 You see how much depends upon this article of faith on the resurrection. We can better dispense with all the other articles than with this one What would it avail if we believed all the other articles, as that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, died and was buried, if we did not believe that he arose again? It is to this subject that God has reference in Habakkuk 1:5, when he says: “I am working a work in your days, which ye will not believe though it be told you.”

15 The importance of this subject is also the reason that Paul has urged and preached it, and in all his epistles has treated of no work or miracle of Christ so frequently as of his resurrection. He is silent concerning the many works and wonders of Christ, and preaches and teaches emphatically the benefit and the import of the resurrection of Christ--what we have received from it. No other apostle has portrayed Christ to us in the light that Paul has. Christ did not without meaning say of him to Ananias: “He is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel; for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake.” Acts 9:15-16.

16 Now, no good work will help those who do not have this faith in the resurrection, let them play the hypocrite as they will. To virgins, their virginity or purity is no help; nor to monks their long prayers. Here it avails nothing to preach of works, they are not even named; but everything must be obtained of God through Christ, as you have heard. So David prayed in Ps 84:9: “Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.” This is enough on the first part of this Gospel. Now follows in the text the words:

V.15. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.”


A. The Contents of This Commission.

17 What shall they preach? Nothing else, he says, than just that I am risen from the dead and have overcome and taken away sin and all misery. He that believes this, shall be saved; faith alone is sufficient for his salvation. Therefore, the Gospel is nothing else than preaching the resurrection of Christ: V.16. “He that believeth shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Here all works are abolished. Here you see, also, the nature and character of faith. Faith will compel no one to accept the Gospel, but leaves its acceptance free to everyone and makes it a personal matter. He that believes, believes; he that comes, comes; he that stays out, stays out.

18 Thus you see that the pope errs and does the people injustice in that he ventures to drive them to faith by force; for the Lord commanded the disciples to do nothing more than to preach the Gospel. So the disciples also did; they preached the Gospel, and left its acceptance to those who would take it, and they did not say: Believe, or I will put you to death.

19 A question arises about this passage, V.15. “Go ye into all the world,” as to how it is to be understood, since the apostles certainly did not visit all the world. No apostle came hither to us; and many a heathen island has since been discovered, where the Gospel has never been preached. Yet the Scriptures say: “Their sound went out into all the earth.” Rom 10:18. Answer: Their preaching went out into all the world, although it has not yet come into all the world. This going out has been begun and continues, although it is not yet completed; the Gospel, however, will be preached ever farther and wider, until the judgment day. When this preaching shall have reached all parts of the world, and shall have been everywhere heard, then will the message be complete and its mission accomplished; then will the last day also be at hand.

20 The preaching of this message may be likened to a stone thrown into the water, producing ripples which circle outward from it, the waves rolling always on and on, one driving the other, till they come to the shore. Although the center becomes quiet, the waves do not rest, but move forward. So it is with the preaching of the Word. It was begun by the apostles, and it constantly goes forward, is pushed on farther and farther by the preachers, driven hither and thither into the world, yet always being made known to those who never heard it before, although it be arrested in the midst of its course and is condemned as heresy. As we say, when one sends a message, the message has gone forth, although it has not yet arrived at its destination, but is still on its way; or as we say that the emperor's message is sent to Nurenburg, or to the Turk, although it has not yet arrived: so we are to understand the preaching of the apostles.

B. The Promise Attached To This Commission.

21 But there arises here another question from this passage of today's Gospel, V.16. “He that believeth, shall be saved:” whether faith is sufficient for salvation, and alone saves; or whether we must also do good works in order to be saved. Here our highly learned doctors have desired to control the Holy Spirit, to sharpen his tongue, and to place a little stick under his tongue, as if he could not speak plainly, and have forced and strained this passage, and so worn it out and rent it that no marrow nor vitality remains in it. They have said that good works are necessary to faith, and that faith is not sufficient for salvation. This is not true. Faith alone, of itself, without any works, as the Word of God here clearly says, brings us salvation, and works help nothing at all toward righteousness or salvation. We must let this passage stand bare and unadulterated, and without any addition. If the Holy Spirit had so desired, he could easily have said different words thus: “He that believeth and doeth works, shall be saved.” But he did not do this, therefore we should and will leave it as it is.

22 This I say to the end that you may fortify yourselves with such passages, holding to the true meaning of the words. Though there are many passages in Scripture teaching that faith alone saves, yet they have been so covered over and obscured, so shaken to pieces and stretched, by the sophists and scholars, that their right meaning has suffered. St. Paul says to the Galatians: “If righteousness is through the Law, then Christ died for naught.” Gal 2:21. That is to say: If we can be saved in any other way or work out our salvation, then Christ has died in vain; for to presume to be justified by the Law means to think that man can become righteous through his works.

23 Therefore to conclude: The chief righteousness is faith; the chief wickedness is unbelief. There is also no sin so great that it is able to condemn man; unbelief alone condemns all who are condemned. And again, only faith saves every one; for faith alone deals with God, no works can appear before him. For works have to do only with man, and man lets his works be made use of as he has made use of Christ's. They make no one holy; they are only the distinguishing marks of a man that has already become righteous through faith, which alone makes the heart pure.

24 I can easily assent to the saying: Works do not make you pious, but show that you are pious; or when I hear it said: He that believes, serves his neighbor, I admit that it is so. But that the explanation of this text should be, Faith is not sufficient for salvation, we must also do good--this is a liberty which the text can stand just as little as this church could stand that I should pull down its pillars. There follows further in the text:

V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

25 God has always accompanied his Word with an outward sign to make it the more effective to us, that we might be strengthened in heart and never doubt his Word, nor waver. Thus he gave Noah the rainbow in the heavens as a sure sign that he would keep his promise and not destroy the world by another flood. The rainbow is, so to speak, a seal or sign to Noah and to us all, just as a seal upon a letter certifies the document. And just as a nobleman has his own coat-of-arms of a particular device or color, by which he is known, so has God evidenced his words for us with signs, as with a seal, that we should never doubt. To Abraham he gave the rite of circumcision, to show that Christ should come and bless the world. Thus has he done here, adding to this promise of his--“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”--an outward sign, namely baptism, and also the sacrament of the bread and the wine, which was especially instituted for use in times of temptation, and when death draws near, that by it we might strengthen our faith, and remind God of his promise, and hold him to it.

26 A man can believe even though he be not baptized; for baptism is nothing more than an outward sign that is to remind us of the divine promise. If we can have it, it is well; let us receive it, for no one should despise it. If, however, we can not receive it, or it is denied us, we will not be condemned if we only believe the Gospel. For where the Gospel is, there is also baptism and all that a Christian needs. Condemnation follows no sin except the sin of unbelief. Therefore, the Lord says: V.16. “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned”; he says not: He that is not baptized. He is silent concerning baptism; for baptism is worth nothing without faith, but is like seals affixed to a letter in which nothing is written. He that has the signs that we call sacraments, and has no faith, has only seals upon a letter of blank paper.

27 Here you see also what is the office of the apostles, to which all the bishops, and those that call themselves ministers, should conform, inasmuch as they boast that they are the successors of the apostles in preaching the Gospel. For the Lord says here, V.15. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel.” Therefore, we should not listen to those who do not preach the Gospel. Now our papists come along and quote the passage in Luke 10:16: “He that heareth you, heareth me.” This verse has hitherto been the pope's sword, by which he has swayed the whole world, and none has rightly understood this passage, which means that teachers are to be obeyed only when they preach the Gospel. So the Lord here inspires the apostles to speak the Gospel, which is his Word. Christ alone is to be heard, and the apostles are but messengers and instruments for this word of Christ. Therefore, here again are condemned pope, bishops, monks and priests, and all who preach something else than the Gospel.

28 But what is meant when the Lord says: V.15. “Preach the Gospel to the whole creation”? Shall I preach also to trees and stones, mountains and waters? What would that profit? St. Gregory preached on this text and said that “all creation” means man; that man is one with all creatures--with the angels in understanding, with the animals in sensibilities, and with the trees in growth. We must, therefore, not misuse the text nor make its meaning too literal, for so we shall misconstrue it. The meaning is that the Gospel should be publicly and universally preached, given to all; it should hide in no corner, but be preached freely in all places, as is written in Ps 19:3-4: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world,” The beginning and going forth has been fulfilled by the apostles, but the work is not yet finished; the Gospel has not yet reached its limit, for I know not whether Germany has ever heard the Word of God. The pope's word we have surely heard.

