Matthew 22

[[Luther published two sermons for Matt 22:1-14, both found here]]

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:1-14


1 This Gospel presents to us the parable of the wedding; therefore we are compelled to understand it differently than it sounds and appears to the natural ear and eye. Hence we will give attention to the spiritual meaning of the parable, and then notice how the text has been torn and perverted.

2 First, the King, who prepared the marriage feast, is our heavenly Father. The bridegroom is his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The bride is the Christian Church, we and the whole world, in so far as we believe, of which we shall hear later.

3 God first sent out his servants, the Prophets to invite guests to this wedding; they were to bid them, that is, preach, and preach only faith in Christ. But those invited did not come; they were the Jews, to whom the Prophets were sent, they would not hear nor receive those sent to them. At another time he sent other servants, the Apostles and martyrs, to bid us come, and to say to the bidden guests, V.4. “Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come to the marriage feast.”

4 These words beautifully picture to us and teach how we should make use of the life of the saints; namely, to introduce examples by which the doctrine of the Gospel may be confirmed, so that we may the better, by the aid of such examples and lives, meditate upon Christ, and be nourished by and feast upon him as upon fatlings and well fed oxen. This is the reason he calls them fatlings. Take an example: Paul teaches in Rom. 3:23f. how the bride is full of sin and must be sprinkled by the blood of Christ alone, or she will continue unclean, that is, she must only believe that the blood of Christ was shed for her sins, and there is no other salvation possible. Then he beautifully introduces the example of Abraham and confirms the doctrine of faith by the faith and life of Abraham, and says, 4:3: “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” That is a true ox, it is properly slain, it nourishes us, so that we become grounded and strengthened in our faith by the example and faith of Abraham. Again, soon after Paul lays before us a fine fatling, when he cites David the Prophet of God and proves from him, that God does not justify us by virtue of our works, but by faith, when he says, Rom. 4:6-8: “Even as David also pronounceth blessing upon the man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works,” saying in Ps. 32:1-2: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin.” Behold, that fattens and nourishes in the true sense, when we use the example and doctrine of pious saints to confirm our own doctrine and faith. And this is the true honor that we can give to the saints. Follow now further in this Gospel:

5 V.5, 6. “But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise; and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them.” These are the three barriers that prevent us from coming to the marriage feast. The first, or the farm, signifies our honor; it is a great hindrance that we do not think of Christ and believe in him; we fear we must suffer shame and become dishonored, and we do not believe that God can protect us from shame and preserve us in honor. The second go to their spheres of business, that is, they fall with their hearts into their worldly affairs, into avarice, and when they should cleave to the Word, they worry lest they perish and their stomachs fail them; they do not trust God to sustain them. The third class are the worst, they are the high, wise and prudent, the exalted spirits, they not only despise but martyr and destroy the servants; in order to retain their own honor and praise, yea, in order to be something. For the Gospel must condemn their wisdom and righteousness and curse their presumption. This they cannot suffer; therefore they go ahead and kill the servants who invited them to the dinner and the marriage feast. They were the Pharisees and scribes, who put to death both Christ and his Apostles, as their fathers did the Prophets. These are much worse than the first and second classes, who, although they despised and rejected the invitation, yet then went away and neither condemned nor destroyed the servants.

6 Further, the Gospel says: V.7. “But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.” That happened to the Jews through the Romans under Titus and Vespasian, who burned Jerusalem to the ground, to its very foundation. However I prefer to have it understood spiritually, since the whole Gospel is to be explained spiritually. Hence this came to pass when God totally destroyed and burned to the ground the synagogue at Jerusalem, he entirely abandoned faith, scattered the people hither and thither, so that none remained together and they were robbed both of their priesthood and of their kingdom; so that there is not now a poorer, a more miserable and forsaken people on the earth than the Jews. Such is the end of the despisers of God's Word.

7 It now follows: V.8. “Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they that were bidden were not worthy.” This has also come to pass; for the Jews have not desired to know anything at all of Christ; they put him to death, also the Prophets and Apostles, and from that time to the present they have not been worthy to hear a word concerning Christ.

8 Further: V.9. “Then he said to them, Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast.” Hence they went out into the highways, namely, to us heathen, and gathered us together from the ends of the world into a congregation, in which are good and bad.

9 Then the King goes in to behold the guests. This will take place on the day of judgment, when the King will let himself be seen.

10 Then he will find one, not only a single person, but a large company not clothed with a wedding garment, that is, with faith. These are pious people, much better than the foregoing; for you must consider them the ones who have heard and understood the Gospel, yet they cleaved to certain works and did not creep entirely into Christ; like the foolish virgins, who had no oil, that is, no faith.

11 To them the King will say: V.13. “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness,” that is, he condemns their good works, that they no longer avail anything; for the hands signify their work, the feet their walk in life, and he will then cast them into the outer darkness.

12 Now, this outer darkness is in contrast with the inner light, since faith alone must see within the heart. There our light, our reason must be covered and cease, and faith alone lighten us. For if a person will act according to reason and open it, there is nothing but death, hell and sin before his eyes. Reason then considers itself a candidate for death; yet it finds no help in any creature, all is a desert and dark. Therefore reason must be barred out here, or it must despair and surrender itself as a captive to the light of faith alone. This same light then sees that it is God in heaven who is interested in us, who cares for us, upon whom the heart can meditate, who rejects all aid of reason and depends upon no creature; then man will be sustained. Now this is the sense of the words, that those cast thus into outer darkness will be robbed of faith, and thus cast out. Since they do not cleave to God's mercy alone through faith, they must despair and be condemned.

13 Let us now briefly notice what is taught by this marriage feast. First, this marriage feast is a union of the divine nature with the human. And the great love Christ has for us is presented to us in this picture of the wedding feast. For there are many kinds of love, but none is so ardent and fervent as a bride's love, the love a new bride has to her bridegroom, and on the other hand, the bridegroom's love to the bride. True love has no regard for pleasures or presents, or riches, or gold rings and the like; but cares only for the bridegroom. And if he even gave her all he had, she would regard none of his presents, but say: I will have only thee. And if on the other hand he has nothing at all, it makes no difference with her, she will in spite of all that desire him. That is the true nature of the love of a bride. But where one has regard to pleasure, it is harlot-love; she does not care for him, but for the money; therefore such love does not last long.

14 This true bride-love God presented to us in Christ, in that he allowed him to become man for us and be united with our human nature that we might thus perceive and appreciate his good will toward us. Now, as the bride loves her betrothed, so also does Christ love us; and we on the other hand will love him, if we believe and are the true bride. And although he gave us even heaven, the wisdom of all the Prophets, the glory of all the saints and angels, yet we would not esteem them unless he gave us himself. The bride can be satisfied by nothing, is insatiable, the only one thing she wants is the bridegroom himself; as she says in the Song of Solomon, 2:16: “My beloved is mine, and I am his.” She cannot rest until she has her beloved himself. So is Christ also on the other hand disposed toward me: he will have me only, and besides nothing. And if I gave him even all I could, it would be of no use to him; he would have no regard for it, even if I wore all the hoods of all the monks. He wants my whole heart; for the outward things, as the outward virtues, are only maid servants, he wants the wife herself. He demands, that I say from the bottom of my heart: I am thine. The union and the marriage are accomplished by faith, so that I rely fully and freely upon him, that he is mine. If I only have him, what can I desire more?

15 Now, what do we give to him? An impure bride, a dirty, old, wrinkled outcast. But he is the eternal wisdom, the eternal truth, the eternal light, an exceptionally beautiful youth. What does he give us then? Himself, wholly and completely. He does not cut a piece off for me or give me a little morsel, but the whole fountain of eternal wisdom, not a little brooklet. If then I am thus his and he mine, I have eternal life, righteousness and all that belongs to him. Therefore I am righteous, saved, and in a sense that neither death, sin, hell, nor satan can harm me. If he gave me only a part of his wisdom, righteousness and life, I would say: That is of no help to me, but I want thee, without thee nothing is real and true. When he gives me his servants, his Prophets, he gives me only a part and a morsel; the gifts are only concubines, among whom there is only one who is the true bride. They are distinguished thus: there are many souls to whom gifts are made, as, wisdom, love and the like; but they are not the true brides, for they do not say, Thou art mine: but they court your purse on the side, for they love the gifts. But the true bride says: Thee alone will I have, thou art mine, and not the ring, not the jewel, not the present. The above is all spoken of love.

16 Now, what do we bring to him? Nothing but all our heart-aches, all our misfortunes, sins, misery and lamentations. He is the eternal light, we the eternal darkness; he the life, we death; he righteousness, we sin. This is a marriage that is very unequal. But what does the bridegroom do? He is so fastidious that he will not dwell with his bride until he first adorns her in the highest degree. How is that done? The Apostle Paul teaches that when he says in Tit. 3:5-6: “He gave his tender body unto death for them and sprinkled them with his holy blood and cleansed them through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” He instituted a washing; that washing is baptism, with which he washes her. More than this, he has given to her his Word; in that she believes and through her faith she becomes a bride. The bridegroom comes with all his treasures; but I come with all my sins, with all my misery and heart-griefs. But because this is a marriage and a union, in the sense that they become one flesh, Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:5, and they leave father and mother and cleave to one another, they should embrace each other and not disown one another, although one is even a little sick and awkward; for what concerns one, the other must also bear.

