Mark 7

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)

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent; Matthew 15:21-28

The Faith of the Syrophonecian Woman

1 This Gospel presents to us a true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes in three great and hard battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word. For St. Mark says, she heard some news about Jesus, Mk 7:25. What kind of news? Without doubt good news, and the good report that Christ was a pious man and cheerfully helped everybody. Such news about God is a true Gospel and a word of grace, out of which sprang the faith of this woman; for had she not believed, she would not have thus run after Christ etc. In like manner we have often heard how St. Paul in Rom 10:17 says that faith cometh by hearing, that the Word must go in advance and be the beginning of our salvation.

2 But how is it that many more have heard this good news concerning Christ, who have not followed him, and did not esteem it as good news? Answer: The physician is helpful and welcome to the sick; the healthy have no use for him. But this woman felt her need, hence she followed the sweet scent, as is written in the Song of Solomon 1:3. In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, “The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,” Lk 1:53. All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help.

3 But see in this example how Christ like a hunter exercises and chases faith in his followers in order that it may become strong and firm. First when the woman follows him upon hearing of his fame and cries with assured confidence that he would according to his reputation deal mercifully with her, Christ certainly acts differently, as if to let her faith and good confidence be in vain and turn his good reputation into a lie, so that she could have thought: Is this the gracious, friendly man? or: Are these the good words, that I have heard spoken about him, upon which I have depended? It must not be true; he is my enemy and will not receive me; nevertheless he might speak a word and tell me that he will have nothing to do with me. Now he is as silent as a stone. Behold, this is a very hard rebuff, when God appears so earnest and angry and conceals his grace so high and deep; as those know so well, who feel and experience it in their hearts. Therefore she imagines he will not fulfil what he has spoken, and will let his Word be false; as it happened to the children of Israel at the Red Sea and to many other saints.

4 Now, what does the poor woman do? She turns her eyes from all this unfriendly treatment of Christ; all this does not lead her astray, neither does she take it to heart, but she continues immediately and firmly to cling in her confidence to the good news she had heard and embraced concerning him, and never gives up. We must also do the same and learn firmly to cling to the Word, even though God with all his creatures appears different than his Word teaches. But, oh, how painful it is to nature and reason, that this woman should strip herself of self and forsake all that she experienced, and cling alone to God's bare Word, until she experienced the contrary. May God help us in time of need and of death to possess like courage and faith!

5 Secondly, since her cry and faith avail nothing, the disciples approach with their faith, and pray for her, and imagine they will surely be heard. But while they thought he should be more tenderhearted, he became only the more indifferent, as we see and think. For now he is silent no more nor leaves them in doubt; he declines their prayer and says: V.24. “I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This rebuff is still harder since not only our own person is rejected, but the only comfort that remains to us, namely, the comfort and prayers of pious and holy persons, are rejected. For our last resort, when we feel that God is ungracious or we are in need, is that we go to pious, spiritual persons and there seek counsel and help, and they are willing to help as love demands; and yet, that may amount to nothing, even they may not be heard and our condition becomes only worse.

6 Here one might upbraid Christ with all the words in which he promised to hear his saints, as Mt 18:19: “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them.” Likewise, Mk 11:24: “All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them;” and many more like passages. What becomes of such promises in this woman's case? Christ, however, promptly answers and says: Yes, it is true, I hear all prayers, but I gave these promises only to the house of Israel. What do you think? Is not that a thunderbolt that dashes both heart and faith into a thousand pieces, when one feels that God's Word, upon which one trusts, was not spoken for him, but applies only to others? Here all saints and prayers must be speechless, yea, here the heart must let go of the Word, to which it would gladly hold, if it would consult its own feelings.

7 But what does the poor woman do? She does not give up, she clings to the Word although it be torn out of her heart by force, is not turned away by this stern answer, still firmly believes his goodness is yet concealed in that answer, and still she will not pass judgment that Christ is or may be ungracious. That is persevering steadfastness.

8 Thirdly, she follows Christ into the house, as Mark 7:24-25 informs us, perseveres, falls down at his feet, and says: V.25. “Lord, help me!” There she received her last mortal blow, in that Christ said in her face, as the words tell, that she was a dog, and not worthy to partake of the children's bread. What will she say to this! Here he presents her in a bad light, she is a condemned and an outcast person, who is not to be reckoned among God's chosen ones.

9 That is an eternally unanswerable reply, to which no one can give a satisfactory answer. Yet she does not despair, but agrees with his judgment and concedes, she is a dog, and desires also no more than a dog is entitled to, namely, that she may eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the Lord. Is not that a masterly stroke as a reply? She catches Christ with his own words. He compares her to a dog, she concedes it, and asks nothing more than that he let her be a dog, as he himself judged her to be. Where will Christ now take refuge? He is caught. Truly, people let the dog have the crumbs under the table; it is entitled to that. Therefore Christ now completely opens his heart to her and yields to her will, so that she is now no dog, but even a child of Israel.