29 The Lord here says to the apostles: V.15. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation,” for the reason that this Gospel may be published to everyone, so that even trees and stones might hear if they had ears, and might bear witness that we have heard the Gospel; and that pillar there might say, I have heard the Gospel preached to you. Thus generally and publicly shall it be proclaimed, and preached in all the world, being withheld from no one, till it reaches the ends of the world, as the Psalm records. So it has now come to us, who are dwelling at the end of the world, for we live close to the sea. This Paul has in mind when he says to the Ephesians: “And he gave some to be apostles, and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” Eph 4:11-13. Next, the text speaks of the signs that shall follow faith, and names five signs, one after the other, thus:

V.17, 18. “And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”

30 How shall we proceed here that we may preserve the truth of the passage: he that believeth shall have power also, and be able to show these signs? For the Lord says all these signs shall accompany them. Now we know that the apostles did not present all the signs, for we read of no other that drank poison than John the Evangelist, and there are no other individual instances. If the passage shall stand literally, then few believers will be cleared and few saints be entitled to heaven; for these signs, one and all, have not accompanied them, though they have had power to work signs, and have exhibited some of them.

31 Some rush on here and explain these signs as spiritual, so as to preserve the honor of the saints; but it will not do to strain the words. They do not carry such meaning, therefore they will not bear such an explanation. It puts upon the Scriptures uncertain construction for us.

32 Others, with equal heedlessness, say that though not every individual has the power and does the wonders mentioned, yet the church as a whole, the multitude of Christendom, has; one may drive out devils, another heal the sick, and so on. Therefore, they say, such signs are a manifestation of the Spirit; where the signs are, there is also the Christian Church, and so on.

33 But these words do not refer to the Church as a whole, but to each person separately. The meaning is: If there is a Christian who has faith, he shall have power to do these accompanying miracles, and they shall follow him, as Christ says, in John 14:12: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do, shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do,” for a Christian has equal power with Christ, is a congregation, and sits with him in joint tenure. The Lord has given Christians power, as is written in Mt 10:8, also against the unclean spirits, that they might cast them out and heal every disease. Thus it is written in Ps 91:13: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under foot.”

34 We read also that this has been fulfilled. There was once a patriarch in the wilderness, who, when he met a serpent, took it in both hands and tore it in two, and thought no more about it, but said: O what a fine thing it is to have a clear and guiltless conscience! So, where there is a Christian, there is still the power to work these signs if it is necessary. But no one should attempt to exercise this power if it is not necessary or if need does not compel. The apostles did not always exercise it, but only made use of it to prove the Word of God, to confirm it by the miracles; as is written here in the text: V.20. “And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word by the signs that followed.”

35 But since the Gospel has now been spread abroad, and made known to all the world, there is no need of working miracles as in the apostles' times. If need should arise, and men were to denounce and antagonize the Gospel, then we verily should have to employ wonder-working rather than permit the Gospel to be derided and suppressed. But I hope such a course will not be necessary, and that such a contingency will never arise. For another example: That I should here speak in new languages is not at all necessary, since you all can well hear and understand me; but if God should send me where the people could not understand me, he could easily grant me their speech or language, that I might be understood.

36 Then, let no one, without pressing need, undertake to work wonders. For we read of the patriarchs' children that they once brought a large number of serpents in their cloaks, and shook them out at their parents' feet; whereupon their parents reproved them for tempting God unnecessarily. In like manner, we read of many signs that believers have done. It happened once upon a time that one of the fathers by chance got hold of a basilisk. He looked at it, and thereupon exclaimed: O Lord, I must die, or this reptile must! for the basilisk kills by its looks. At once it bursted and flew into pieces.

37 I know not what I shall say about those who venture to do signs where they are not necessary. For example, some drive out demons. But I know that it is a dangerous undertaking. The devil, indeed, lets himself be driven out, but he does not intend to suffer for it; he allows it only that he may strengthen the sign-worker in such error. I would not like to trust him. We have many such instances in our times. I know also of many that happened not long ago.

38 There was a sexton who wished to learn alchemy from the devil, that is, the art of separating gold from sand, and of making gold from other metals. The devil agreed to come to him at the hour of eleven, but the sexton should have on a gown and chasuble. See with what fool's work the devil goes about! As though he cared much about the chasuble. The sexton went and reversed the hour-glass and noted the hour. At eleven he put on the chasuble. The devil came and knocked. The sexton was afraid and asked who was there. The devil said that the sexton should come at once to the parson and attend the Sacrament. The sexton threw off the chasuble and ran out in haste, but found no one. Then the devil the second time demanded of the sexton to come out. The third time the devil came and said that the parson was awaiting him impatiently; he should come without delay. The sexton then went out, but by this time the hour was past, and the sexton had not on the chasuble. Then the sexton saw for the first time that it was the devil, and wished to hurry back to the house and get the chasuble. The devil, however, would not allow this, but said: No, my dear fellow, the time is past. He seized the sexton, broke his neck and threw him to the ground. Such occasions the devil seeks, and acts. So much for this Gospel.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:14-20. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 14-15 (or Mt 28:16); the second in verses 16-17 (or Mt 28:17), and the last in verses 18 (or Mt 28:18) (Parts 1,2), 19 (or Mt 28:19) (Part 3a), and 20 (or Mt 28:20) (Part 3b).]]

Sermon for the Day of Christ’s Ascension; Mark 16:14-20 (3rd Sermon)


1 In few words, St. Mark sums up in this Gospel all that Christ did during the forty days after his resurrection until he ascended into heaven. Not all the words of Christ, as here recorded, were spoken at the same time. Some persons have doubted the authenticity of this chapter because it does not seem to harmonize with the other Gospels. It relates the incident of the Lord's upbraiding the disciples for their unbelief, and that of his commanding them to preach the Gospel, as though the two utterances were spoken at the same time, while the other Evangelists inform us of many things occurring between these two incidents. They tell us that he appeared to all of his disciples, not only once, but often, and that, during these forty days, he ate and drank with them that they might no longer doubt his resurrection. The upbraiding of the disciples took place shortly after his resurrection, between Easter and the eighth day following. After they had all seen the risen Saviour he took leave of them, ascending from the mountain where he had commanded them to meet him.

2 In upbraiding the disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart Christ charges them with no small measure of weakness. He tells them that they are not only unbelieving but also stubborn to the extent that they obstinately doubt what they have heard from eye-witnesses, namely, that the Lord has risen. On the other hand, Christ shows great forbearance and kindness toward those who are not only disbelieving, but even obstinate. He does not reject or despise them for their hardness, but is patient with them. Eventually he makes them preachers of that which they, until then, did not believe themselves. He knows that, for this very reason, their testimony for him will be the stronger. They were themselves to have the experience of preaching not only to the ignorant and unbelieving, but also to the hardened, and even to their persecutors. Thus from their own experience they were to learn to bear with others, who might be likewise stubborn, though not with those who should wilfully and maliciously rage against the acknowledged truth.

3 The beloved disciples had, however, cause for their hardness of heart, which others could never have. They were Jews, and the Jewish teaching was that at Jerusalem alone should be founded that kingdom which is called the kingdom of God and of Christ. For this belief they thought they had proof and evidence from the prophets, wherein was stated, in many passages, that Christ should forever reign at Jerusalem, in the house and on the throne of David. The heathen had no promise whatever of such a kingdom.

4 Therefore, it seemed ridiculous to the Jews and incredible, yea, even offensive, that Christ should disregard Jerusalem, the priesthood and everything pertaining to the Jewish nation, and, altogether unmindful of these, send a few poor disciples who had neither a name nor fame out into the world to preach, intending thus to fulfil the glorious prophecy of nearly all the prophets, that, as Ps 68:11 says, from Jerusalem should go forth the great message and the great hosts of messengers of the Gospel into all the world. This must surely be fulfilled and become true. As Christ himself when he bade them farewell, charged his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, as St. Luke says in Acts 1:4-8, “until ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.” And recently on Easter Christ said: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Lk 24:46-47. It was universally believed that when the time should come for Christ to proclaim his message to bring the world into his kingdom, he would surely consult the great men, the high priests, the rulers and the council at Jerusalem, and would do nothing without them; for was it not by the Law of Moses that the nation had its very existence? But Christ ignores the representative heads of the nation in calm assurance, and calls to himself a handful of strangers and beggars, brings them to Jerusalem and commissions them to do these things. That was offensive enough to the Jews in general, and even to the disciples; it seemed incredible that Christ should use such lowly means for so exalted a purpose and with such indifference to the opinions, the knowledge and the assistance of Jewish officials.