17 Therefore, the bride says, I am thine, thou must have me; then he must at the same time take all my misfortune upon himself. Thus then are my sins eternal righteousness, my death eternal life, my hell heaven; for these two, sin and righteousness, cannot exist together, nor heaven and hell. Are we now to come together the one must consume and melt the other in order that we may be united and become one. Now his righteousness is truly incomparably stronger than my sins, and his life unmeasurably stronger than my death; for he is life itself where all life must be kindled, Therefore my death thus vanishes in his life, my sins in his righteousness and my condemnation in his salvation. Here my sin is forced between the hammer and the anvil, so that it perishes and vanishes. For now since my sin, my filth is taken away he must adorn and clothe me with his eternal righteousness and with all his grace until I become beautiful; for I am his bride. Thus then I appropriate to myself all that he has, as he takes to himself all that I have; as the Prophet Ezekiel 16:6f says: “I passed by thee, and thou wast naked, and thy breasts were fashioned and were marriageable; then I spread my skirts over thee and covered thy nakedness, gave thee my Word and put on thee beautiful red shoes.” Here he relates many kind acts he did for her; and later he complains in verse 15, how she became a harlot. He tells us all this, that he clothed us with his riches and that we of ourselves have nothing. Whoso does not here lay hold of this as sure, that he has nothing of himself, but only Christ's riches and cannot without doubt say, Thou art mine, he is not yet a Christian.

18 Now since Christ is mine and I am his: if Satan rages, I have Christ who is my life; does sin trouble me, I have Christ who is my righteousness; do hell and perdition attack me, I have Christ, who is my salvation. Thus, there may rage within whatever will, if I have Christ, to him I can look so that nothing can harm me. And this union of the divine with the human is pointed out in the picture here of the marriage feast, and the exalted love God has to us, in the love of the bride.

19 Now the wedding garment is Christ himself, which is put on by faith, as the Apostle says in Rom. 13:14: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then the garment gives forth a lustre of itself, that is, faith in Christ bears fruit of itself, namely, love which works through faith in Christ. These are the good works, that also flash forth from faith, and entirely gratuitously do they go forth, they are done alone for the good of our neighbor; otherwise they are heathenish works, if they flow not out of faith; they will later come to naught and be condemned, and be cast into the outermost darkness.

20 This is indicated here in the binding of his hands and feet. The hands, as said, are the works, the feet the manner of life in which he trusted and failed thus to cling to Christ alone. For we blame him that he had not on the wedding garment, that is, Christ; therefore he must perish with his works; for they did not sparkle forth from faith, from the garment. Hence will you do good works, then believe first; if you will bear fruit, then be a tree first, later the fruit will follow of itself.

21 The mistake is also readily observed here, by which many have perverted the Gospel in that they say: Although the Pope and his following are wicked, yet we must obey him and acknowledge him as the head of Christendom. Let him do what he may, and yet he cannot err, and although he may not have on the wedding garment, nevertheless he is in the congregation. But they are not so good that one might compare them to the one who had not on the wedding garment. They are the villains and murderers who killed the servants of the King; and even if they were worthy to be compared to him, yet the Gospel in this parable does not teach us to follow them, but to cast them out and protect ourselves against them. For whoever has not on the wedding garment does not belong to the congregation, is filth, like the slime, pus, and ulcers in the body; it is indeed in the body, but it is no part of the healthy body. Counterfeits are among money, but they are not money; chaff is among the wheat, but it is not wheat; so these are among Christians, but they are not Christians. This is sufficient on to- day's Gospel. Let us pray God for grace, that none of us may come to such a precious and glorious marriage feast without a wedding garment.

Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:1-14 (2nd Sermon)



1 This Gospel is a very earnest admonition, like to-day’s Epistle, to make good use of the time of the Gospel; and a terrible threatening of the awful punishment, that shall pass upon the secure and proud heads that despise the time of the kingdom of grace and persecute the preaching of the Gospel, and upon the false trivial spirits who bear the name of the Gospel and of Christ for a show and do not mean it in earnest. And by this Gospel is well painted forth and made plain what the multitudes are who are called God’s people or the church and possess his Word, and how they are and act both as to their inner nature and their outer appearance.

2 First, God builds up his Christendom in a way that he calls it, and what pertains to its government, the kingdom of heaven; to signify, that he has called and separated out of the world a people for himself here upon the earth through the Word of his Gospel; not to the end that it should be fitted and organized, like the outer and civil government, with temporal rule, power, possessions, government and maintenance of outward worldly righteousness, discipline, defense, peace, etc. For all this has already before been richly ordered, and it was commanded and put into man to rule in this life as well as he can; although this is also through sin weakened and spoiled so that it is not as it should be, and is a poor, miserable, weak government, as weak and transient as the human body, and is able to go no farther, where it is at its best, than the stomach, as long as the stomach performs its functions. But above that God has arranged and instituted his own divine government, after he revealed his fathomless grace and gave his Word to prepare and gather a people, whom he redeemed from his wrath, eternal death and sin, through which they fell into such misery, and from which they could not help themselves by any human wisdom, counsel or power, and taught them to know him aright and to praise and laud him forever.

3 Christ here calls his kingdom the kingdom of heaven, where he does not rule in a temporal way nor deals with the things of this life; but he founded and developed an eternal, imperishable kingdom, which begins on the earth through faith, and in which we receive and possess those eternal riches, forgiveness of sins, comfort, strength, renewal of the Holy Spirit, victory and triumph over the power of satan, death and hell, and finally eternal life of body and soul, that is, eternal fellowship and blessedness with God.

4 Such a divine kingdom can be governed, built up, protected, extended and maintained only by means of the external office of the Word and of the Sacraments, through which the Holy Spirit is powerful and works in the hearts etc., as I have often said in speaking on this theme.

5 But in the most lovable and comforting way it is pictured to us here by Christ our Lord, in that he himself likens it to a royal wedding feast; when a bride was given to the King’s son, and all were full of the highest joy and glory, and many were invited to this marriage feast and its joy. For this is among all the parables and pictures, by which God presents the kingdom of Christ to us, a select and beautiful one; that Christendom or the Christian state is a marriage feast or a matrimonial union, where God himself selects a church on the earth for his Son, which he takes to himself as his bride. God here by our own lives and experiences will make known and reflect as in a mirror what we have in Christ; and also by the common state of marriage on earth, in which we were born and reared and now live, he delivers a daily sermon and admonition in order that we should remember and consider this great mystery (for so St. Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:32), that the conjugal life of a man and wife, instituted by God, should be a great, beautiful and wonderful sign, and a tangible, yet spiritual picture, that points out and explains something special, excellent and great, hidden to and inconceivable by the human reason, namely, Christ and his church.

6 For this accompanies the marriage state, where it is worthy of the name and may be called a truly married life, where man and wife truly live together: firstly true heart-confidence each in each from both sides, as Solomon in Proverbs 31:11 among other virtues of a pious wife also praises this: “The heart of her husband trusteth in her;” that is, he entrusts to her his body and life, money, possessions and honor. Likewise on the other hand, the heart of the wife clings to her husband, he is her highest, dearest treasure on earth; for she expects and has in him honor, protection and help in all times of her need. Such a completely harmonious, equal and eternal confidence and affection are not found among other persons and stations in life, for example between master and servant, mistress and maidservant, yea, not even between children and parents. For there the love is not thus alike, strong and perfect to one another, and an eternal union does not endure here as in the marriage state, instituted by God; as the text in Genesis 2:24 says: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

7 Out of such love and heart confidence follows now also the fellowship in all they have in common with one another or in all that befalls them, good or bad; so that each must accept it as his or her own, and add and impart help to the other with his or her means, and both suffer and enjoy, rejoice and mourn together, according as it may be well or ill with them.

8 This now should be a parable or sign of the great, mysterious and wonderful union of Christ and his church, whose members we all are who believe on him, and as St. Paul says, Ephesians 5:30, of his flesh and bones, as at creation the wife was taken from the man. It must indeed be a great, fathomless and inexpressible love of God to us, that the divine nature unites thus with us and sinks itself into our flesh and blood, so that God’s Son truly becomes one flesh and one body with us, and so lovingly receives us that he is not only willing to be our brother, but also our bridegroom, and turns to us and gives us as our own all his divine treasures, wisdom, righteousness, life, strength, power, so that in him we should also be partakers of his divine nature, as St. Peter says in his 2 Peter 1:4. And it is his pleasure that we should believe this, so that we may be placed in possession of this honor and of these riches; then we may rejoice and with all assurance take comfort in this Lord, as a bride does in the riches and honor of her betrothed. And thus his Christendom is his wife and empress in heaven and upon earth, for she is called the bride of God who is Lord over all creatures, and she sits in the highest manner in her glory and power over sin, death, satan, hell, etc.