10 All this, however, is written for our comfort and instruction, that we may know how deeply God conceals his grace before our face, and that we may not estimate him according to our feelings and thinking, but strictly according to his Word. For here you see, though Christ appears to be even hardhearted, yet he gives no final decision by saying “No.” All his answers indeed sound like no, but they are not no, they remain undecided and pending. For he does not say: I will not hear thee; but is silent and passive, and says neither yes nor no. In like manner he does not say she is not of the house of Israel; but he is sent only to the house of Israel; he leaves it undecided and pending between yes and no. So he does not say, Thou art a dog, one should not give thee of the children's bread; but it is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs; leaving it undecided whether she is a dog or not. Yet all those trials of her faith sounded more like no than yes; but there was more yea in them than nay; aye, there is only yes in them, but it is very deep and very concealed, while there appears to be nothing but no.

11 By this is set forth the condition of our heart in times of temptation; Christ here represents how it feels. It thinks there is nothing but no and yet that is not true. Therefore it must turn from this feeling and lay hold of and retain the deep spiritual yes under and above the no with a firm faith in God's Word, as this poor woman does, and say God is right in his judgment which he visits upon us; then we have triumphed and caught Christ in his own words. As for example when we feel in our conscience that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the kingdom of heaven, then we experience hell, and we think we are lost forever. Now whoever understands here the actions of this poor woman and catches God in his own judgment, and says: Lord, it is true, I am a sinner and not worthy of thy grace; but still thou hast promised sinners forgiveness, and thou art come not to call the righteous, but, as St. Paul says in I Tim 1:15, “to save sinners.” Behold, then must God according to his own judgment have mercy upon us.

12 King Manasseh did likewise in his penitence as his prayer proves; he conceded that God was right in his judgment and accused himself as a great sinner and yet he laid hold of the promised forgiveness of sins. David also does likewise in Ps 51:4 and says: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight; that thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” For God's disfavor in every way visits us when we cannot agree with his judgment nor say yea and amen, when he considers and judges us to be sinners. If the condemned could do this, they would that very moment be saved. We say indeed with our mouth that we are sinners; but when God himself says it in our hearts, then we are not sinners, and eagerly wish to be considered pious and free from that judgment. But it must be so; if God is to be righteous, in his words that teach you are a sinner, then you may claim the rights of all sinners that God has given them, namely, the forgiveness of sins. Then you eat not only the crumbs under the table as the little dogs do; but you are also a child and have God as your portion according to the pleasure of your will.

13 This is the spiritual meaning of our Gospel and the scriptural explanation of it. For what this poor woman experienced in the bodily affliction of her daughter, whom she miraculously caused to be restored to health again by her faith, that we also experience when we wish to be healed of our sins and of our spiritual diseases, which is truly a wicked devil possessing us; here she must become a dog and we become sinners and brands of hell, and then we have already recovered from our sickness and are saved.

14 Whatever more there is in this Gospel worthy of notice, as that one can obtain grace and help through the faith of another without his own personal faith, as took place here in the daughter of this poor woman, has been sufficiently treated elsewhere. Furthermore that Christ and his disciples along with the woman in this Gospel exhibit to us an example of love, in that no one acts, prays and cares for himself but each for others, is also clear enough and worthy of consideration.

[[Luther published two sermons for Mark 7:31-37. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 31-33; the other in verses 34-37.]]

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity; Mark 7:31-37

1 Dearly Beloved: I hope you thoroughly understand this Gospel, for it is plain. However, as we have but one old story to preach, and since it is so precious and cannot be sufficiently considered, we will apply our text also to this old story, and briefly speak of faith and love. In the first place, we will look at the simple story of the text itself; then, if time permit, we will also speak a little of its spiritual meaning.


2 First, the story or example before us is good in itself, for here we see that many persons received the poor man, as though his distress were their own, bringing him to Jesus to be helped. By this, both faith and love are shown to us. Faith, in that they had heard of the Lord before, that he was kind and compassionate, and helped all those who came to him. For the Word must first have been heard, and must first have entered the human heart, showing us the mercy of God in such a way that we depend upon it. Therefore the Word of Christ must here also have taught these people this; otherwise, where it does not come, there faith and works are all in vain.

3 And though this gospel lesson, like the preceding one, does not state that they had previously heard the tidings of the Gospel, yet we must nevertheless conclude, and the fact proves it, that they must have previously heard the good tidings and Gospel of Christ the Lord, through which they believed. For that is properly the Gospel which is called good tidings, a good report, not that which is written on paper, but that which is proclaimed in the world and becomes known by the living voice. Thus doubtless they had heard that Christ was kind, friendly, and helpful, willing to aid everybody; this was the beginning of their faith. Thus you must earnestly search the Gospel, and you will always find, that the tidings must first go forth and lead us to God, in order that he may lay the first stone; otherwise, all is lost. In the next place, you will learn that because they have clung to the tidings and trusted them for their comfort, they went thither, and hoped to receive of him what they had heard.