5 However, the disciples knew, or might have known from the Scriptures, that Christ should not come from the priesthood, but from the house of Judah; so that the religious leaders of Jerusalem need not have looked to the priestly ranks. Nor did the Scriptures mention a citizen either at Jerusalem or at Bethlehem of whom Christ should be the son. Therefore, the Jews should have given God the honor, and thought: we ought to look for him to come not from our own tribe or from any other tribe than the tribe of Judah, from the house of David. They knew the prophecy well enough and upon it had based their records and calculations. We read that the blind man by the wayside (Lk 18:39), and the Canaanitish woman (Mt 15:22) cried out, saying: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David.” How did this poor beggar and this alien woman know that Christ was the son of David, if it had not been well known among all the people that the Messiah should Come from no other house than that of David?

6 Though Christ did not belong to the house then ruling at Jerusalem, yet the Jews knew that he belonged to the house of David, and had been brought up in Nazareth, and for this reason they should have accepted him, especially since they heard his teachings and saw his miracles. For all had to confess, that no one else could preach with such power and do such mighty works as he did. They also knew that the time to which the prophets pointed was at hand. The prophet Zechariah had clearly stated that Christ should be lowly, that is, from the ranks of the common people, without great pomp and power, honor and wealth.

7 But as they disregard all this, and will neither hear nor know him, he proceeds to fulfill the Scripture. He gathers a little flock and establishes his kingdom through them, while neither priests nor council in Jerusalem are aware of it. They are left, as it were, gazing and thinking that when Christ should come and establish his kingdom, he would doubtless make them the chief instruments therein. This he does not do. He establishes his kingdom at Jerusalem and charges the disciples to tarry there until the sending of the Holy Spirit upon them, who should continue the same work among them, convincing and compelling them to believe that the predictions of the prophets have been fulfilled.

8 But the apostles are weak and slow to believe this; they do not realize that Christ has appeared in just the manner in which they and all the Jews had hoped and expected. The disciples wondered why, if he really were the Christ--as they considered him--he did not so convince all the people at Jerusalem and organize, prepare, establish and confirm his kingdom so that the entire nation would flock to him, and the whole world sing and proclaim the great power and glory of this king through whom all humanity would be honored, and obtain wealth and salvation. Since he proceeds in a manner so contrary to their expectations, permits himself to be crucified, and dies on the cross, and after his resurrection shows himself to only a few persons, they can never believe that through him the marvelous things of the new kingdom should be accomplished--those things which they had learned from the writings of the prophets.

9 Christ has to bear with such hardness of heart in them, though he upbraids them and instructs their ignorance. As they are gathered together and he is about to depart from them, he tells them how his kingdom is to be entered upon, and how he will accomplish its beginning through them. It shall not be by the help and advice of the officials at Jerusalem, nor with their knowledge. It shall not be with temporal force nor power, but shall be felt solely through the message and commission of the ministry with which he charges them, saying:

V.15, 16. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”


I. The Commission Itself.

10 These are words of the sovereign Ruler, words that are becoming his majesty--commissioning these poor beggars to go forth and proclaim this new message, not in one city or country only, but in all the world, in principalities and kingdoms--and to proclaim it publicly and cheerfully; to speak before all creatures, so that all humanity might hear the message. That certainly means, to stretch forth the arms and gather unto Christ a great multitude. Indeed, it is such a mighty commission, that the like of it was never issued in the world.

11 The command of a temporal ruler goes no farther than to the confines of his own kingdom; likewise that of a father to his own household: but this commission of Christ concerns all kings, princes, countries and people, great and small, young and old, simple and wise, sinners and saints. With this one message he claims all dominion and power, all wisdom, holiness, majesty and the right to rule on earth with unlimited authority. What else can the world think and say about it than this: What! this one man and his eleven poor beggars dare to assume authority over Moses and all the prophets, yes, even over all people? Even Moses was sent only to Pharaoh and his people in Egypt. Is this man, then, to have the whole world for his field? He is in relation to it no more than a common laborer!

12 It must be a master of no mean authority who dares to exercise the right to send forth messengers not only to one or several crowned heads, but to all rulers throughout the world. Christ does all this as though he possessed full power and authority over them as his subjects, charging his disciples that they should fear no one, no matter how great and powerful he might be, but should cheerfully go forth, continuing to the remotest parts of the world, and preach the Gospel, with the assurance that they could not fail to be heard and that no one was able to hinder them.

13 Thus was it fulfilled. “Beginning at Jerusalem,” the kingdom touched the whole world. No other kingdom ever had such power. There never yet lived a ruler who achieved supremacy over even one-half of the world. How is it then, that from Jerusalem to the remotest corners of the earth all men know of this king who is called Christ? And all this was accomplished without a single sword-thrust and without military power; simply through these poor beggars, whom Christ sent forth into so many kingdoms and principalities that resisted them with the sword, with fire and water and with their whole might. If the apostles had been dependent upon their own power, they would have miserably failed before crossing their own thresholds. They had been afraid of their own people, the Jews, and had hidden themselves behind bolted doors. But later on, upon the strength of this commission, they boldly went forth, not only among their own people, but in all kingdoms, through all principalities, and in the face of all the powers and resistance of the world and the devil.

14 Whence did they obtain such courage and strength? Surely not from any king of Persia nor emperor of Rome, Turkey or Tartary. No, it was from the Lord alone, who ascended into heaven and commanded them to go and preach to the whole creation. And as Christ began to set up his kingdom, so it will continue till the end of the world. Certainly he is not Lord in any temporal sense. He is the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth is given, as he himself declares in Mt 28:18. To him must be subjected both angels and men, and all creatures, as God also saith to him in Ps 2:8: “Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” This is the reason why we know and believe in him. Only Christ could have brought the world everywhere to believe in one who was apparently a simple Jew.

15 These words of his command are marvelously powerful. Therein he shows that he is greater than all emperors, kings and rulers on earth, by his own power subjecting unto himself all creatures. He does not commission his disciples to convey his greetings or to ask favors of certain rulers on earth, but in full authority he issues to all rulers a command that they shall accept his message and obey his orders. It is evident, too, that this commander is mightier than any angel. Angels are, indeed, mighty and powerful beings, sent by God to do his bidding with reference to certain of his servants; as, for instance, we see Moses leading his people out of Egypt by an angel. But Christ issues his own command, that shall reach all the world, yea, even all creatures, intimating that all belongs to him. Such authority is given to none else but this son born of the Virgin. He must, therefore, be the one Lord over all things, over angels and men, the only God and Maker of all creatures.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:14-20. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 14-15 (or Mt 28:16); the second in verses 16-17 (or Mt 28:17), and the last in verses 18 (or Mt 28:18) (Parts 1,2), 19 (or Mt 28:19) (Part 3a), and 20 (or Mt 28:20) (Part 3b).]]


A. The Preaching of the Gospel in Itself.

16 Now this is the commission: V.15. “Go ye and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” Christ looks far into the future. He does not want his message hidden in a corner. He does not wish them to have any fear concerning it, neither to go about it secretly nor deceitfully. He wants it proclaimed so publicly that even the sun in the heavens, yea forests and stones might hear it if they had ears. And so it has been proclaimed, though the world has opposed it for so many centuries. It has steadily advanced. There never has been in the world a like force and power; nothing of equal sway and authority. This message, then, must be of divine power. It pertains not to insignificant, vain, or sinful things of the world, such as robbing, stealing, lying, deceiving, murdering, violence, oppression and tyranny, but to pure, heavenly and divine things. Thus it cannot be of human origin but is God's own message. Both word and work, then, harmonize and openly testify to Christ's authority before all creatures under heaven, on land and sea.

17 Christ thus sends forth, not a decree to stir up rebellion in the world, or to overthrow the legal power of kings, princes or other temporal authority, but he simply puts his word and command into the mouths of the disciples that they may carry into effect his own power by their speech and ministry. They shall speak not of worldly institutions, worldly authority or earthly riches, nor of the glory of the Jewish people, their laws, religious rites and priesthood--though it was the expectation of all Jews that these should be world-honored--but the import of the message shall be to teach nobler things, namely how we may be reconciled to God, how to be redeemed from sin, death and all evil, and be saved; how to obtain everlasting righteousness, life and glory.