9 Behold, this he shows us in the every-day picture of the wedding feast or of the married state, where we see the love and faithfulness of pious wedded persons; also in the marriage feast, in the bride and the bridegroom s joy and riches; that we learn to believe this and that we also think that Christ’s heart and mind are truly thus disposed to his bride the church; but with far greater love, faithfulness and grace. This he clearly shows us in his Word of the Gospel and by the Holy Spirit, whom he gives to his church; and prepares the glorious, joyful marriage feast, at which he is wedded to his bride and he takes her to himself, and, to speak in our childish and human way, leads his bride to the dance as with fife and drum, and takes her in his arm; again, he honors and adorns her with all his finery, that is with the blotting out and washing away of sins, with righteousness and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and with his light, knowledge, strength and all the gifts which belong to that life. These are different chains, rings, velvet, silk, pearls, treasures and jewels from the earthly ones, which are only a dead picture of those heavenly treasures.

10 Therefore, wherever you see or hear bride and bridegroom, or the joy and beauty of a marriage feast, there open your eyes and heart, and behold what your loving Lord and Savior presents and shows to you, who prepares a glorious, royal marriage feast for you, his beloved bride, a living member if you believe in him. In that is eternal joy, good cheer, singing and springing, eternal ornaments, and all riches and the fullness of everything good.

11 Therefore a hearty confidence in him should grow and increase in thee that he called and chose thee through baptism to his fellowship through his inexpressible hearty love and received thee, to release thee from sin, eternal death and the power of satan, and imparted to thee his body and life, and all that he has; yea, he so completely gave himself to thee, that thou mayest not only glory in what he did for thy sake and gave to thee, but thou mayest comfortably and joyfully glory in him as being thine. And as a bride relies with hearty confidence upon her bridegroom and holds the heart of the bridegroom as her own heart, so do thou rely from the depth of thy heart upon the love of Christ, and entertain no doubt that he is not otherwise disposed to thee than as thy own heart is.

12 But this is opposed beyond measure in us by our old Adam, our flesh and blood, our blindness and the stiffened hardness of our hearts, which does not permit us to see or believe it; especially if we see and experience in ourselves and in this miserable life other things before our eyes and senses. For reason sees and understands it well that the marriage feast and bridal love are in themselves a lovely and cheerful picture, and it may be taught that Christ is a beautiful, noble, pious and faithful bridegroom, and his church a glorious, blessed bride. But things come to a stop later, when everyone is to believe for himself that he is also of Christ and a member of his body and Christ bears such a heart and love toward him. The reason is that I do not see such excellent glory in myself, but on the contrary my weakness and unworthiness, and feel nothing but sorrow, sadness and all kinds of suffering and even death, the grave, and maggots, which are about to consume me.

13 But in the face of this you should learn to believe the Word Christ himself speaks to you and God commands you to believe, that it is true (unless you wish to give God the lie) regardless of what you feel in your heart. For if you should believe, you must not cleave to what your thoughts and feelings say to you, but to what God’s Word says, no matter how little of it you may experience. Therefore, if you are a person who feels his need and misery and desires from the heart to partake of this comfort and love of Christ, then incline your ears and heart hither to Christ, and lay hold of this comforting picture he presents to you, wherewith he shows that he will have himself known and believed by you, that he has in his heart a much warmer love and a more loyal fidelity to you, than any bridegroom to his beloved bride. And on the other hand you should have a much heartier and greater confidence and joy in him than any bride has to her bridegroom. So that here you may justly chastise yourself because of your unbelief, and say: Behold, can the bridal love cause such hearty confidence and joy between the bride and the bridegroom, which is still of a low order and transitory? Why do I not rejoice much more over my holy and faithful Savior, Christ, who gave himself for me and to me wholly as my own? Shame on me because of my unbelief, that my heart is not here full of laughter and eternal joy, when I hear and know how he says to me through his Word that he will be my beloved bridegroom. Should I not much rather have here another, a higher joy, and my eyes, thoughts, heart, and whole life cleave more to my beloved Savior, than a bride to her bridegroom, who, if she is a pious and true bride, sees and hears indeed nothing more gladly than her spouse? Yea, even when she does not see him and he is absent from her, her heart cleaves to him, so that she can not but think of him.

14 However, as I said, it is our old Adam, the corrupt nature, that does not allow the heart to lay hold of this knowledge, joy and consolation. Therefore it is and will doubtless continue to be, as St. Paul calls it in Ephesians 5:32, a mystery, a secret, deep, hidden, incomprehensible thing, but yet a something great, excellent and wonderful. Not only to the blind, foolish world, that cannot think or understand anything at all of these high divine things; but also for the beloved apostles and advanced Christians, that herein they have enough to learn and believe, and they themselves are compelled to confess how long they labored with it, preached about it, strove after it, and it is to them still a mystery in this life.

For St. Paul himself often complained that it did not work so powerfully in him, because of his flesh and blood, as it should work if it were as fully understood and apprehended as it should be; for he and other saints would not have been so anxious, sad and terrified, as he often was, and the prophet David also lamented in many Psalms; but their hearts would have soared in pure joy. However, they will be free from all this in the life beyond, where they will see without any covering and dimness to the vision, and be filled with joy and live forever. For the present it remains a mysterious, hidden; spiritual marriage feast, that one does not see with the eyes, nor grasp with the reason; but faith alone is able to grasp it, as faith holds only to the word it hears concerning it, and yet grasps it still very weakly on account of our perverse flesh.

15 For this marriage feast is so totally foreign to reason, that it is terrified when it thinks how great it is. I speak now still of the Christians; for the others do not come to it, they hold it simply as impossible, yea, as mere talk of fools and a fable, when they hear that God becomes man’s bridegroom; but the Christians who have commenced to believe it, must be shocked and amazed at its greatness: Dear God, how shall I exalt myself so highly as to boast of being God’s bride, and God’s Son my bridegroom? How do I, a poor, offensive worm of the dust, come to this honor, which never befell the angels in heaven, that the eternal Majesty condescends so very low into my poor flesh and blood and thoroughly unites himself with me, that he will be one body with me, and yet I am from the sole of my foot to the crown of my head so completely full of filth, leprosy, sin and stench before God; how shall I then be considered the bride of the high, eternal and glorious Majesty and be one body with him?

16 But hear well that God desires it to be so. In Ephesians 5:25-27 he says: I will dress and place before me a bride, who shall be my church, that is glorious, of the glory I myself have and not having spot or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish, etc., just as I am. He does not speak of a bride that he finds in this state, pure, holy, blameless, without spot, etc.; such a bride he should not seek on the earth, but he should have remained among his angels in heaven to find her there. But he revealed himself through his Word to men, surely not for the sake of this life, but that he might be praised forever through her; and therefore he must have had in mind something greater, to do with and through her. The great mystery is that he did not take upon himself the nature of angels, but united himself with the human nature.

17 Here on the earth he finds nothing but a corrupt, filthy, shameless, condemned bride of satan, that has become faithless to God, her Lord and Creator, and fallen under his eternal wrath and curse. If he is now to secure here a bride or congregation, who, to be sure, must be also pure and holy, otherwise there could be here no union, then he must first and in the highest degree show his love, that he applies his purity and holiness to her sins and condemnation, and thereby cleans and sanctifies her. This he did do, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 5:25-26, in that he gave himself for her and purchased her by his blood to sanctify her for himself, and besides cleansed and washed her by the baptism of water; and he adds a Word which one hears. By means of the same Word and baptism he prepares her to be his loving bride, and praises and claims her to be pure from sin, God’s wrath and the power of satan; furthermore does he desire that she esteem herself also as a loving, beautiful, holy, glorious bride of God’s Son.

18 Here no one sees how excellent a work is accomplished thus hidden and secretly through God’s Word, baptism and our faith; and yet by it the result is accomplished that this company of poor sinful men, who were not worthy to behold God at a distance because of their great filthiness, are made through this bath and washing clean, beautiful and holy, so that they are well pleasing to God as the bride of his beloved Son and as his loving daughter; and this purifying commenced in this life, he develops and continues constantly in her until she is presented to him purer and more beautiful than the light and brightness of the sun.

19 Therefore a Christian must learn to believe this, so that he in the future does not consider himself in the light of his first birth, as he was born from Adam; but as he is called to Christ and baptized into him, and like all Christians confides in and is united with him; so they should cling to him as to their bridegroom, who through the same washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, while they are still unclean he continually purifies and adorns them until the day he presents his church to himself, not only without a spot or stain, but also without a wrinkle, very beautiful, sleek and perfect, like fresh youth.

20 Therefore do not be terrified if you feel too entirely unworthy and impure; for if your thoughts are fixed on that you will forget and lose this confidence and trust in Christ. But you must heed the Word Christ speaks to you: Although you are full of sin, death and perdition, yet you have here my righteousness and life, which I apply and give to you. If you are impure and filthy, you have here the washing of baptism and of my Word, through which I wash you and pronounce you clean, and will constantly cleanse you for ever and ever until you shall stand before me and all creatures perfectly beautiful and pure.

21 This he tells us not only through his Word; but in order that we might not complain being left without admonition and preaching, he presents it to us in so many different every-day pictures and parables of wedded love, yea, of the first warmth and fervency between a bride and groom; when we see how both hearts cling to one another and one has joy and pleasure in the other. Here the bride does not fear in the least that her groom will cause her suffering or harm or cast her away; but in hearty affection confides in him and doubts not he will take her into his arms, sit with her at the table, and give her as her own whatever he has. We should in this also truly know Christ’s heart, and not allow ourselves to picture him otherwise than we hear and see him both in his own Word and in the parables and signs which present him to us, that we may indeed never dare to complain, except of ourselves and of our old Adam that hinders us in our beautiful joy.