4 Now you here observe the nature of faith which grows out of the Word. For the Word first sets forth to us the mercy and goodness of God; then faith causes us to cleave unto it with a firm confidence, and to obey the Word. For we are now conscious of this in our hearts, and are satisfied; for as soon as we believe, we are already with Christ in this inheritance, and are justified.

5 In the third place, this Gospel lesson describes the works of love in this, that these people go and care for the poor man, just as Christ, without their merit, and without their doing, sends forth his Word, and spreads abroad his goodness and mercy. Thus as they have laid hold and drank from the fountain, they again flow forth freely, and also impart themselves to their neighbor freely and without any merit. Thus love should do its work, not as though it needs it, but devotes itself solely to the benefit of its neighbor, as Paul, among other things, speaks to the Corinthians about love, 1. Cor. 13:5: “Love seeketh not its own”; and to the Philippians he says, Phil. 2:4: “Not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.”

6 This we may also learn here in these good people. They do not need this work themselves, nor do they look to themselves, but to the poor man, and think how they may help him; they seek no reward, but act independently and freely. Thus you should by right do likewise; if not, you are no Christians. Therefore consider carefully how love is here described, that it takes upon itself the care of others. If we accept this lesson, it will be well for us; but if not, then God will punish us with blindness, as he has been doing, to our grief, for nearly four hundred years. This

much we say briefly concerning faith and love. Furthermore, we must now, in the fourth place, treat of the faith of other persons.

7 You know the fundamental truth is, that man cannot be just and acceptable before God, save alone by faith. So that they have lied and spoken falsely who have taught heretofore that we may deal with God through our works. Moreover it was much more foolish that they taught us to rely upon the works and faith of other persons, pretending that nuns, monks and priests can help other persons by their wailing which they perform in their cloisters at night, and that in this manner they can help other people and distribute their treasures. Therefore, let everyone here remember, that no one dare undertake to be saved by the faith, or by the work of another person; in truth, it cannot be done by the faith or work of Mary, or of any saint, yea, not even by Christ's work and faith, but through your own personal faith. For God will not permit Mary, or any other saint, not even Christ himself, to take your place, in order that you might be godly and righteous, unless you believe for your own self. If Christ's faith and work will not do it, you will much less accomplish it by the work or faith of all the monks and priests. Hence our Gospel lesson gives us an occasion to speak of the faith of others.

For here we read that they led this person to Christ in their own faith and work; the man did nothing toward it, but merely suffered it to be done.

8 Therefore let everybody mark well, that he can never be saved through another person's faith. But it of course may happen, that by the faith of other persons you may be brought to a faith of your own. Likewise the good works of other persons may be of service to me to obtain works of my own. Therefore those lie, who declare that we may be saved through the works or faith of other persons, whether we ourselves believe or not. No, this is not so! Unless you yourself draw out from God's kindness and mercy a. faith of your own, you will not be saved. Thus it must be; otherwise no other person's faith or works avail, not even Christ, though he is the Saviour of all the world; his kindness, his help will do you no good whatever, unless you believe in it, and are enlightened by it.

9 Therefore, by all means beware of the preachers whom you have often heard among the monks, who approach a dying person and say: “Behold, my brave fellow, do not despair; if you have committed sins, be sorry for them; but in order that you may fare so much the better, I will make you a present of my righteous life and my good works.” If now, the dying, person accept such a gift, he is as much a fool as the other, and with all these works, he will go to the devil. Therefore, beware of such consolation, and say: If you are willing to serve me with your good works, approach God and speak thus: O heavenly Father, by thy grace I am now believing; therefore, I pray thee, my God, give also unto this poor man a faith of his own. This might help me; but that you would give me your own faith, this you cannot do, neither would it help me. You will have enough to do to be saved by your own faith.

10 This you may see in the case of the foolish virgins, who, when their lamps went out, said unto the wise virgins: “Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out.” Then did the wise ones answer and say: “Peradventure there will not be enough for us and you.” Mat. 25:8-9. In that case I am in need even of more faith for myself; how then could I share it with another? For my own faith must stand before God's judgment, and must fight so hard and cleave so firmly to God's mercy, that the sweat will run down its face, if it is to prevail. That is the true meaning of St. Peter's words, 1. Pet. 4:18. “The righteous is scarcely saved, where then shall the ungodly appear?” For when death makes its onslaught, then such fear and agony will seize him, that he can scarcely with all his strength, stand for himself and be kept in faith. Hence it is greatly to be deplored that they have established so much deception, putting monks' cowls upon the dead, and inventing other foolish things, by which they led poor souls straightway to perdition. Beware of them.