18 This, indeed, was a new message, of which the world knew nothing. It differs greatly from all other preaching and teaching. Yes, heaven raises it above all that can be taught on earth. All other teaching must give way to it, for it alone ministers the power to be saved. When Christ says, V.15. “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation,” he desires none to be excluded; but he shows that the whole world knows naught of his doctrine: In spite of all its wisdom, it is blind concerning these things, no matter how learned and holy it pretends to be. His own people, the Jews, though they have not the light and knowledge of salvation to which the prophet Zecharias refers in bis Benediction, Lk 1:77: “To give knowledge of salvation unto his people in the remission of sins.” If the Jews had known this before, or could have discovered it for themselves, it would not have been necessary to preach it to them. Christ would not have had to descend from heaven and send forth his servants into the whole world with the message.

19 All the world is here sent to school, to hear and learn of Christ's kingdom and confess that it did not know anything about it. Men may know well how to build, how to care for their property, to rule, to be outwardly pious, and how to lead a decent, honest life, and they may be able to teach others what they know; but of things pertaining to God's kingdom, and how to escape sin and death, they know nothing. Christ sets aside all teachings, even that of Moses, and of the ten commandments. The order is given to the disciples to go forth and tell all men what they do not know--that all must hear and accept, by God's command, this message, if they would be saved.

20 The meaning of this message Christ plainly shows. In the first place, he gives it a worthy name, calling it Gospel-preaching. No doubt be gives it this peculiar new name for a special reason, to distinguish it from all other teaching and preaching. It is something different from the Law of Moses and the teachings of men. A new name would impress itself upon the minds of the disciples. For the word “Gospel” means a new message--a good message bearing joyful tidings, proclaiming something, that one gladly and eagerly hears. Not a law or a commandment, forcing or demanding from us and threatening punishment and condemnation if we do not obey it. Such a message none like to hear. Even if we, to our utmost ability, both teach and obey the law, yet no consolation and joy will result from it; because we can never so perfectly comply with its demands that it will cease to smite and accuse us. Therefore, if we were to be rescued, God had to send us, through his Son, a different message than the Law from which to derive consolation and peace.

21 As to what the Gospel is, and the difference between the Law and the Gospel, enough has already been said. However, we here observe how Christ himself gives the definition, and shows what the Gospel teaches, saying:

V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”

22 This indeed is a kind, friendly and consoling message, and is rightly called a Gospel; here, in one word, you hear salvus erit, i. e., he shall be saved--the gates of heaven opened, hell closed, the Law and judgment set aside, sin and death destroyed, and life and salvation granted to all the world if they only believe the message. Oh, if one could thoroughly learn these words: Believe and be saved! They are spelled in few letters yet they are a sermon of such power that the world cannot grasp the glorious grace and unspeakable treasure given us through this message. And all this without any merit on our part since we have done absolutely nothing to earn it, we have not known anything about it. If the world had really believed it, they would, I am convinced, out of pure love have overwhelmed the preachers of the Gospel, particularly the apostles, and come in great multitudes and joyfully kissed their feet and borne them on their hands, praising and thanking God for their having lived to hear a Christian Gospel preacher.

23 The Gospel is faithfully taught and practiced in our day, yet it will continue to be necessary, as here, for Christ to upbraid his disciples with their unbelief and hardness of heart. Unbelief is still too strong in us, and our hearts are too narrow and too weak to grasp these wonderful words. We are controlled too much by our own desires and feelings when sin troubles us and God's wrath startles and terrifies us, though we desire to be saved. We seek and strive to discover how we may save ourselves by our own works; we try to find within ourselves that, by which we may justify ourselves before God.

24 We must, therefore, constantly learn, preach and exhort about this message of salvation, though it cannot at once enter the hearts of men--that is impossible. But day after day, year after year, the Gospel may the more and more be grasped, to the limit of our comprehension here on earth. The promise is dependent upon the condition. We cannot separate these two things; they must remain together just as Christ joins them and says: “He that believeth shall be saved.” As to one part, namely, shall be saved, there is indeed nothing wanting, nor is it uncertain; this is surely a promise in the Word, which is God's unchangeable truth. But as to the other part, our believing, there is indeed much lacking. We do not firmly believe; we do not accept and adhere to God's word of promise. As I have said, the grace and the spiritual treasures offered are so great that the human heart is astonished and overwhelmed when it realizes that the high and eternal majesty opens the gates of heaven so wide, and that he causes his grace and mercy to shine over all the sins and misery of the whole world, and that this great store of grace and spiritual riches is given us through the Word alone.

25 However, this passage stands here and declares both what the Gospel is,--a message concerning faith in Christ, and what power it has, namely to save him that believeth. The Jews have waited until this day for the coming of their Messiah to restore the city of Jerusalem and its temple, and so exalt the Law of Moses that it may be accepted by all the world. But what happens? At the very place and at the very time when their temple services are most glorious, and their best, noblest and wisest men most strenuously observe the Law, the Son of God himself pronounces judgment upon them, commanding his disciples to go and preach throughout all Jewry and all the world that not the temple service nor the Levitical priesthood, not circumcision nor the Law and its observance, which God indeed had given them, will save, but he that believeth shall be saved, be he Jew or gentile. There is no distinction (Rom 3:23), nor one possessing any special privileges. This Gospel shall be preached to the whole creation.

26 This, surely, was tearing a dreadful hole in the Jewish expectations and ideas--proclaiming himself as alone having authority and that to him all must submit--for neither Moses nor any of the prophets would have dared to do so. They all had to be circumcised and to observe the Law under penalty of loss of body and soul. And now this man Jesus with full authority interferes, and even indifferently sets aside the Law, as though he would know nothing about it. He commands, in few simple words, his disciples thus: You shall not tell the world, in whatever part of it you may be, that the people must go to Jerusalem, or must keep the Law of Moses etc., but you shall tell them all that if they would be saved, which everybody desires (especially the Jews at that time), then they must believe this message of mine, and thereupon be baptized etc. Commence this kind of preaching among my people who desire to be saved by their Law and its temple service, and go forth through the entire Roman empire, and to all the corners of the world. Those that trust in their idols, reprove and condemn, one and all, and tell them that this is the command that I, the Lord of heaven and earth, give them, that they shall believe in me. This is my message; it shall go through all the world unhindered and unmolested. No matter if the Jews disbelieve and are offended by it, and put you under the ban, consigning you to the devil, and fret not if the heathen endeavor to suppress it by force.

27 This is also a consoling message to us, because we, too, are included in these words of Christ when he says: V.15. Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. Herein are inclosed all who hear this message, wherever they may live, be they few or many. “All the world” does not mean one or two parts of it, but everywhere within it wherever people may dwell. Therefore, the Gospel had to be proclaimed according to the command, as it is yet being proclaimed today. Although it is not steadily triumphant in every place, yet it is destined to reach to the ends of the earth and to resound in all places and corners of the world. As it is a general command to preach the Gospel everywhere, to all men, so it is also a general injunction and the Lord's command that all shall believe this message.

28 It was essential for Christ, in his command, to emphasize “all the world.” The Jews, who wanted thus to silence the rest of mankind, boasted that they alone were God's people, to whom the fathers and the prophets were given, and that Christ was promised to come from their seed. This boasting Christ had to kill, otherwise they would have overcome us gentiles and compelled us to become Jews and accept circumcision. Directly opposed to their claim is the fact that Christ commanded that the Gospel be preached to all creatures. Christ says, He that believes, belongs to God's people and is saved, be he Jew or gentile, Greek or barbarian, priest or layman, male or female etc. True, God did not give any other nation than his chosen people, the Jews, those special honors and blessings that were theirs in their God-given and mighty leaders and in the miracles he wrought for them, and in the fact that to them first were given the divine promises and the Scriptures.

29 But now we are made one people in the sight of God. None have any preference or privilege to boast of. Christ would have none despised nor rejected. The injunction reads, To all creatures, the disciples shall preach and proclaim it. The greatest, the most powerful, the noblest born, the most learned and the holiest person is not a whit better than the humblest, simplest, most despised on earth. All are brought into one company and fellowship. No one is preferred above another. No partiality is shown. No one is pictured or separated to special honor or advantage; but everything hinges entirely on “He that believeth.” It matters not what people, nation or rank or what station in the world they may occupy. There must, of course, be a difference in the physical life of the various inhabitants of the earth, as the creatures are and are called each according to its nature and each is different from the other; sun from moon, man from woman, master from servant.