22 For should not man become his own enemy, and only wish that death might soon do away with him, for the reason that he knows not himself and cannot rightly, as he should, taste and enjoy his great treasure, joy and blessedness? And so perhaps it might be best for us, except that this life with its temptations, cross and sufferings is to be the school in which always and daily we more and more learn to know what he is in us and we in him, and in which therefore we also work for this that we may seize him, even as he ran after us and seized us, in that he fetched and won us for his own with his sweat and blood. Alas, however, that we are too weak, lazy and slow thus to run after him in this life!

23 Behold, such is the glorious royal wedding in this kingdom, which Christ calls the kingdom of heaven, and to which we, all of us, bidden and unbidden, Jews and Gentiles, come by means of the Gospel resounding in all the world, as called by fifes and drums which, after the manner of the Scriptures, are called the voices of the bridegroom and the bride. That is to say, a marriagelike voice or sound and tone, that is a token of the wedding and the joys, and is to announce unto everyone such joy and call us thereunto.

24 But now consider further how this wedding feast fares in the world, and how the world carries itself towards it when it is to become a partaker in this blessed kingdom. We have just heard how hard, on account of their flesh, this is even to Christians, albeit they strive after this kingdom of God and seek their comfort in Christ. But now it is further shown how the other, adverse realm of the devil in the world, as in its empire (as Christ in John 12:31 calls him a prince of the world, and St. Paul, Ephesians 6:12, the lord of the world), fights against God’s kingdom and drives and chases people, lest they accept and hear the joyous, comforting word about this wedding and joy in Christ, but rather, wittingly and knowingly, scorn the same, aye, oppose themselves to it, even though they be called and bidden thereto.

25 This is said especially of the Jewish people, who are the first bidden guests to whom God sent his servants, first the patriarchs and prophets, later also the apostles, causing them to be begged and admonished not to neglect the time of their blessedness and salvation. They, however, not alone despise this but also fly at the servants of God, who offer them such grace, to beat them to death; nor will they listen or suffer to be told more of this wedding.

These are not common and ordinary people, but the best, wisest and holiest of all, who are occupied with far higher and more needful things than to be persuaded to come to this wedding, to receive good things for nothing, and to be helped into heaven. They know much better for themselves how, by their own precious life, to bring about great works, the law’s holiness and God’s service. Hereof more is said in the Gospel story of the great supper (Luke 14), concerning those who excuse themselves and would not come.

26 Like unto these are also all such as are by the Gospel called to faith and the knowledge of Christ, but will not hear and accept the same. These are always the greatest and best part of the world, who as we know, wish to be called God’s people and the church. They also have to attend to far greater and better things, — how they may keep up their fine and glorious estate and condition, which they call the government and glory of the church. Of that they will not hear, and esteem it an innovation and change of the good and praiseworthy old order, etc. And the more one urges them to obey the Gospel, the less will they listen to it, and the more bitterly do they pursue it, as we always have it before our eyes in the world.

27 Well then, we should therefore honor at his wedding-feast the King and Lord of Glory, and thank him for his abundant grace and the good to which he has called us and of which he makes us worthy, sobeit we judge ourselves worthy of everlasting life, as St. Paul says, Acts 13:46. And whatever men were to gain thereby, Christ has herewith foretold them. Thus they have themselves experienced and the belief, as it were, has come into their hands, that he has told them no lying story, but that it has proved only too true that the king has sent out his host and slain these murderers the which for now 1,500 years experience has confirmed, namely, that this judgment has not been removed, and that thus finally wrath has come over them and they shall remain as naught. For he himself shows that it has never yet repented him, in that he thereupon forthwith says to his men. V.8. “The wedding is ready, but the guests were not worthy,” etc.

28 Which is, also for other scorners and presecutors, a terrible token and example of the final wrath resolved against them and of such punishment wherewith he will altogether make an end also of them, because they would not partake of and enjoy this feast: as has already happened to Greece and Rome, and will likewise happen to our blasphemers and pursuers, unless the day of judgment come between.

29 These then have received their judgment as they would have it. In order, however, that Christ may still get people to his wedding feast, his servants must continually go on with their preaching, and bid and call whomsoever they find, until they fetch so many together that the tables are full, not indeed of the great ones, the holy and mighty men (who were first bidden but would not come). Rather must the poor, the cripples and the halt, as he elsewhere says, rejoice at being allowed to come to this feast — that is, the heathen, who are not numbered among God’s people and have nothing whereof they might be proud.

But among this company who are here sitting at table, there is also found a rogue, whom the king, in looking over the guests, speedily recognizes and judges to have no wedding garment, and to have come, not in honor of the wedding, but as disgracing the bridegroom and the lord who has invited him. Now these are such as also permit themselves to be numbered among true Christians, hear the Gospel, are in the outward communion of the right church and make before the people as if they also might be of the Gospel — and still they are not in earnest about it.

30 With this Christ shows who on earth are that community which is called the church, to wit, not those who pursue God’s Word and his servants of the Gospel. For these are already wholly excluded and removed by his final judgment, aye, they have spilt their own milk by their public and self-confessed act of not accepting and suffering this preaching of the Gospel, and should not and cannot among Christians be considered members of the church, because they have not its doctrine and faith. Just as little can one consider professed heathen, Turks and Jews as the church or its members.

Such judgment we must now also pass on our persecutors and blasphemers of the Gospel, as for example the Pope and his following, and entirely separate ourselves from them, as they do not in the least belong to the church of Christ, but are damned by their own judgment; to which they testify by having turned us away as outlaws and outcasts. The church on earth, however, if we speak of the outward community, is a gathering of such as hear, believe and confess the right teaching of the Gospel of Christ, and have with them the Holy Ghost who sanctifies them and works in them by the Word and sacraments. Yet among these some are false Christians and hypocrites, who nevertheless are at one with them in the same doctrine and also hold communion in the sacraments and other outward offices of the church.

31 Aye, such people the Christians must suffer in their gathering and cannot, as men are, avoid it or prevent them from being amongst them, nor can they remove them or turn them out of their gathering. They cannot, indeed, judge and recognize them all, but must bear them and suffer their company, but only till God himself comes with his judgment, so that they become manifest and give themselves away by their wicked life or false belief and spirit of heresy as not being true and honest Christians. Of this St. Paul speaks, 1 Corinthians 11:19: “There must be also heresies among you, that they who are approved may be made manifest among you,” and on the other hand also those who are not approved.

32 Thus here the King comes in, himself to behold the guests, and makes manifest him who has not the wedding garment. And now that he has become manifest and is nevertheless, hypocrite that he is, impenitent, obstinate and dumb, he causes him to be bound hand and foot and, that he may not enjoy the feast, be cast out of the festive gathering, where there is naught but light and joy, into darkness, where there is no comfort nor blessedness, but only weeping and gnashing of teeth. This, then, likewise is done in the church, by which such impenitent sinners, convicted and overcome, are ,also openly shown out of the congregation and publicly declared outcasts from God’s kingdom.

33 Therefore the Christians, who are the right and dear guests at this wedding, at all times have this comfort that the others who do not belong thereto, that is both persecutors and false brethren, shall not enjoy the same. For even as the former, the persecutors, manifest themselves as not being members of the church, in that they exclude themselves and go apart; thus the others, who for a time have crept in and have falsely sought cover under the name and semblance of true Christians, shall also finally become manifest. This also St. Paul says, 1 Timothy 5:24-25: “Some men’s sins are evident, going before unto judgment; and some men also they follow after. In like manner also there are good works that are evident: and such as are otherwise cannot be hid.”

34 And from this it is easy to understand what is meant by this man’s being without a wedding garment, namely, without the new adornment in which we please God, which is faith in Christ, and therefore also without truly good works. He remains in the old rags and tatters of his own fleshly conceit, unbelief and security, without penitence and understanding of his misery. He does not from his heart seek comfort in the grace of Christ, nor betters his life by it, and looks for no more in the Gospel than what his flesh covets. For this wedding garment must be the new light of the heart, kindled in the heart by the knowledge of the graciousness of this bridegroom and his wedding feast. Thus the heart will wholly cleave to Christ and, transfused by such comfort and joy, will so live and do as it knows to be pleasing unto him, even as a bride towards the bridegroom.

35 This St. Paul calls “putting on the Lord Christ” ( Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14), also “being clothed that we shall not be found naked” (2 Corinthians 5:3); which takes place especially through faith, by which the heart is renewed and purified, and of which thereupon also the fruits — provided it be the true faith — follow and prove themselves. On the other hand, where there is no faith, there also the Holy Ghost is not, nor such fruits as please God. For whosoever does not know Christ through faith and has him not in his heart, he will also care little for God’s word, nor think of living according to it; he will remain proud, insolent and headstrong, though outwardly he may, with a false semblance, practice hypocrisy and deceit.

[[Luther published two sermons for Matt 22:15-22. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 15-18 (or Mk 12:13-15 or Lk 20:19-22); the other in verses 19-22 (or Mk 12:16-17 or Lk 20:23-26).]]