11 Now this I say, that you may know how far the faith of others may be of use to us, and how your own faith can help you. Other people's merits will help you to attain a merit of your own, and nothing more. And though all the angels, yea, the mercy of God itself, were ready to stand for you, it would avail you nothing, unless you cleave unto it with a faith of your own. But it may effect this, that it will assist you to obtain a faith of your own, which will help you. Furthermore, even if Christ did die for us, and pledged and gave his body and life, blood and flesh for us, and became our advocate; yet it would avail nothing, unless we believe in him. But he can assist us in this way, that he appears before the Father and says: “O Father, this have I done for mankind; do thou give them faith, in order that they may enjoy it.” This then, will help us, if we feel assured that his works and merit are our own. In the same manner one should also speak of the other saints, that no saint's intercession and merit avail unless we ourselves believe. You observe this also in our lesson. There lies the poor man, unable either to speak or to hear. They who bring him to the Lord can speak and hear. But they cannot make him speak by their hearing and speaking, and even though they all had come near him and said: “We will speak and hear for you”; yet he would, in spite of this, have remained speechless and deaf continually, and would never have been able to speak.

12 Likewise, if I were to give you a written declaration saying: “Go forth, this is my work; this shall be yours”; yet it will not help you a whit, but it will carry you into hell. In what way, then, will it help you? If I do, as these men do, who come to Christ and say: “O Lord, help this poor man, that he may receive his speech!” They do not say: “We will hear and speak in your stead,” but they pray that Christ himself would give him speech. Likewise, if you take my part, and use your faith in such a way that it may help me to a faith of my own, this might help me; thus! thus it must be! God be thanked! Otherwise, no work nor any brotherhood, will avail.

13 Therefore say: I must neither rely upon your works nor you upon mine; but I will, by my own faith, pray God to give you a faith of your own. This is what is said, that we all are priests and kings, that we, like Christ himself, may intercede for one another before God, praying for personal faith. Thus, if I happen to notice that you have no faith of your own, or a weak faith, I go and ask God to help you to obtain faith, not by giving you my faith and my works, but your own faith and your own works; so that Christ may give him all his works and salvation through faith, as, he hath given them to us by faith.

14 That is the meaning of the saying of Christ, John 16:26-27: “I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father.” This is a beautiful addition, as though he would say: I have prayed for you, and have entreated God that he would give you what is mine. Therefore know my name. For through my prayer be has accepted you and has given you faith, so that henceforth you may pray for yourselves, and I need not do it; provided that you do it in my name. Here he has crowned us, dedicated and anointed us with the Holy Spirit, so that we all are priests in Christ, and may exercise the priest's office, go before God and pray for one another. This is what St. Peter means in writing thus in his First Epistle, 2:9-10: “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may shew forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light, which in time past were no people, but now are the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

15 Hence we may all say: Christ was my priest, who prayed for me and purchased faith and the Spirit for me; therefore I am also a priest, and must go on praying in the world, that God may give faith also to this and that person. So we conclude, that we shall obtain whatever we earnestly pray for in the true faith, as the Lord says, John 16:24: “Ask, and ye shall receive.”

16 But to pray powerfully is not within our strength; for the Spirit does not always vouchsafe to us to pray with power. Paul prayed that all Israel might be saved, Rom. 9:1f; why did it not come to pass? The difference lies in the faith, for the Spirit did not give it to him; had he been able to add this faith, it would surely have come to pass. For if Paul had said, “I pray for all Israel,” and had believed and said: “Lord, I am certain that thou wilt do it,” then it would certainly have come to pass. But though he often prayed for them from his heart, the Spirit did not vouchsafe to him that he should confidently believe it. Therefore it is not within our power to pray in strong confidence; the Holy Spirit does it. Whenever we pray for anyone and are able to add, “It will be done,” then it will certainly be done; but whenever we pray, we must add, “Thy will be done.” If, then, I must let it go according to his will, I cannot suggest to him either the person, or the time, or the manner, but must freely leave it all to him; then, indeed, I am sure of it. In this manner Christ acted also, who himself prayed thus: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me,” but at once added: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Mat. 26:39.

17 Therefore, when I am to pray for an entire city or community, I ought to say: “O Father, I pray for all of them.” Nevertheless, however, I must give honor to his name or will, and say: “Dear Father, I pray for these; I know it is thy will, that I should pray, that I should not despise prayer; but thy will shall be done always; for I might ask something for some one who is not worthy of it before thee; or again, I might possibly cast aside some one who is worthy; therefore do thou act according to thy divine will, for thou wilt certainly do better than I could ever conceive.” Thus you see that we cannot always add these words: It will be so. But if we are certain in our hearts that we way add: “It will be certainly so,” then it will come to pass.