30 Therefore, as in the world every country and people have their own special laws, rights and customs, so, like in outward temporal appointments, there must also be a difference in the preaching. Every station and office must be responsible and taught in its appointed sphere. But though duty be beautifully and faithfully performed, all Jews perfect in temple service, all temporal government faultlessly administered, all discipline and obedience observed and rendered in the matter of laws and customs--yet all of this is not sufficient to insure salvation to the doer. In this kingdom of Christ all humanity is brought to the same place--all are made into one bread (kuchen)--all must meet the one condition. Not this or that person, who lives in a certain manner, and is doing a certain thing, shall be saved, but: “He that believeth shall be saved.” Here you have it all. No matter if you are Jew or gentile, master or servant, virgin or husband, monk or layman, if you believe, says Christ, then you are in my kingdom, saved and redeemed from sin and death.

31 By this message, Christ's kingdom is clearly distinguished from all other kingdoms of the world. In earthly kingdoms, he who obeys the laws and precepts, does not rob, steal and kill, shall not be punished, but shall be commended, honored and protected as an obedient citizen of the kingdom. It will not do to say: He that believes shall have honor and riches in this temporal kingdom. Such honor and riches would mean temporal, visible requisition. He who is pious and good in the eyes of the world and leads a perfect life, is not, bemuse of that, in the kingdom of God. Something higher and better is necessary. He must believe in Christ, who ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of God. A temporal kingdom knows nothing of the spiritual matters of faith. It does not deal in nor control these things. And yet the blind world dares to attempt that which it is not able to understand nor rightly to judge.

32 On the other hand, Christ's kingdom has nothing to do with the kingdoms of men. He permits them to continue in their own observances. Christ commands that the disciples should preach the Gospel to all creatures. The creatures existed before the Gospel came to them. Governments are instituted, and laws formed, by men, through God-given reason and wisdom. St. Peter calls them human ordinances in I Pet 2:13. They are also called ordinances of God in Rom 13:2. In such things, Christ would establish no change; he permits them to remain as they are, in fact and in name. But instructs the world concerning his own eternal kingdom; how it is possible for one to be freed from sin and eternal death, how all, without difference, shall be subject unto him, and acknowledge him, through faith, as their Lord.

33 We must examine and rightly understand the words, “He that believeth,” in order not to pervert or mar them by additions and glosses. With such the papists becloud and nullify this sublime and powerful passage, attaching to it their sermons, and, saying that here must be understood “good works” with the word “faith,” so that it must read: He that believeth, and also does good works, shall be saved. These are the highly learned masters that take Christ to school, correct his language and teach him how to speak, babbling in their blindness whatever they please, though they know not what and whereof they speak concerning these sublime things. But we shall do Christ the honor to keep his Word pure und undefiled. He well knew how to express these things and what he would have the disciples speak when he commanded them to preach his message to all the world.

34 Christ intentionally made the statement thus plain: V.16. “He that believeth, and is baptized” etc., in order to set right the delusions and pretensions of the Jews and of all the world regarding salvation by man's own works. On faith and baptism, not on our own but on his works, he bases all. In opposition, the Jews, and the world in general, wish to consider their own pride and glory. They boast of their own holiness, unwilling to be censured and condemned in respect of it. The Jews, because they observe circumcision, the Law and many temple services, these, in their own estimation, sufficient to secure them salvation, will, therefore, not consent that the heathen, who observe none of these, should be considered their equals, be called God's people and be saved, until they also conform to these practices and become Jews. Just so the false apostles, and many of those who became Christians, with great pretense fought over these things and argued against the teachings of the apostles.

35 What have the heathen, who had not the Word of God nor the true knowledge of him, ever done of themselves, yet they would either hear nor accept the Gospel for the very reason that they did not wish to forsake their idolatry. They claimed that they also served the true God with their offerings and religious rites. They would not listen to condemnation of these things.

36 All who depend on good works, and teach the people salvation through the same, are alike in error. They cannot endure disregard of their works in the matter of salvation. They cannot endorse such a doctrine as Christ here states to be true: “He that believeth shall be saved” etc. Although they receive the Gospel and wish to be Christians, as do our papists, they will not accept this doctrine in its purity but must defile the same with their additions and glosses, claiming that it must be understood thus: He that believes, and does also good works, shall be saved. Their interpretation means that one obtains salvation, not by faith alone, but also by good works. just so the false apostles and disciples from among the Jews also made additions to this doctrine, pretending that not faith alone secures salvation, but the law of Moses must be kept also. They said: “Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1. Thus they confused the true disciples and Christians, and the apostles at Jerusalem had to reject this statement publicly.

37 But you may say: Indeed, you yourself teach that a Christian must do good works; God himself commanded to do them, enjoining the keeping of the Law, and Christ also says: “If thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments,” Mt 19:17. Now, faith alone does not justify and save. This message must be understood as not excluding good works; but Christ here, in addition and beyond good works, also demands faith, which the Jews and heathen did not exercise. Our papists also hold that good works are not sufficient unto salvation for those who have no faith, but that faith and good works must go together. Nor do they mean by “works” the observance of the law of Moses, of circumcision and the Jewish temple service, which are now obsolete; but they mean the works demanded by the ten commandments, which teach the obedience all men owe to God.

And in order to prove that these words must be thus understood, the papists refer to Mt 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them,” etc. and “teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” These last words, they say, also belong to the command Christ here gave to the disciples; therefore, this text must be interpreted to mean that it demands not faith alone, but also good works.

38 We answer: All this, as I have said before, is mere babbling, false and perverted comment of blind sophists who understand nothing of this text and of the glorious doctrine of the Gospel, They know not what they say, concerning either faith or good works, nor do they know how properly to distinguish between the two. We also confess, and have always, better and more forcibly than the papists, taught that good works must be done; that they must follow faith, and that faith is dead if good works be absent. Therefore, this doctrine of faith does not denounce good works; it does not teach that they should not be performed. Nor is it the question here, whether or no good works are requisite. But faith and good works differ, and it must be taught with discrimination what is the value of each for and by itself. Each must be considered in its proper relations that we may understand both what faith accomplishes and receives, and why good works are necessary. This distinction is everywhere taught in the Gospel and was preached by the apostles. It is, therefore, but blindness, if not intentional malice, that these papal sophists, without here making any distinction, in a swine-like manner misconstrue and pervert these passages so that neither of them can be clearly understood.

39 We, therefore, insist that these two passages--this one and that written in Matthew--be properly interpreted in the light of their actual wording and arrangement. In our teachings it is right that we instruct men to observe all that Christ commanded. But we cannot disregard that which Christ here says concerning faith. We must always observe the place and order which Christ gives his words. Now, we find in this text, Mt 28:19-20, that Christ first commands the eleven to go and make disciples of all nations, and to baptize them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is, they are to preach to them the teaching of the Gospel, how they must be saved--which, as yet, neither the Jews nor the heathen knew--and in this knowledge to baptize them, making the people disciples or Christians. These are the first essentials and thereto the words agree: “He that believeth and is baptized” etc. Then comes the other part, which must follow the teachings of the Gospel, namely, what those who believe and are baptized shall do. These, Christ says, ye shall teach to observe all things that I commanded you, so, that all things shall be according to my Word, and not according to the Jewish law and ceremonies, or any man-made laws pertaining to self-chosen works or religious services.

40 Therefore these two, faith and good works, must not be confused. They must be clearly distinguished from each other. Faith and baptism, as the chief part and foundation of our salvation, must stand first. The other part follows. Both must be taught, but each in its proper relation. As I have often stated, and as is also clearly self-evident, there is a vast differrence between the efficacy of our own works and of that which Christ has accomplished for us. In our teaching, the latter must be exalted and made infinitely superior to the former. Now, in these words of Christ: “Teach all nations and baptize them” etc.; and “He that believeth and is baptized”--it is evident that he holds before us not our unworthy works and the demands of the Law, but his own merits and his gift; these we can accept in no other way than by faith. These are the treasures by which we are saved, which were neither earned nor procured by us, but were graciously presented to us by him. For we may never dare to boast that we merit the gift of Christ in whom we believe, or that the baptism which we receive in his name is of our own doing or has been instituted by any human being.

41 To prove my statements, consider this: Christ says plainly and clearly; V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” as though he would say: If you would know how you can be saved, then this shall be considered the chief and essential condition--to believe and be baptized. The question is not whether or no we must do good works. There is no dispute about that. But there is something more important. The point is not what we are doing ourselves, but where shall we seek with the certainty we shall find that by which we can be saved from sin and death, and can obtain life and salvation? Here Christ clearly explains what shall be the chief doctrine of the Gospel. He bases it entirely on faith and baptism, concluding that we shall be saved for the sole reason that we have Christ by faith and baptism.