Sermon for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:15-22

1 In this Gospel there is pictured to us, how high reason and human wisdom agree with the divine wisdom, and how shamelessly they attack even when they wish to be the most prudent; as takes place here among the Pharisees who were the best and the most intelligent people among the Jews, as they also prove themselves to be; yet their wisdom must become foolishness. They could not catch Christ in his sermons nor in his works; and yet they would gladly have had found a reason to put him to death. Therefore they thought to seize him in the most subtle manner, and propounded to him a pointed syllogism, so pointed that human reason could not have devised a more pointed one; and said to him:

V.16, 17. “Teacher, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, and carest not for any one: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?”

2 They imagined thus: now we will lay hold of him: for he must answer either yes or no. Does he say yes, then we have conquered him; does he say no, then he is also caught. In that they say: “Teacher,” they aim to compel him to answer and rightly agree with them; and in that they say, “We know that thou are true,” they admonish him of his office. Where should Christ flee? Every door was closed to him. But he would not escape through the opening they made.

3 Was not this a subtle device? Do they not sufficiently show that they were prudent people? Whichever way their Lord had answered he would have been taken. Yea, did they not act wisely enough in that they brought with them the servants of Herod? and thought, indeed, they would accomplish their end by stratagem, so that he should not escape. They thought thus: Wait, we will now counsel him; does he say no, then the servants of Herod are present and will put him to death as a revolutionist and as one who sets himself against the Roman government. Does he say yes, then he will speak against the independence of the Jewish people, and we will excite the people against him. For the Jews wish to be a free people, and to have their own king, of their own blood, as was promised to them by God through Moses when he wrote in Deuteronomy 17,15: “Thou shalt surely set him king over thee, whom Jehovah thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee who is not thy brother.” And they did not know differently than that the same kingdom should stand until the time of the true king, until the time of Christ; as the patriarch Jacob preached concerning it and said: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come,” Gen. 49:10. And to this end God also chose especially this people and formed a kingdom from them only for the sake of Christ. They had many other sayings to the end that they should not serve any one, they were the head and not the tail, etc., Deut. 28:44. This and other like passages moved the Pharisees and scribes among the people and they boasted of it; as is now beaten into the people that the Church cannot err. Therefore they thought thus: Does he say yes, then he blasphemes against God and is worthy of death as a blasphemer of God, and the people will stone him; for God promised and agreed to give this people liberty and they were in all times God's people even in the midst of their captivity.

4 However, at that time as at the present, they had no king and therefore there arose among the people at large a great murmur, faction and insurrection. For this people were educated by the law that they should have a king of their own flesh and blood, as I said; therefore they did not cease to set themselves against foreign kings and rulers until they were destroyed and many consequently suffered death. And this happened frequently; for they were a stiffnecked, rude and hardened people; therefore the Romans. who at the time had the rule and authority over them, protected the country well and they had to divide it into four provinces, and in all places they thoroughly took possession by means of princes and tetrarchs; in order that they, thus divided, might not so soon come together and create revolution, so that they could be better kept in subjection where they wished to rebel against the Roman empire. Hence, Pilot was a governor appointed by Rome in the country of the Jews; Herod a tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch in the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, as Luke relates in 3:1, and all for the purpose to make the Jews subjects of Rome. Hence the Jews became angry, raging and foolish, and especially at the time of Christ when they greatly desired to have their own king.

Consequently the Pharisees now devised this scheme and thought thus: Wait, the Romans desire to have the authority and rule; if he answers no to our question, then the tetrarch is at hand and will behead him; does he say yes, then the people in a mass will rise up against him and we will accomplish our end. They wish thus, as they think, to find cause to put the Lord to death, or forever suppress his doctrine and work among the people.

5 As the Jews now do here so it is everywhere that the principal things are overlooked and we worry ourselves about other unnecessary matters. Thus the Pharisees here take in hand and concern themselves about whether they are free or not, seeing they had in the law and in the Word of God the promise that they should be subject to none other than to their own king and yet now they are subject to the Roman emperor. They learned in their Scriptures how they should honor God and love their neighbor; they let go of that and concern themselves about other matters. They had the promise if they did according to the Word and commandment of God they should be a free people. About doing this they did not concern themselves and yet they wished to be free and have their own king. We act also in the very same way. We wish to enjoy Christian liberty and imagine if we destroy pictures or are disobedient to the government that we are by virtue of this Christians, and in this way we overlook faith and love.

6 But what does Christ do when the Pharisees so cunningly lay hold of him? He slays them with their own words and catches them by means of their own counsel, by which they thought to catch him, he says neither yes nor no; as the Evangelist writes and says:

V.18-21. “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why make ye trial of me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a denarius. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's.”

7 Here you see the master stroke the Lord uses. He asks them to hand him the tribute money and inquires whose image and superscription it bears. Then they answer him Caesar's. He then freely concluded that they were subject to Caesar, to whom they were obligated to pay tax and tribute. As if he should say: Have you thus permitted Caesar to come among you, so that he mints your money, and his coin is in circulation and favor among you, then he has triumphed in the game, as if he said: you are to blame that Caesar is your ruler. What should they do now in the face of this answer? They marveled and went away, they thought they would conquer him in a masterly manner, but their wisdom and shrewdness deceived them.

8 This is written for our consolation, in order that we who believe in Christ should know that we have a wisdom that far surpasses all other wisdom; a strength and righteousness, which are not to be compared with any human strength or righteousness; for against the Holy Spirit no counsel can prevail. We have the power through Christ to trample sin under our feet and to triumph over death, also a wisdom that surpasses the wisdom of the whole world. If Christ live in us by faith then we possess him who establishes this in us; but it is not experienced except in times of temptation and opposition: therefore if I make use of it then he comes and gives me the power vigorously to press through all difficulties to victory.

9 In like manner we should not worry that our doctrine will fail and be put to shame. For let even all the wise and prudent of the world together rise up against the Word of God; they overlook the joke that they opposed it, that it took place for their sake. It may indeed happen that they may howl and bite and snap against it so that the people think the Gospel will fail; but when they set themselves against it and wish to overthrow it, then it is certain that they are weak, and by the same trick they wished to seize and take Christ, they themselves are finally caught. As we see in this Gospel, and here and there in the writings of Paul and especially in the history of St. Stephen we see how they failed to quote the Scriptures aright, yea, that which they did quote is used against them, for the Jews charged Stephen that he spoke against the temple, Acts 6:7, and also against God who told them to build the temple, they brought forth passages of Scripture by which they tried to suppress and conquer him; but Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, showed unto them by one passage of Scripture after another how God did not live in houses made with hands. David wished to build him a house, but he did not desire it. What was the reason? God had lived a long time before David's day among his people; he must indeed be a poor God who needs a house for his dwelling place. And thus by many histories he proves that God does not dwell in houses made by man. What should the Jews do? They have the passage clearly before their eyes, which they quoted against Stephen, (that he witnessed against themselves).

10 In like manner must all come to shame and be overthrown who rise up against this divine wisdom and the Word of God. Consequently no one should fear even if all the wisdom and power of the world oppose the Gospel, yea, even if they plan to suppress it by the shedding of blood; for the more blood is shed, the more Christians there will be. The blood of Christians, as Tertullian says, is the seed from which Christians grow. Satan must be drowned in the blood of Christians, consequently there is no art that can suppress the Gospel by force. It is with the Gospel as with the palmtree, which has the nature and character that it flourishes at the top, and one may laden it as heavy as he wishes; and especially if it be used as a beam or support it does not weaken under any burden, but rises in spite of the burden. Such is also the nature of the Gospel, the more one opposes it the greater it lays hold of us and the more one burdens it, the more it grows.

11 Therefore we should not be afraid of powers. But we should fear our prosperity and good days which cause us more harm than our anguish and persecution; and we should not be afraid in the face of the wisdom and the shrewdness of the world, for they can do us no harm. Yes, the more the wisdom of the world opposes the truth, the purer and clearer does the truth become, consequently the Gospel can experience nothing better than that the world rise up against it with all its force and wisdom; yea, the more my conscience, sin and satan attack me, the stronger does my righteousness become. For the sins which worry me, pain me; then I persevere harder and harder in prayer and in my cry to God; then faith and righteousness become stronger and stronger. This is what St. Paul means when he says in 2 Cor. 12:9: my power is made perfect in weakness. Now since we possess such a treasure that becomes stronger by virtue of trial and opposition we should not fear, but be of good courage and rejoice in tribulation; as St. Paul says to the Romans, Rom. 5:3: and as the Apostles did who departed from the presence of the council with great rejoicing, and thanked God that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name, Acts 5:41. If satan were only prudent enough to keep quiet and let the Gospel be preached, he would receive less injury from it; for if the Gospel is not attacked it completely rusts and has no occasion or reason to make its power and influence manifest.

12 Thus we are here still secure, no one attacks us; as a result we always continue just as we were, yea, we become worse. In that certain enemies attack us with the Scriptures, they gain very little. In that they have taken up their pen against us, they accomplish no more than if they blew into the fire; but if they had cast us into the fire or beat our heads, there would indeed be more Christians for our sake.

13 Consequently we have here a consolation, when we are attacked; that Christ is in us and holds the field of victory through us. Christ is so near us that we triumph at all times through him because we abide in Christ. As long as we do not have opposition taking us by the neck, he does nothing; but when we are attacked and conquered, then he is at hand and puts all our enemies to shame.