18 This we see in our text. These people approach the Lord in strong confidence, praying for the poor man, and their prayer is also heard. In the same manner, when baptism is performed we see this take place in the children's faith. There are the infants, bare and naked in body and soul, having neither faith nor works. Then the Christian Church comes forward and prays, that God would pour faith into the child; not that our faith should help the child, but that it may obtain a faith of its own. If it has faith, then after that whatever it does is well done, whether it suckle its mother's breast, or whether it soil itself, or whatever it may please to do. But if it does not obtain faith, our faith is of no value to the child.

19 Therefore my faith can help you in no way except that it may assist you to obtain a faith of your own. Hence, to sum up all, everything depends upon personal faith, as strong as it is, so much does it need the faith and prayer of other people in order to increase in strength. Now you can easily judge, that those people were the greatest fools, who held masses and vigils with the brotherhoods; for the wise virgins have sufficient oil only for themselves, and scarcely have enough. This is a simple explanation of the Story of the Gospel lesson. Now let us briefly consider the meaning which our Lord puts into it.


20 The people bring the poor man to the Lord, the Lord takes him to a special the man's

ears, spits, and touches his tongue with the spittle, looks tip toward heaven, and sighing, says, Ephphata, that is, Be opened! This is a lovely picture, and its meaning is good. For by those who here bring the deafmute to the Lord, the office of the ministry is meant. Ministers and the Apostles lead the poor consciences of men to God. This is done in three ways, by preaching, by a godly life, and by intercession. With the Word and preaching, they are brought to God; a godly life serves to show the Word so much the mightier in its power. But the Word itself leads to Christ, though it be preached by a sinner. Yet, a good life serves as an emphasis and a furtherance of the Gospel; while a wicked life dulls its edge. Their third duty, to pray for the people, likewise leads them on the road both to faith and to works.

21 Now if the Word go on its way in this threefold manner, it cannot fail to bring forth fruit, as God says, Is. 55:11: “My Word, that goeth forth out of my mouth, shall not return to me void.” This is indicated by the action of the pious persons who carry the mute into Christ's presence; this signifies the ministers, who bring forward the sinner; then God appears, giving growth and increase, as Paul says, 1. Cor. 3:7, He opens the sinner's eyes, ears, and mouth. This happens in a wink of the eye, for God's Word is like lightning, which in a moment passes from sunrise to the ends of the earth. Thus when such persons are brought to God, he gives them grace to believe.

22 This is signified by the act of laying his fingers into the man's ears; through the Word he breathes the Holy Spirit into him, making the heart believing, decent, chaste, and holy; for the finger signifies the Holy Spirit.

23 Again, the spittle that is laid on the man's tongue, typifies the Word of God; this is put into his mouth in order that he may be able to speak it. And this spittle, the Word of God, is a noble thing, but very bitter to the Old Adam.

24 Then they praise God, saying: “He hath done all things well, he has made the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.” For wherever there is true faith, there the Spirit will not allow you any rest; you will break forth, become a priest, teach other people also, as we read Ps. 116:10: “I believe, for I will speak.” There the heart is full, and the mouth must run over. Then when they are persecuted, they will not care.

25 But the part of the story, that Christ took the man apart from the others, looks up to heaven, has this meaning: If God do not take me alone to a separate place, and give me the Holy Spirit, so that I cling to the Word which I have heard, then all preaching is in vain. But why does this require so much that he looks up to heaven and makes use of divine power, calling upon God's grace to come and to act? By this he teaches us that such power must come from heaven, working in the heart of man by divine strength; then help comes to him. Again the spittle which is the Word of God is a noble thing for the Old Adam. Then they go forth to praise and glorify God.

26 Thus have you learned, from the story and from its spiritual or secret meaning, that we must first hear the Word of God and thus, through the intercession of Christ, obtain a faith of our own, and then we come out, confessing this and praising God forever. May this be sufficient on this Gospel lesson. Let us pray to God for grace.

[[Luther published two sermons for Mark 7:31-37. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 31-33; the other in verses 34-37.]]

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity; Mark 7:31-37 (2nd Sermon)

1 As the Gospel everywhere shows Christ our Lord to be a merciful and gracious man, ready to help every one by word and deed, in body and soul, so does this Gospel lesson picture to us how willingly he helped this poor man, who was deaf and dumb, in order that we might be invited to believe, trusting to obtain from him all that is good, and also thereby to show unto us an example and a pattern, which every Christian ought to follow, helping his neighbor in the same manner.

2 For a Christian life consists entirely in the following: First, that we believe and trust in Christ our Savior, being fully assured that we are not deserted by him, whatever need or danger may betide us. Secondly, that every Christian person also conducts himself toward friend or foe in the same way, as he sees Christ does, who is so willing to help everyone. Whoever does this, is a Christian; but he who does it not, is no Christian, though he calls himself one. For these two cannot be separated; faith must be followed by its fruits, or it is not true faith. That is the sum of this Gospel lesson.