42 Believing means: To hold to be true, and with all the heart to depend on, that which the Gospel and all the articles of faith say about Christ; that he has been sent to us by God the Father, that he suffered, died and rose again and ascended into heaven for the sole reason that we may obtain from God the Father forgiveness of sin and life eternal in his name. That our faith may grasp and hold this the more firmly, he gives us holy baptism, by this visible sign to prove that God the Father will accept us and unfailingly give us that which is offered to us in the Gospel.

43 Now, if I am to believe this, then I must not adulterate my faith with belief in my own works. I must not depend upon my own merits, daring to offer them to God, as do the monks and self-righteous Jews. There are two doctrines that will not agree and can never hold combined, namely, the belief that we, for Christ's sake and without our merits, obtain God's grace; and the belief that we obtain God's grace by our own works. For if we could obtain this grace by our own merits, then we should not need Christ in addition. Such confusion and detestable patchwork of the sophists cannot be tolerated--the claiming that Christ, indeed, atoned for original sins and for sins done aforetime and that he opens the door of heaven, but that we ourselves, by our own good works, must now also atone for sins and merit grace in order to fully obtain salvation. This is to rob Christ of his honor; yea, to set him, his death, resurrection and ascension aside, as if his merit were not sufficient for us, and as if his sufferings and blood are not able to atone for sins. But St. John says he is the only propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world. 1 Jn 2:2,

44 And that the passage we are considering and similar ones must be thus understood, St. Paul teaches in his epistles, especially in that to the Romans, where he proves that we are freely justified by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood Rom 3:24-25. Here he plainly mentions the word gratis, i. e., freely, without our merits, and not for the sake of our works. Thus, we may have a sure consolation, and not doubt God's grace and salvation though we are truly unworthy and still have remnants of sin in us. If the people be taught thus: If you desire forgiveness of sins and a merciful God, you must do enough good works and possess sufficient merits to overcome and remove your sins--then faith is already nullified. Christ is then of no efficacy, conscience is robbed of all consolation, and man is driven to despair, because he seeks help by and in himself and dares to attempt to accomplish himself that for which Christ was sent and which only he could do for us. Christ came to fulfil the Law, and to earn for us, by his obedience, grace and life eternal.

45 So, our passage on faith, and others like it, must be understood in this light; not perverted and marred by misleading comments and additions, for the purpose of belittling faith and contradicting Christ's meaning. Such error will surely result if the teaching of good works is confused with that of faith; if distinction is not made between the chief doctrine of Christ's Gospel, appropriation by faith alone, and the teaching of the Law concerning good works. As I said above, these two doctrines cannot stand side by side; they are directly contradictory. To believe that for Christ's sake alone grace and eternal life are granted, and yet at the same time to seek and claim to obtain them by our own merits, is absurd.

46 I repeat, Christ would, with these words, condemn the pretensions of the Jews and of all the world, their boasting of their law and works, and would declare that no one will be saved by works, but alone by faith in the Lord. It is written that Christ alone has conquered sin and death, and is now sitting at the right hand of God, etc.

47 From all this explanation you are now enabled to clearly distinguish between these two passages from Matthew and Mark--which the papists, by reason of their ignorance, confound with each other--so that both are vindicated. By the text: “He that believeth and is baptized” etc., our own works and doings, in so far as they are considered as a merit, are not considered with faith but are excluded when we speak of man's justification and salvation before God. Not that good works have no place in a believer's creed, but he must be conscious that by his own worthiness he cannot be saved, that his own works and deeds do not merit for him grace and life eternal; that this has been merited for him through Christ alone, granted him for Christ's sake, and must be apprehended by faith. Then this text, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” is rightly understood.

48 When one understands and believes this text, then the teaching of the other text should follow, namely, that we should also do good works. Yet good works must accompany faith and depend upon faith, which always clings to Christ and pleads before God that he will graciously and for Christ's sake accept and be pleased with the supplicant's life and works, and not impute to him that which might be imperfect and sinful in him. Hereupon follows properly the text, Mt 28:20: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” Fail not to observe the first and essential condition; for if faith is absent, all our good works and upright life count for naught before God. Indeed, it is not possible to do truly good works without faith. Christ says in John 15:5: “For apart from me ye can do nothing” etc.

49 Observe, by making this distinction you can rightly understand this passage. Learn how to apply it and to derive from it consolation in the struggle with a conscience, terrified by sin and death. Only in the experience of such agony can one know the power of faith. This truth is apparent even among the papists and all sectarians, for they also preach these words, although in a superficial and indifferent manner as if they were of no importance. They thus show, by their besmirching additions, that they understand nothing about the subject. Alas, exclaim the papists, that you preach nothing but faith, notwithstanding we are neither unbelievers nor Turks. Well, my good man, if it is so easy, then try it once and see how you will fare in the hour when death overtakes you, or when Satan terrifies and disheartens you, and when your reason and all your senses feel nothing but God's wrath and the anguish of hell.

50 If you are a Christian, as you claim, then you must, indeed, believe and never doubt the statement that Christ died for you, and through his resurrection and ascension conquered for you sin, death and hell; yes, destroyed and swallowed them up. Why is it, then, that you still fear death, flee from God and dread his judgment? This surely is an unmistakable sign that you lack faith, inasmuch as he that has faith cannot be troubled nor terrified by death or hell. Where faith is, there it strengthens and delivers the heart from fear, so that we can cheerfully say: What do I care for sin, death and the terrors of Satan, for I have a Lord and Saviour who sits in heaven at the right hand of God the Father, and rules over all in heaven and upon earth, and who gives me his righteousness and life? Can you thoroughly learn the art to do this? Then I will say, you are a doctor of all the doctors. However, you will certainly experience, like all others, even the greatest saints, that you are woefully deficient when it comes to a real test and trial.

51 The reason the world cares naught about the preaching of faith is that it lives in false security and in carelessness, having neither knowledge nor experience of the terrors of sin and a troubled conscience. But when death and its horrors overtake it, then it knows of no help and plunges suddenly into, despair. Then it will, indeed, having waited too long, realize what it is to have faith, of which it hitherto knew nothing. It will learn that faith is not a dead letter, not mere words of the tongue, a vague idea or a mere imagination, which the papists call faith, but a fearless and strong courage that, with all boldness of heart, relies on Christ, in defiance of sin, death and hell.

52 In such times, even the best of holy men deplore their weakness, and must confess that their faith is still insufficient, because they are sad and troubled by fear and anguish. As to these words, “He that believeth shall be saved” etc., there is, indeed, no doubt whatever that by them hell is closed, heaven opened, and eternal life and joy granted. But here the chief thing is lacking, namely, that you are not yet the person qui credit, i. e., who believes, or that you are still weak in faith. However, though you are not strong, if you only cling to Christ you will obtain the consolation, power and strength that overcomes all terror of death and hell, which all human power, works and merit cannot accomplish.

53 Here your conscience, burdened by the demands of the Law, will say: You still have sin, and have not kept God's commandments, which under threat of eternal condemnation, you are bound to keep. Answer: All this I know, alas, only too well, and you must not speak to me of it. Wait with your demands of the Law as to what I must do, till I first possess this chief part of my salvation, namely, Christ and his righteousness, Christ who conquers sin and death for me. This, alone, I want to hear now, and it shall transcend the other in importance as much as the heavens are higher than the earth. For at present the question is not, how I must live and what I must do, but how I may overcome sin and death, or, as Christ here says, be saved. But, after having attained all this, and being, in spite of all that is called sin, death, hell, God's wrath, Law and works, in Christ justified and saved, and made heir of life eternal, then I want to know also how I must live here on the earth. Then you may come and teach and admonish me, like a faithful schoolmaster, as much as you tan, but never going further with your Moses than is right and necessary; not teaching me that thereby I can be saved, or can conquer sin and death.