14 Here we may also learn the lesson that those who are a little more than other people, brighter, stronger, and endowed with special gifts of reason, nature and fortune, who are more artistic, learned and intelligent than others, who indeed are gifted with speech and are talented to lead other people and are able to rule and arrange everything in the best way, they are the most opposed to God and to faith, and trust more in their own strength and reason than in God. For nature, poisoned as it is, leads them to the point that they cannot and will not use their gifts to the best advantage, for the welfare and edification of their neighbor; for they trust in their gifts, and think they will obtain now this, now that, and never remember that they also need God's help and strength to that end. As the Pharisees and scribes do here, who are so certain, as they think, if they thus lay hold of Christ, they would take him captive, for it is not possible, they say, for him to escape, we have ensnared him whether he says yes, or no.

15 Behold, how cunning and perverse human nature is! Methinks this is well pictured here. Aye, there is nought in man but evil, lying and deceiving, cunning and all manner of mischief. Indeed, in his very nature man is nothing else than a liar, Ps. 116:11. One may not entrust anything to man. Do not imagine that any one tells you the truth; man lies in whatsoever he speaks. And why? The fountain is evil, that is to say, the heart is not good; therefore also the rivers flowing therefrom cannot be good. Hence does the Lord oftimes call men a generation of vipers and a brood of serpents, Mat. 22:34. Is not that a beautiful title for man? Just you go and boast of your piety, your strength, or your free will! Before the world indeed one may be fine and pious, shining with holiness; but at bottom nothing will be found but a generation of vipers and a serpent's brood, and that most of all in the worthiest, most estimable, intelligent and wise people. If you peruse the history of the Greeks, Jews and Romans, you will find that the best and wisest rulers, who according to the judgment of men, governed well, have not thought of God, but confided in themselves alone; to God's might they have attributed nothing.

16 From this it follows that the less adroit a person is before the world, the less will he do against God; and those who are ingenious and honored in the world, lie and deceive more than the others, thinking to cover up their deception and malice by deceitful and cunning acts. True it is they may full well conceal it; the Holy Spirit, however, has a keen eye and knows them exceeding well. Therefore Scripture often calls such fellows lions, wolves, bears, swine, and wild beasts, namely, such as rage, eating and devouring everything with their deceit. Hence in the Old Testament the Jews were forbidden to eat some animals, as being unclean- those that are enumerated and others--for no other reason than that it might be thus indicated that there are some people who are strong, mighty, rich, adroit, learned, intelligent and wise, people that must be shunned and fled from as though they were something unclean; such people as mislead and deceive others by their appearance, their power and wisdom. For people will not consider them as such, nor believe that they are men who plan evil things and dare to carry them out. No man whatever, therefore, is to be trusted or believed. Believe no one: he will mislead you wherever he can. Aye, if indeed you trust any one, you will act against God, not trusting in him. For it is written, Jer. 17:57: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man; blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord.”

17 Now someone might object: What is to be done? Must we not have intercourse and dealings one with the other; and how otherwise could human life continue? Surely we must buy and sell and market our goods among the people? If no one should believe and trust the other, all human dealings would come to an end! I answer: It is true one must deal with the other, and one needs the other's help. But that I demand: Whatever you deal about among men, in buying or selling, you are to consider it as something uncertain, which is not to be trusted and believed in. For certain it is, if you trust any man, you are already deceived, for human nature, in itself, cannot but lie and deceive. Everything is uncertain among men, their deeds and words are unstable; that you may well believe.

18 Therefore we are to put all our trust only in the Lord, and say: O Lord, thou art my life, my soul and body, my goods and possessions, and all that is mine. Do thou direct and ordain it all according to thy divine will. In thee do I trust, in thee do I believe. Thou wilt surely not desert me in such a perilous undertaking with such and such a man, whom I do not trust. If thou knowest it to be good for me, then see to it that he be true to me; if thou dost not see that it will help me, then do not let him keep his word. I am content, thy will be done.

19 As soon, however, as you think a purchaser to be an honest man who will keep his word, and of whom you are certain that he will not deceive you; so soon you have fallen away from God, have prayed to a spectre and put your trust in a liar. Therefore, in dealing with a man, just think in this wise: If he is true, it is good; if not, why then, in God's name, let him be; he cannot do otherwise than lie and deceive. I will leave it all to God; he will make all well.

20 Out of such false and wicked confidence placed in man there has crept into Christianity the abuse of the worship of saints. By this the Christian church, that is, the true assembly of the faithful, have suffered notable decline and damage. What else has saints' worship been but solely a devilish thing? For thus have people reasoned: Such and such a man has been holy; such things has he said and done; therefore we will follow after him, and teach and do likewise. St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and Gregory have done this; therefore it is right, and I will believe it. St. Francis, Benedict, Dominicus, and St. Bernard have lived thus, have done such and such a thing; therefore will I also live thus, and do as they have done. Furthermore, St. Augustine has been saved by such a rule. Alas, what a poor, unstable, miserable thing this is, nought but lies and dreams of man. I should damn St. Augustine and his rule, had he laid it down for the purpose of being saved thereby. So blind and foolish is our reason, that it will accept even a spectre and a fiction., whereas only God's Word is to be accepted in matters of salvation. If, for example, Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas and Hanes preached the Gospel, I should have to accept it. And, on the other hand, if those who are considered saints arose and preached lies, about regulations, hoods and gowns, tonsures, ceremonies and other inventions of man, I ought not to accept them. For in such cases not the persons are to be considered, but that which they preach.

21 Now someone might say: See here, would you be wiser than all church fathers and saints, than all bishops and rulers of the whole world? Far be it from me. I do not claim to be wiser than they. But this is true. It is impossible for that which is wise, prudent, great, handsome, mighty and powerful before the world to agree with the Word of God. For thus it is ordained by God, that such people must always persecute the Gospel; if they were not such the Gospel would not shine and triumph as it does. The Roman emperors Hadrian, Trajan and Diocletian were the wisest of rulers, and reigned so well that all the world praised their government. Yet they persecuted the Gospel and could not tolerate the truth. Likewise do we read of Jewish kings, Ahaz and others, who governed well, that they despised God's Word and acted contrary to God's will. In our times there have never been emperors, princes, or other people to compare with those. But then it had to come to pass that God put all wisdom of this world to shame through the foolishness of preaching, 1 Cor. 1:21.

22 All this is shown to us in this Gospel, which, though apparently simple and ordinary, is exceedingly rich and comprises many things. How then does the Lord finally deal with the Pharisees after they had shown him the tribute money, and answered that the image and superscription was Caesar's? The Evangelist tells us that he answered thus:

V.21. “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesars; and unto God the things that are Gods.”

23 Although they did not deserve it of the Lord, yet he teaches them the right way. And with these words he also confirms the worldly sword or government. They had hoped he would condemn it and speak against it; he does not do it, however, but praises earthly government and commands to render unto it what is due to it. It is therefore his desire that there should be magistrates, princes and masters, whom we are to obey, be they what they may and what they list; neither should we ask whether they possess and exercise government and authority justly or unjustly. We should only pay heed to that power and authority which is good, for it is ordered and instituted by God, Rom. 13:1: You are not allowed to upbraid the government, when at times you are oppressed by princes and tyrants, who abuse the power they have from God: some day they will surely have to answer for it. The abuse of a thing does not make it bad, if it was good in itself. A golden chain is good, and it is not made worse by being worn around a whore's neck; or if someone were to destroy one of my eyes with it, should I therefore blame the chain? Truly nay.

24 Thus one must also bear the authority of the ruler. If he abuses it, I am not therefore to bear him a grudge, nor take revenge of and punish him with my hands. One must obey him solely for God's sake, for he stands in God's stead. Let them impose taxes as intolerable as they may: one must obey them and, suffer everything patiently, for God's sake. Whether they do right or not, that will be taken care of in due time. If therefore your possessions, aye, your life and whatsoever you have, be taken from you by those in power, then you are to say: I give it to you willingly, I acknowledge you as my masters, gladly will I be obedient to you. Whether you use the power given to you by God well or ill, that is your affair.

25 But what if they would take the Gospel from us or forbid us to preach it? Then you are to say: The Gospel and Word of God. I will not give up to you. This is not within your power, for your rule is a temporal rule, over worldly matters; but the Gospel is a spiritual, heavenly treasure, and therefore your authority does not extend over the Gospel and God's Word. We recognize the emperor as a master of temporal affairs, not of God's Word; this we shall not suffer to be torn from us, for it is the power of God, Rom. 1:16, against which not even the gates of hell shall prevail.

26 Therefore, the Lord beautifully summarizes these two things, and in one saying distinguishes them from each other: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.” This honor is due to God, that we are to hold him as a true, almighty and wise God, and attribute to him all the good things that can be named. And even if I do not render him this honor, he still keeps it; nothing is added to or subtracted from it. But in me he is true, almighty and wise, if I consider him as such, and believe him to be such as he proclaims himself. To the emperor, however, and to all in power, are due reverence, taxes, revenue and obedience. God will have the heart; body and possessions are the government's, which is to rule over them in God's stead. This St. Paul says to the Romans in round and clear words, Rom. 13:1-7: “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience' sake. Hence for this cause ye pay tribute also, for they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

27 And for this reason also has government been ordained by God, that it may uphold general peace, which thing alone cannot be paid for by all the money in the world. We just noticed a few things in the uprising of the peasant, what damage, misery and woe are caused by rebellion and the breaking of peace. God grant that things do not go further and that we experience no more. Enough is said on this Gospel. Of temporal government we have written a special booklet. Whoever desires to read it may do so. There he will find more on this subject.