3 Now some have been agitated over the fact that in this miracle Christ first takes the poor man and leads him apart from the people, performs particular ceremonies, places his fingers in the man’s ears, and spits, and touches his tongue, looks up to heaven, sighs and uses peculiar language; whereas he had before helped other mutes and many not mutes without any such ceremonies, merely by a word. All this, I say, has set some to thinking, and they have explained it ‘that Christ in this case called to mind how this same man, whom he was now helping would afterward sin with his tongue and ears; therefore he had pity on him who would commit such sins after this great work was done, and that this deed of mercy would be so ‘little appreciated, in that a speechless tongue should become a blaspheming tongue, which would not only defame his neighbors, but even dishonor God in heaven; and the ears, which were opened in order to hear God’s Word, would rather hear all manner of erroneous and false doctrine, than the Word of God. This, they say. was the reason Christ sighed and looked up to heaven.

4 I will not reject this opinion; [so that it may not be said, that we are never pleased with anything, but want to have everything new and changed.] But, we must not, as it were, confine Christ too narrowly as though he had regard to one person only; we must regard him more highly than that he would help only this man. For all the Holy Scriptures, and particularly the prophets and psalms, declare, that he was sent to have deep compassion on all the misery and need of the whole human race, and that Christ was the person, chosen particularly above all saints, to be so minded toward us as surely to take upon himself all our need and sorrow as though they were his own, as in Psalm 40:12 he says of our sins, “Mine iniquities have over-taken me, so that I am not able to look up,” and in Psalm 41:4, “O Lord, have mercy upon me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against thee.” Here our merciful Lord speaks in our person, bearing our sins as though they were his own, and as though he had committed them himself. And again, Psalm 69:5: “O God, thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee”; again, Isaiah 53:6’ “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”; and vs. 4-5: “He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; the chastisement of our peace was upon him,” etc. And other passages of Scripture bear witness to this.

5 For the Lord Christ must be painted in such a manner that he is the only person who takes upon himself the misfortune, not of one country, or of one city, but of the whole world; even as St. John names him, John 1:29: “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” But if he bears the sins, it follows that he must also have borne whatever belongs to sin, and what follows sin, as the devil, death and hell.

6 That is the reason he sighs so here, as the person who was to do it, of whom the prophets had long before announced that he would have deep compassion upon all the evils of the whole human race. He was not alone concerned about the tongue and the ears of only this poor man; but it was a common sigh over all tongues and ears in general, yea, over all hearts, bodies, and souls, and all men, from Adam to the last human being, who is yet to be born. Hence he does not chiefly sigh because this man would in the future commit many sins; but the chief reason is that he, Christ the Lord, viewed the entire mass of flesh and blood which the devil afflicted with a fatal hurt in Paradise, making mankind deaf and dumb, and thus thrust them into death and hell fire. This view being before the eyes of Christ, he looked far about him, seeing how great the damage was, inflicted in Paradise by the devil through the fall of one man. He looks not upon those two ears, but upon the whole number of men who had come from Adam, and were yet to come. Therefore this Gospel lesson sets forth Christ as being the man who is concerned about you and me, and about us all in a way that we ought to be concerned about ourselves, as though he were sunk in those sins and afflictions ‘in which we are sunk, and that he sighs over the fact, that the very devil has brought about this ruin.

7 This surely is why he shows such great earnestness in this case, and makes use of special ways and means. As though he would say: “Your deplorable condition, your bondage in sin and death, affects me so deeply, that moved by nothing but by my own thoughts, I must act in a special manner.” For so extraordinary are his actions in this case, compared to his other works, that it is truly astonishing. He often healed others, or casted out devils, with a single word; indeed, he actually helped some whom he never visited, as for instance the centurion’s servant, Matthew 8:13; here, however, on account of two diseased organs, the tongue and the ear, his actions are very peculiar, as though he were especially concerned. By this he shows us that at this time he had a special view and special thoughts of the human race.

8 For as we admit that Christ, our Lord and God, had all other human traits, sin excepted, we must also concede, that he did not always have the same thoughts, was not always equally disposed, nor always equally fervent; but was variously actuated, just as other saints. Therefore, as his emotions and thoughts were peculiar in this case, his actions were also peculiar, so that we must see how truly human he was in body and soul, whose mind was not at all times alike disposed, just as little as he was always hungry and sleepy at the same time. As these conditions are variable in men, so they were variable in him, as St. Paul says, Philippians 2:7: “He took upon himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man,” etc. This must not be understood merely of external appearances, but of his soul and the thoughts of his heart, that, being ardent at one time, he was more ardent at another time, etc. This, then, is one reason why Christ here acted thus, namely, because he is a real man; but at the same time a person who stood in the place of all men and took upon himself at the same time the diseases of this man, and of all men.