54 Now, this is the message that Christ commands to be preached to all creatures. But that we may know that in his kingdom he would have this message supreme, so that we should never doubt it, nor expect something else, but should altogether depend upon it and know that it shall stand as an irrevocable declaration of this Lord of all creation, Christ repeats the message once more, making it still stronger in the negative form, saying:

V.16. “But he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”

55 Here you have the final judgment against the boasting pride and self-praise of the Jews and of all the world. As the first part of the text with one word opens heaven, closes hell and sets aside Moses and the threats of the Law for those who believe, so Christ here with one word, closes heaven, leaves open the jaws of hell, permits death to reign and Moses to be an intolerable tyrant for all that disbelieve. For this there is and shall be no help, though you, like the Jews, torment yourself to death in keeping the Law, even torturing and burdening yourselves, saying: Did I not do many good works and even suffer much? Alas, here you have the decision: “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”

56 Even though man accomplishes all that he possibly can, yet without Christ, everything has already been concluded under sin and God's wrath; as we heard in the Gospel of St. John, that the Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not etc. Jn 16:8. Here, in the text we are considering, the judgment of condemnation is already pronounced on the world, together with all its righteousness of the Law and religious service. No one on earth can escape this judgment, nor be rescued from condemnation, except by hearing and believing this message, which says that those who believe in this Lord and Saviour shall not be condemned because of their sins, but shall, because of him, have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.

Christ says, in John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish” etc. “For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.” Jn 3:17. Therefore, “He that believeth on him is not judged,” but “he that believeth not,” says he, “hath been judged already.” Jn 3:18 This judgment of condemnation remains upon him because of his disbelieving, imputing all sins to him, which cannot be forgiven. Thus he increases his sin and makes his condemnation the stronger; in addition to all other sins, he also despises Christ by not believing in him.

B. The Signs Christ Appointed To Accompany This Preaching.

57 When Christ adds baptism to the first part, “He that believeth,” he has in view the established rite among the Christian people. We read in Mt 28:19, where he puts both parts together, “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them” etc. He thus shows, first, that faith, which the Gospel preaches, must not remain concealed; it is not sufficient for each one to go his own way and believe for himself, after he has heard this Gospel message, deeming it not necessary to confess his faith before others. On the contrary, in order that it may become evident, not only where this Gospel is preached, but also where it is accepted and believed, that is, where the church and kingdom of Christ may be in this world, Christ wants to unite and hold us together by virtue of this divine sign, baptism.

If Christians were without such an ordinance, if they had no common bond in the way of seal or sign, the organization would neither be expanded nor preserved. Christ wishes to bind us together by a divine communion, to further the spread of the Gospel; that others through our confession, may be brought into the fold. Therefore, baptism is a public testimony to the Gospel teaching, and to our faith, by which the world may know where and within whom the Lord rules.

58 In the second place, Christ has especially ordained this sign to the end that, through the office of the Word and of baptism, we may be conscious of God's work and mighty power in his church; that the Christian, in accepting baptism, might know that, Christ himself being witness, he is accepted by God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is what it means to be baptized into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in obedience to Christ's command. Thus, baptism is a sign and seal, in addition to the Word or promise, that we have been called and brought into the kingdom of Christ, have become God's children and heirs of eternal life, if, by faith we cling to Christ. This we have often taught elsewhere with reference to baptism.

59 It is, indeed, wisely ordained by Christ, that in his kingdom, which shall expand into all the world and among all nations, he instituted not many ceremonies, as was the custom among the Jews, nor a diversity of forms among the various countries and nations, peoples and languages; but he ordained only the simplest and most ordinary sign; it is everywhere observed in the same way--just as the preaching of the Gospel is alike in all places, making all, adults and children, rich and poor, great and humble, one and all, in the world, equal before God. Hence, if a Christian from the uttermost parts of the world should come to us and observe our forms, he would have to say, They are the very same Word and sign that I have learned and received.

60 Among the various inhabitants that people our earth, each individual and each nation has its own characteristics. But Christians everywhere may be distinguished by their one doctrine, one language, one sign, even as they have one faith and one confession. Indeed, the kingdom of Christ everywhere is a kingdom of love, unity and peace. But it would be impossible for it to always withstand, steadfastly and in unity, the devils and their wiles, if Christ, by his divine power, did not preserve and protect it.

However, we see that although Satan causes many sects and factions to rise up, soon they war among themselves and disappear again. What countless cliques and fanatical tyrants Satan has produced to oppose the Gospel during these fifteen hundred years, endeavoring to rend and destroy the kingdom of Christ! And yet there remains to this day one and the same Gospel message, one faith, one baptism and all; even the world, if not wilfully blind and hardened, might see and feel the strength and power of this Lord.

61 Christ deems it sufficient to say, in the first part of our text: V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized,” and in the other part: “But he that disbelieveth” etc., not further mentioning baptism. The reason, of course, is that the first part sufficiently enjoins the ordinance and that baptism is commanded elsewhere, namely, in Mt 28:19: “Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father” etc. Hence, we have no authority in these for omitting baptism; no reason to hold that because one has faith he needs no baptism. If one becomes a Christian and truly believes, he will surely also gladly accept this sign. He will wish to have this divine testimony and confirmation of his salvation, for strength and consolation throughout life, and also to confess his faith publicly before the world. St. Paul makes plain the Christian's duty when he says: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Rom 10:10. True, it is possible that one may believe though he is not baptized; and Again, that some may receive baptism though they do not believe.

62 This text, however, must be understood as commanding and confirming baptism: no one shall despise the ordinance but, as has been said, it is the duty of all to accept it. Yet the lines must not be drawn so closely that one should be condemned and lost for the failure to receive baptism if he could not obtain it.

[[Luther published three sermons for Mark 16:14-20. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 14-15 (or Mt 28:16); the second in verses 16-17 (or Mt 28:17), and the last in verses 18 (or Mt 28:18) (Parts 1,2), 19 (or Mt 28:19) (Part 3a), and 20 (or Mt 28:20) (Part 3b).]]

63 As a summary, we derive from this text the following propositions:

  • Some believe, and are baptized, which is in accordance with the general command of Christ, the rule that is to be taught and observed.
  • Some believe, but are not baptized.
  • Some do not believe, and yet they are baptized.
  • Some do not believe, and are also not baptized.
64 This distinction is made by the text itself. (To the first two points belongs, as we have said, that part of this passage affirming and promising salvation, namely, “Shall be saved.” Ed. 1546). It has always unanimously been believed that a person dying a believer is not lost, though he be not baptized; for it may happen that a true believer is suddenly overtaken by death before he can receive the desired baptism. (It also occurs that infants sometimes die before, during or immediately after their birth. These, having already been commended to the Lord by the faith and prayers of the parents or other Christians, without doubt Christ will accept, according to his words: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” But as to the other two points, namely, those who do not believe, whether God grant they be baptized or not, judgment of condemnation is pronounced over them. Ed. 1546). Concerning this it is not necessary to speak further.

65 But the troublesome Anabaptist sects speak contemptuously of holy baptism, claiming that no one should be baptized who does not first believe. Their intent is to abolish infant baptism. But since enough has been written against this error of the Anabaptists in former postils and elsewhere. we will not now dwell on this matter. It is enough to know that Christ and the apostles make a distinction between these two points, namely, teaching and baptizing. Baptism is administered but once. We would need many to perform the ceremony if baptism had to be administered as often as we preach and teach. The teaching and preaching are of the most important and must be done constantly.

66 It is not stated here whether baptism should be administered before or after the teaching, but may God grant that the office of preaching should be exercised above everything else; then baptisms will follow. It is evident that he who receives baptism once, does not need this sign again. But the teaching of the Word, by which faith is kindled, strengthened and preserved, we need continually. For this reason, we observe, the office of baptizing was committed to people of much humbler station than was the office of preaching. Christ, himself, baptized no one, as we read in John 4:2, but commanded his disciples to do so. St. Paul says that he was sent, not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, 1 Cor 1:17, and that he himself baptized but few people, though he preached the Gospel among all the heathen.

67 The sum and substance of the lesson, therefore, is, for us to give heed to the Word and teaching, and not to judge whether one truly believes or not. Where the Word is, there we shall also administer baptism, be the people young or old. For we are not commanded to accomplish the impossibility of looking into a man's heart to judge whether he believes or not. This must be left to Christ alone. Neither is it commanded us, in our office of preaching, to seek to know how each one may believe, or who accepts the Word and who does not. It will not do for you to say that you would preach only to those whom you could first know to be ready to believe and accept the Word. In that case you would never dare to preach at all. The same holds in baptism. You must not wait until you are sure as to who believes and who does not, but give heed to this: Wherever the Word is preached and heard, and baptism is desired, there you are commanded to administer baptism, both to young and old. Where the Word, the all-important thing, is rightly preached, the other will naturally follow. And, again, where the teaching of the Word is in error, all else is in vain; because there is neither faith nor Christ. It is the Word that brings us everything, the sacraments with their power, peace of conscience and even Christ himself; for it is his power and strength, or, as David calls it: “The rod of his strength out of Zion,” Ps 110:2; or, as St. Paul says, “The power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth,” Rom 1:16.