[[Luther published two sermons for Matt 22:15-22. One can be found in the electronic version in verses 15-18 (or Mk 12:13-15 or Lk 20:19-22); the other in verses 19-22 (or Mk 12:16-17 or Lk 20:23-26).]]

Sermon for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:15-22 (2nd Sermon)


1 This Gospel is in itself plain enough and easy to understand. Its contents are noteworthy, especially because of Christ’s answer to a practical question and its doctrine. First of all our attention is directed to the intensely wicked, bitter and venomous persecution of Christ and his Word on the part of the Jews, who schemed to attack him with shrewd and deceitful questions. For these villains and base characters would gladly have put him to death as one who had wearied them beyond endurance and must be gotten out of the way, although they could find no cause for impugning either his doctrine or his life, eagerly as they sought to do so. They studied all sorts of devices and ways to catch him in his words and condemn him, which they kept up until God allowed them to vent their spite and crucify him. That class of people will obtain what they strive for, even to their own hurt. They had their time of probation and could have repented when the Son of God appeared in their midst, but they flatly refused to accept him, God suffering them to go their way and fulfill the measure of their sin to its utmost extent in that they murdered him who came to save them. Their end was destruction and obliteration as a nation. The enemies of the Gospel are no better in our day. They would put Christ out of the way if they could, and thus it will be even to the end of time, with the same result. Amen.

2 See now how they scheme and succeed. The wisest and most learned leaders assemble, put their heads together and decide on one of the many shrewd plans by which to cause Christ’s death. Their wise counsel is as follows: If we weigh and balance the situation we find two ways to seize and accuse him. First, if he opposes Caesar, he can be charged with conspiracy; and if he is considered a conspirator we will have him in our control as one guilty, like a thief and robber, who would despoil the emperor of his majesty and crown and who is worthy of death, with which the law punishes such a crime. Should this scheme fail we can have recourse to another one, namely, to prove him to be guilty of robbing God, and have him condemned as a blasphemer. It would be regarded as a still greater crime to prove that he robs God of the honor due him and misleads the people under the cloak of serving him. For should he say, We must pay tribute to Caesar and acknowledge him as our sovereign; he would detract from God, who alone wants to be this nation’s sovereign and who has chosen us from all races to have no king but him. This also would condemn him to death. Whichever way therefore he may answer, he will be caught and fall into our hands. Does he favor Caesar, he robs God; and if he decides in favor of God he declares against Caesar and makes himself a conspirator.

3 Such is the counsel of those wiseacres and petty saints who resolved to lay hold of Christ with all law and authority, as an enemy either of God or of Caesar. Not that they cared so much either for the one or the other, but in order to carry their point. They were indeed anxious enough to free themselves from the yoke of Roman power, causing frequent insurrections and drawing abundantly deserved executions upon their own heads, by hundreds and thousands, and finally suffering entire destruction as a nation.

In like manner they were before God thieves and evildoers in that they corrupted his Word and persecuted its pure doctrine. So entirely submerged in these two vices were they as to have become doubly worthy of death, before God and before Caesar; they manifested their wickedness, moreover, by attempting to catch an innocent man as if guilty of their own sin, pretending to be most pious saints before God and most loyal subjects of Caesar.

4 The Jews were used to this from time immemorial; they had treated their prophets and many godly teachers in a similar manner, and afterwards did the same to the Apostles, so that it is no wonder if they treat us in the same manner. And what have the Apostles or we either to complain of in particular, since they did not spare their Lord and God? The world cannot do otherwise. It is under the devil’s control, reveling in robbery and rebellion, at the same time imputing these crimes to Christians, as if they were sinners above all sinners.

5 And see further how they play their trick and seek to entangle the Lord so that they may not fail in their plans. They do not put the question abruptly, but approach him with a neat introduction of flattery, as though they had the best of intentions and were really in earnest about the matter. They praise and humor him with smooth words; for they think he is human and a preacher like themselves, who thus loves to hear such flattery and praise, and say: You are a true teacher and an upright man, what you say and do is right and good, etc., etc. With such praise a young fool might be misled to preach what the people want to hear, as nearly all false prophets do who look for the approval of men rather than that of God. They accept honor, and preach what is paid for; where their pay ends, there also ends their preaching. These were of a kind characterized by Christ when he says of them that they like to be called Rabbi, etc., Matthew 23:7. Because they are so foolish they think he also likes to be tickled and can be befooled by servile adulations, surrendering himself to their two prongs and their death-thrusts, before he would be aware of any danger.

6 But the saying is true: “The Lord will have them in derision.” It is not an uncommon thing for one man to deceive another, but no trickery will avail with Christ. He understands the wiles of men and can entrap them in their own devices. So here; he compels these hypocrites to speak the plain truth, although they have many other things in their hearts, and thus perfectly puts them to shame. It is indeed true that he teaches the way of God right, and fears nobody, while not one of his enemies speaks from the heart. The lips may utter truth that amounts to nothing but lies. Christ’s words are true, however they may twist them. They judge him by themselves and represent him as a disturber of the peace, who would rob Caesar of his tribute money and rally the populace around him in rebellion, while he is afraid to make such declaration in public. That is their design and scheme, but they veil it under the words: V.16. “Thou teachest the way of God in truth,” praise not to be condemned so far as it goes.

Caiaphas, the high priest, acted in like manner, John 11:48-50, when he said: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” That was a true declaration, fitting them, while they dissembled as to their hearts’ sentiments. They did not believe that the Romans would come, but were intent on putting Christ out of the way, thinking they would then fare better. And yet it happened to them even as they had prophesied, that Christ had to die for the people, and the Romans did despoil them of their land and nation.

7 That is the lot of those who would deceive and mock God; they mock themselves and come to grief. They seek a teacher of truth, and they find such in him, against their wish, for he hits them on the head with truth in a manner that makes them reel in confusion. They wish to submit a puzzling question to him, not about the law and matters of salvation, but one that is unnecessary and insidious. They pass by the whole Pentateuch and what pertains to God’s Word and way of truth, and catch on something calculated to confuse him. Moses has not instructed us about giving tribute, nor had Christ anything to do with that.

8 There, think they, we have him securely as between two spears. Does he say yes, then we accuse him as one who would rob God; who holds heresy, and, as an apostate Jew, teaches contrary to Moses and the prophets: if, on the other hand, he says nay, we will know what to do, for the servants of Herod are at hand. He must fall into the hands of these tempters or into those of the rabble, in either case he is lost; indeed he must fall into the hands of both and surely die, for there is no escape possible in either yea or nay, represented by the two classes of people, Jew and Gentile. Was not that planned shrewdly enough? Who could escape from such a dilemma with gauntlets on both sides? They themselves would have failed to extricate themselves in a similar predicament.

9 But the wise people met with a wisdom they neither knew of nor looked for; it was divine wisdom. Christ seizes the spear and club in their hands and turns their weapons against themselves, answering neither yea nor nay, but compelling them to give an answer which indicts themselves. There he is the Master as they had greeted him; he proves that he can answer their slippery interrogation by themselves. They are thus obliged to run the gauntlet, and are caught in the net with which they had planned to catch him.

10 As of in a playful mood, Christ has them show him the tribute money to start with, and asks whose stamp and superscription it bears. In that childlike way he may have made the impression that he did not know, or was not able to read, so that they concluded: We have him surely now; he is afraid and wants to dissemble in favor of Caesar, not daring to say a word against him, etc. Instead of that he takes the word from their lips, making them admit that they are caught. They must confess it, and cannot do otherwise than say, It is Caesar’s. With that answer he turns the conclusion against them: If the currency and its image is Caesar’s, also the superscription, then you have my thanks for saying yea yourselves to the question you put at me. Why need you bother me with a matter that you can settle so readily? This is truly digging a pit for others and falling in yourself; setting a trap and being caught in it.

11 Christ makes use of the same dialectics in answering others who would impugn his character, and entraps them where they meant to entrap him. As in Luke 19:21-22, where a servant had buried the pound entrusted to him in a napkin, saying: “I feared thee because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that which thou layest not down, and reapest that which thou didst not sow.” He saith unto him: “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant,” etc. That is, be it as thou hast said. Because thou regardedst me to be an austere man, taking what I had not laid down, therefore it serves thee right that thou shouldst be treated in that way, and thy pound be taken from thee as from one who compels me to be austere and strict with him. I give this as a caution that people may learn to take heed and not trifle with holy things. For men can be deceived, but those who try to deceive God deceive themselves.

12 I have often said that God acts toward man even as man is disposed; as thou thinkest and believeth concerning him, such he is to thee. The servant of whom we speak did not have an austere and severe man for his master; on the contrary, he was treated kindly and justly; but since he pictured him that way he must learn how it feels. It is the same with our belief or disbelief. If our hearts picture him as gracious or angry, pleasant or harsh, we have him that way. God is not to be mocked. Those who regard him as angry toward them will find him so; but whoever can say: I know that he will be a gracious father to me and forgive my sins, they will have that experience with him. There must, however, be no hypocrisy, no dissembling, as if the lips should say one thing and the heart thinks the opposite.