9 The other thought is also true, that he was deeply grieved by the knowledge that this man, if he would heal him, might sin greatly after he was healed. But it is too narrow to explain it as referring only to the future sins of this man. For it was the task of Christ, our Lord God, to concern himself, and to suffer, not only for one man’s sin but, as we read in Revelation 13:8, for all sins that would be committed from the beginning of the world, from Adam to our time, even unto the last man to be born before the day of judgment. Therefore their view is too narrow who explain it only of those sins which this man would yet do in the future. Although he showed in other instances that he took account of the future life of certain persons, as he said to the paralytic, John :14: “Thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee.”

10 For Christ, our dear Lord, has so kind a heart that he grieves to think of a person sinning. For he is well aware that sins cannot remain unpunished; therefore he even wept over the city of Jerusalem, because he saw that her sins had to be punished. So kind and loving’ is his heart that he has by no means pleasure where sin is committed.

11 He addresses here particularly two organs of the body, the ear and the tongue; for you know the Kingdom of Christ is founded upon the Word, which cannot be apprehended or understood except by these two organs, the ear and the tongue, and he rules in the hearts of men alone by the Word and by faith. The ears apprehend the Word, the heart believes it; the tongue, however, speaks or confesses that which the heart believes. Hence, barring the tongue and ears, there is no perceptible difference between the Kingdom of Christ and that of the world.

12 For in regard to the outward life a Christian has duties like an unbeliever; he tills the ground, works his fields, and plows just like others, and he undertakes no peculiar work or deed, either in eating, drinking, working, sleeping, or anything else. But these two organs of the body make a difference between a Christian and an unbeliever; a Christian speaks and hears differently; he has a tongue which praises the grace of God and preaches Christ the Lord as being the only Savior, etc. This the world does not do; it speaks of avarice and other vices, preaches and praises its own glory.

13 In like manner the ears of both differ. A Christian’s ears have the same Word which the tongue preaches, and the heart believes; but the world prefers to hear one speak of her wisdom, understanding, honor and glory. The ears and tongues of Christians are thus different from the ears and tongues of the world, or of unbelievers, caring nought for silver or gold, but only for that which is said of Christ, and how to speak and preach Christ.

14 Surely our dear Lord foresaw how much harm and misery would yet be caused by tongues and ears. It does great harm that Christians are persecuted, drowned, burned, and hanged, and that the world sets itself forcibly against the Word; but this harm does not penetrate all, nor will it win. For when it becomes known that persons are dealt with so very unjustly, they only grow bold and fearless thereby and despise such torture and suffering. Hence that is not the greatest injury with which tyrants afflict Christendom; but that piece of flesh which lurks behind the teeth, offers the greatest harm to the Kingdom of Christ. I am not now referring to people lying about and defaming one another; I am speaking of the higher things, that the tongue after Christ has loosed it and has given it the Gospel, should thenceforth inflict such notorious injury. It is true, the injury is not so glaring, and it appears to be much worse if a person’s head is struck off, than if a false prophet or writer comes forward; but a false sermon, yea even a false word, which comes whirling along in God’s name, will cut off a great number of souls, so that an entire city or country may fall under it.

15 This now is one of the afflictions which caused Christ to sigh; as though he would say: Be watchful! Beware of deceitful tongues which meddle with the Scriptures, more than of those which hold forth in the winehouse or in the grocery-store; though the latter are not harmless, yet when those tongues begin to speak which I have made loose so that they can boast of Christ, beware of them, etc. And in very deed, it is worth while to deplore the fact that those who have the Word and can talk much about it, should nevertheless persecute the Word with tongue and fist. The Turk also is a menace to Christendom, but his harm is inflicted only by the sword, and is in no way equal to the harm done by sectarians. There is need even now that one should sigh because such tongues which mislead so many people and still claim to be Christians, and to have improved the Christian Church. This is the first point, namely, that the devil, after the tongue is loosed and people know what Christ is, still inflicts injury by subverting the doctrine.

16 Hence Christ says, one will find corrupt ears which, though I have opened them, wish to hear nothing else but what such false, evil tongues say. As Paul says, 2 Timothy 4:3 “The lime will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside unto fables,” etc. Preachers who teach thus, are rogues and apostles of the devil. Now the others ought to be so godly as to say, I will not listen to their tongues. Aye, says St. Paul, they do not wish to hear the blessed tongue, but seek another; and in truth they find it, as it now happens among the sectarians of our day. Therefore, says St. Paul, as their ears itch, so will he send them preachers who will forcibly lead them into error. Just as we saw, while under the Pope, that no one was able to withstand the slightest error, but their fictitious purgatory, indulgences, haunting spirits, and whatever was only new, was immediately held to be an article of faith. Thus did the devil rub their ears, so that they were much more willing to listen to such deceit than to the Word of God.

17 It is so even now. Our Lord God opens the ears so that the true Gospel is heard; yet wherever a sectarian turns up, the people immediately accept him, becoming so frenzied and so hostile to the true preachers that I am greatly perplexed how such excellent hearts to whom I would have entrusted body and soul, can grow so spitefully hostile to us, as though they were full of satan and sin much more grievously with tongues and ears than before they had the Gospel, so that it were much better that Christ had never made them whole, and that they had not heard his Word at all.