68 Preaching is, then, the chief work that Christ and all the apostles performed and commanded us to do. Christ gives the commission: V.15. “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” etc. The other work, being inferior in importance, can, indeed, be performed by those who are not charged with the greater responsibility of preaching. It will be recalled that both Christ and the apostles sent many to lay hands on the sick. We may safely assume that, in the instance when, by the preaching of the apostles on Pentecost and afterwards, the number of believers who received the Word and were baptized increased to five thousand, not all of this multitude were baptized by the apostles alone. The apostles had to attend to their office of preaching, as commanded. Baptisms were accomplished by the assistance of others who accompanied the apostles. St. Paul, having already been called to the apostleship, was baptized by the disciple Ananias. Acts 9:18.

69 Therefore, it depends not on the person, whoever it may be, that administers baptism or that receives it; who it is that preaches the Word or hears it. They may be saints or sinners, believers or unbelievers; if only the Word is preached and taught in its purity, then the ministry is also right, no matter who the minister may be. The office of preaching being first observed, then Christ speaks to you and me who hear the Word and desire to be Christians, admonishing us with this passage: V.16. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

70 The Christians filling this office and possessing the talent that must bear interest, are commanded to preach wherever possible, and, together with the preaching, administer also baptism. But as to who may believe or disbelieve, this you must commit to Christ himself, for it is not in the preacher's power to save or condemn, but in the power of Christ alone. He is Lord over life and death, and may, therefore, grant it or withhold it from whomsoever he will.

71 However, Christ is not silent upon the point, to whom will he grant salvation. He says: V.46. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” And again: “He that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Naught else can help or hinder; no difference of person or station avails; one being is as dear to him as another. Only that one believes and desires baptism, will avail to save. All who are disciples or hearers of this message must so learn.

72 Preachers and teachers must see to it that they preach and teach faithfully, and, as St. Paul says, shrink not from declaring the whole counsel of God, Acts 20:27, that the hearers may know what God demands and has decreed concerning them. All the world has always desired, searched and sought to know this, but no one ever attained such knowledge, till it was revealed from heaven through Christ. It is embodied in this message. We should no longer seek nor expect any other revelation. Here it may be clearly perceived that the Gospel itself is witness that the Word of preaching and the sacraments are the means by which you may know God's decree concerning yourself. If you believe the message, you shall be saved. But if you do not believe, then it is also decreed that you shall come under the judgment of condemnation, no matter how earnestly you may have sought, by your works and deeds, to obtain salvation. Though you had accomplished all the works and wonders of angels and men, it would be unavailing. The whole world is hereby divided into two classes, entirely separated from each other, the one for heaven and the other for hell. On the last day no other judgment shall be pronounced than that in accordance with this message, namely, the reward of belief or disbelief.

73 Therefore, we ought to thank God that we belong to those who shall be saved. For we are among those called God's creatures, to whom he commands this message to be preached. And we are, also, thanks to God, baptized into Christ, and have preached and confessed him before the world as the Lord that is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and is ruling over all the world. Our preaching, faith and confession is, indeed, pure and true; God grant that our lives be according to our faith and confession.

All this is said concerning the preaching of the Gospel, which Gospel Christ commanded to be proclaimed in the whole world after his ascension into heaven. Now follows the last part, namely:

V.17. “And these signs shall accompany them that believe.”

74 Here the sectarians have brooded over the question of signs, vainly asking why they do not accompany our preaching and whether they no longer can be expected. It is enough to know, that these signs followed as a testimony to, and public confirmation of, this Gospel message. They were especially necessary in the beginning, to further the spread of the Gospel. But with the preaching of the Word in all lands and tongues accomplished, their prevalence became less frequent, and their testimony less necessary.

75 Yet it is true that the same power and efficacy of Christ remains in Christendom. If it were necessary, such signs could even now be performed. It often took place, and still does, that devils were cast out in Christ's name; likewise the sick are healed by prayer in his name, and many receive help in great distress of both body and soul. The Gospel is now being preached in new tongues, where it was unknown before. Signs are given to all Christendom, as Christ says--to those who believe. True, we do not always observe this gift in every Christian believer, and even the apostles did not do these wonders with equal power.

76 These signs are inferior and very insignificant in comparison with the really great wonders that Christ unceasingly works in the world through his divine omnipotence. He makes frequent allusions to them. These are truly great wonders: That Christendom is defended and preserved on earth; that God's Word and faith, or even a single Christian believer, remains on earth in spite of the devil and his angels; that he protects us against so many tyrants and sects, so many false and unthankful people among the Christians, yea, even against our own flesh and blood--all of them raging against Christ's kingdom. Yet the devil, with all his power and the help of all his servants, will never be able--though he has attempted to do so in his great wrath and still attempts it through the pope, the Turk and all his hosts--to remove the baptismal font from the church, the Gospel from the pulpit, to extirpate Christ's name or destroy from out his kingdom in the world the little flock that clings to him. This great wonder, the power of Christ, is prophesied of and to it praise is given, in Ps 110:2: “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies,” who are indeed so wroth and bitter that, if they could, in one moment, they would pervert and overthrow all that lives and moves in Christendom. And yet, one single Christian believer, by his preaching and prayer, can be the means of salvation to uncounted multitudes. In spite of Satan's hatred and desire to hinder, many people hear the Gospel, receive baptism and become teachers of the faith; and through the influence of the Gospel, the sacredness of home and country are preserved.

77 This good work may well be called by believing Christians, casting out devils, taking up serpents and speaking with new tongues. Those visible wonders were only signs to the ignorant unbelievers, as Paul says in 1 Cor 14:22, and for the purpose of bringing them to Christ. But why should we, who know this and believe the Gospel, need such signs? And if they were necessary, we can easily believe they were done, We see that through Christ greater wonders are done among us; the power of Satan and the terrors of sin and death are overcome in our hearts, and many Christians, both young and old, cheerfully die in Christ and by their faith tread Satan under foot. The marvelous power of Christ's kingdom is constantly the theme of St. Paul and the other apostles, and Christ himself lauds it above all other signs and wonders in Lk 10:19-20, saying: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall in any wise hurt you,” etc. “Nevertheless in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” etc.

78 Thus, even in our day, are great signs and wonders upon wonders. Here is an example: In a great city a little flock of Christians is kept in the knowledge of God and in true faith, notwithstanding that more than a hundred thousand devils are turned loose upon them and the world is filled with sects, with scoundrels and tyrants. In spite of the opposition of all these, the Gospel, baptism, Lord's Supper and confession of Christ are still preserved. We can see that, for the heathen, outward, tangible signs were necessary. Christians, however, behold spiritual signs, in comparison with which the former ones are but earthly. We need, therefore, not wonder that they are no longer in evidence now that the Gospel reigns throughout the world and among those who aforetime could not comprehend God until he had brought them into the fold by visible signs, as little children are persuaded with apples and pears.

79 Moreover, we should marvel at and extol the great and glorious miracles that Christ is daily accomplishing in his Christendom, wherein Christians conquer the power of the devil and snatch so many souls from the jaws of death and hell. Against their work the devil daily battles in the world and fumes in his awful wrath and rancor. Yet he must flee from the Christian. What though he be cast out of one poor heart, in which he has raged? The whole world still remains helpless in his power unless it is brought to the knowledge of Christ. But wherever a Christian, in spite of the terrors of sin, death and hell, with cheerful heart dies in Christ, there Satan has been truly cast out from his dwelling-place, and deprived of his power and kingdom.

80 The wicked world shall not see nor heed such signs and wonders, but with open eyes and hardened hearts shall pass by and blaspheme them, just as it always despises God's works, blaspheming even the public and indisputable miracles of Christ and the apostles. The world would but the more despise such signs, were they done by us. God must withhold them, since the Gospel is now revealed everywhere, giving the world only those other signs, by which it is offended and therefore is overthrown and destroyed by the power of God. The Jews so fared when they despised the signs by which Christ manifested his proffered help and blessings. They looked for and demanded other signs. Then he refrained and would give them no other sign than the sign of Jonah, lying, after his crucifixion, for three days in the grave in weakness and death. Afterward he came forth from death and the grave, demonstrating his power by his resurrection and ascension. Now he mightily rules over all the world, and will overthrow and destroy it, together with all its power and glory.

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