18 The meaning of Christ’s sighs then is, not only that he reviewed in his mind all afflictions from the beginning of the world, but that he deplored the certainty that after the revelation of the Gospel, his Kingdom should suffer so much harm through the very persons whom he would help, and that his Kingdom should be so buffeted and rent, which would not have happened, if men had not first been rescued by him. To be sure, he must bear it, and we must also bear it; but nevertheless, he will not on that account have sighed in vain.

19 And though the nature of his sighs is not fully stated here--for it cannot be written, as St. Paul says, Romans 8:26, that such sighs ca, not be expressed in written or spoken words — yet for all that, woe betide those who do such injury and make so little of this sighing, and go forth as though they had done well. For Christ was troubled by this with many and various harrassing thoughts, such as these: Behold, so much does it cost me, so much fear and torture I must bear, until I bring it about that these people hear my Word and preach it; and yet they will so shamelessly falsify and subvert it, and will do to me and my kingdom, such great injury’ This ingratitude toward the Word must hurt every Christian soul; hence it is not astonishing that it also moved Christ the lord so greatly, that he here uses special ways and ceremonies, because this thought struck him forcibly at that time.

20 We should learn now from these ceremonies and demonstrative actions, which Christ uses here, how earnestly Christ our Lord cares for us; we should diligently be on our guard to keep our ears and tongues in the condition in which he gave them to us, and fortify ourselves against the devil and against men, lest they change our ears and tongues to the contrary. Secondly, we should also, every one in his calling, show our gratitude toward his Word for this blessing in such a manner that a ruler in his country, a preacher in the pulpit, father and mother in the home, rightly fulfill the duties of their calling, while the others should hear it, keeping open their ears as Christ has opened them, and diligently see to it, as Christ acted in the case of this man, that they may also be as serious, and thank God for it.

21 Among us, God be praised, the tongue has been so developed that we speak purely, and that the ears gladly hear it; for there still are many pious people everywhere who take delight in hearing God’s Word. But side by side with this there is great ingratitude also among us, and frightful contempt for the Word of God, perhaps, indeed, a secret persecution and suffering. Other princes persecute it openly; but we here sit under shelter, as in a garden of roses, and yet secretly there are so many, citizens and peasants, and the noblemen with their golden chains, who would gladly hound all pastors and preachers out of tile country, if only they could do it. This shows that they despise the Word and hate it secretly; as we see it is the case that, where the Word is persecuted openly, there only it would live, and where it is unhindered and public, there they do not want it.

22 But our Lord God will surely not have sighed in vain. Some think, indeed, that it will always remain so, because he keeps so silent about it; but it happens very quickly that a pulpit changes its character. Therefore our Lord God wants us here to take warning, as it was also predicted by St. Paul, in order that we should beware. Tongues will change their speech, and the ears of the people will itch after false preachers, even as it came to pass under the Pope’s rule, where people were so willing and eager to hear and to do, whenever anyone came along who had something new to say, no matter how unreasonable and foolish it might be. At that time, if anyone had risen to preach that a church should be built in the river Elbe, they would have done it. But now that the Word is being taught and preached from the pulpit, to trust in God and to serve our neighbor, the lives of the people nowhere are conformed to it. That is the doings of the very devil, but this does not excuse us.

23 For since the doctrine has been brought into such shape and form that the articles of faith are preached in their purity, and since the tongues are now loosed and the ears are opened, we should also apply ourselves that this doctrine may show itself in our daily lives. But I fear it will not be done before lightning and thunder strike down upon us, as St. Paul says. God has already made a beginning with the Pope, striking the Antichrist with the lightning of the Gospel, which is the Spirit of his mouth, which is now opened and speaks, and is still striking among the wicked; but I fear the teaching will not be followed by right living, until he will come and strike everything to the ground completely, making an end of ungodliness by the manifestation of his glorious coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

24 Now since righteous works and living do not seem to follow the doctrine so perfectly among us as they indeed ought, I fear that our Lord God, unless the day of judgment should break in upon us, will not let his punishment be deferred; for our lives are not at all in agreement with the doctrine, not even in the least thing, as that we should serve our neighbor, which truly is not a great requirement. For there is no need to run to Rome nor to St. James, nor to give money or anything valuable to obtain it; all you need is to give your will to do it. But since we are such desperate people who, after having done only too much under the Pope, do nothing now so either the day of judgment must strike in our midst, or our Lord God will send heresies and then we will be compelled again to do unnecessary works. It is a matter of great concern to Christ, the Lord, that his Word should thus be despised and per secured; therefore those who are the cause of it will not go unpunished. Let this suffice concerning this text. [Let us pray to our Lord God to give us his grace, that we may so act and live as he has enabled us to speak and hear. Amen.]

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