13 Since, then, these people call him Master and a teacher of truth, although they do not believe what they say and simply try to catch and deceive him in his words; he turns the matter to their discomfiture and gives then an unexpected proof of what their lips profess. Like as if we were to regard him wrongfully as an ungracious and angry God, we would so experience him, for it is, as he says: “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee;” again: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned,” Matthew 12:37. That would serve us right and be just. Why dost thou not look him straight in the eyes and judge him as what he is, or believest on him as he reveals himself in his Word, namely, as a teacher and savior of all who are burdened with sin and desire to be godly? If such an ideal does not suit thee and thou formest a different one, thou must take what thou hast provided for thyself.

14 This is the experience these plotters make. Their words pronounce him to be a teacher of truth, yet in their hearts they are false; however, he is a real teacher to them and exposes their knavery and hypocrisy. Christ is a good doctor. Such physicians as clearly understand the disease must be commended; they can help a patient so much better than one who simply experiments on the case. He soon learns what knaves they are; but since they call him Master, as if they would learn of him, they must hear what they do not expect, namely: “If I am a master and teacher of truth I will tell you truly what you see and seek: You are hypocrites in my judgment.” That put in plain language means: “You are deceitful fellows.” They deserve this, first, because they are not pious at all; secondly, because they cover up and decorate their falseness by making a pretense of virtue before the people. “You are double hypocrites; you do not seek the way of God nor the truth, yet you flatter me as teaching such to make yourself appear holy; and because you will not hear the truth that could save you, you must hear truth that shall reveal your hypocrisy and condemn it. For, I am, as you say, a teacher of truth. To some, that signifies life, to others, death and damnation, according as their respective faith and hearts may be. Therefore I tell you plainly and truly what you are inwardly, namely, hypocrites and desperate rogues who are beyond help and advice and who belong to the devil. But those who are godly and would like to be so, to them I say: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.

15 Behold, thus they find the right teacher of truth, not to their salvation, however, which they do not seek, but to their condemnation. They are enemies to the truth and do not like to hear such preaching; yet they must hear it, as if from their own lips, answering their question themselves, to their own exposure; as explained above.

16 After this exposure and reproof of their impudence, silencing them with their own answer, the Master continues: V.21. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Let the child be baptized that its name become known. In other words: “You want to take away from Caesar what is his, and have already taken from God what is God’s. You, therefore, are rebels and blasphemers. You take and withhold, and not even question your own dishonesty, nor manifest a purpose to do what is right. That is indeed and rightly called disloyalty, where one refuses to give to Caesar what he can claim as his own.

17 This truth they must hear from this teacher of truth, however much it may displease them to be so sternly rebuked. They hate to be called thieves and robbers, as if they were disposed to despoil the emperor (Caesar) of his authority and belongings and usurp the rights of their superiors under a pretense of justice, for which they deserved punishment in body and estate as twofold rebels. This is the first thought.

18 Secondly. Just as they have been shown to be thieves and robbers toward the state they are similarly guilty of robbing God. They withhold what is God’s and even claim to be in the right by so doing. The Phophet Jeremiah, 23:11, calls those who do not preach God’s Word in God’s name “profaners,” as withholding it from the people for whom it was given; they rob and take, not from God in heaven, but from the people to whom God sent and commanded it to be given, and give them something else instead of it. Thus they profane and rob God, withholding the honor and obedience they owe him. Such fruits they are, these smart saints, who wished to bring Christ in reproach! It is on that account that they must hear the rebukes administered to them and be exposed as God-thieves who deserve capital punishment.

19 Let us now pay attention to the hypocrites of our day — those prudish pietists, bishops and the Pope’s whole coterie of clerics, who persecute Christ and his followers in that they reject and condemn his Word and the acknowledged truth of the Gospel. Christ rightfully calls them robbers and profaners of God and of Caesar. They are obedient neither to God nor to the true Christian church; neither to the state nor to any constituted authority, but would be lords themselves and live and do as they like, none daring to oppose them. They are disobedient in person, and also assault innocent Christians, devour and kill whom they can and would destroy God’s kingdom completely; yet they wish to be well spoken of as being in their right, being obedient, pious and peaceable, and regarding us as heretics and sinners against God and Christendom and against the powers that be, who therefore deserve death. Just like these in the Gospel, who would give neither to God nor to Caesar; pretend to great piety, while they seek to put Christ out of the way as one teaching what is opposed to religion and to patriotism.

20 But how, if the wheel should reverse itself and throw the guilt, which they now heap on us Christians, upon their own heads so that they receive the reward due to the openly condemned rebels and God-thieves, who profane the majesty of both divine and human right? True, neither the Gospel nor Christ himself makes use of physical punishment, yet they should beware lest others come (and I fear very much that such will be the case) who will handle them roughly, teaching them, as others have been taught, that they must cease to persecute Christians. This would be treating them after their own fashion. The Pope, with all his apostles, disciples, lawyers and theologians, teaches: Violence need not be endured, but vim vi repellere licet, that is, open violence may be repelled by force. They say, what Christ teaches, Matthew 5:39, is not a duty, but simply counsel, and no one is bound by it, namely: “I say unto you, resist not him that is evil; but whoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” etc. Their interpretation of this has the sanction of all high schools, institutions and monasteries; it can be found in all their books, nor do they hesitate to praise and justify it, holding that no one is obliged to take wrong even from the emperor, but that it is right to resist evil and strike back in self-defense, let it hit Caesar or whom it may.

21 It were, therefore, not wrong, according to their own teaching, to resist such insufferable injury by force; and I would not lament so very much if, as a punishment from God, it should come about through some false preacher or rabble leader that such tyrants were killed. For they are intent on disorder; their teachings and doings instigate uprisings and war, while they throw the blame on us who teach righteousness, hold the government in honor and oppose conspiracy by word and deed. They would gladly kill us, and although they fail in their loyalty, they want to be honored and safe-guarded in their mischief so that no harm may befall them. The popes with their followings have taught thus not only, but they also practiced it by their acts, opposing kings and emperors as it suited them, despising all authority and trampling the law under their feet, even claiming divine right for their doings. They would do the same now, if they could, boasting that they are in supreme authority and owe allegiance to no ruler.

22 If they should now allow such doctrine to be preached among them, as I myself could do if I were so minded to avenge myself (may God forbid it), or the public would take such teachings from their books and statutes, and a general uprising should follow, whom would they have to blame and who could reason otherwise than that it served them right? Why are they so desperate and perverse that they reproach Christ with his teachings as seditious and blaspheme him who is their Lord, while they themselves are rebels and profaners of God? They disseminate and defend such godless and seditious teachings, and persecute us who preach the pure Gospel, as they well know, and with all faithful ones resist and preach against disloyalty and disorder. They themselves must acknowledge, if they would or could do so in their concealed malice, that they owe it to no other source than to our preaching that they for so long a time have been and are yet secured against rebellion, for if it had not been for us they might have had some different experiences. By their teaching they could not maintain nor enforce peace, favoring uprisings as it does, and if I could approve of it I would not trust myself to advocate or at least wink at any resistance of their adherents in self-protection by force.

23 But we will neither teach nor allow that Christ’s words are nothing more than counsel; we teach that Christians must suffer wrong, if needs be, and leave vengeance to God. They are to be what the Scriptures call them in Psalm 44:22, “sheep for the slaughter,” who may expect death every hour of the day. The Papists know full well that they are safe in our presence; they show their gratitude by persecuting, devouring and murdering us unceasingly, until we are entirely done for. But may it not also happen that in so doing they will meet with such as will defend their rights against them and give them their due so richly deserved, thus paying for what injury they have done to the Gospel and to us? Their doom is sealed. For the present we must suffer, and leave to God how and when he will avenge us. The punishment they deserve is in God’s hand to be meted out in his own time and manner. Although they pretend to be afraid of us, we will do them no harm, allowing them to imitate the Pharisees over against the common people who adhere to Christ. Others will give them what they fear from us, as did the Romans to those who opposed and suspected Christ and his adherents, giving them their full reward when they believed themselves secure.

24 That is the way these will fare in time. They are afraid, though they know that we have attempted nothing to their hurt, nor de we now do so; we offer them peace and uphold peace, exhorting and teaching our people and the public generally to abstain from disloyal acts. We will not stain our hands with their blood. That is something we do not wish to be guilty of. We glory in our innocence over against them before all the world and will not implicate ourselves in their downfall. But others shall arise who will visit upon them what is written of that class of people in the Bible, as, for instance, in Proverbs 10:24, “The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him.” And as Christ expresses it in Matthew 12:37: “For by thy words thou shalt be justified.” Thou hast complained of disloyalty, disloyalty shall be thy portion. We will then say, Amen, and deo gratias, thanks to God, besides.

25 Let that be said on this text to those who would reproach Christ in order to promote their own reputation and standing, so that they may see and learn what sort of a truth-teacher he is, exposing their lies and falsehood and fastening on them what they like to accuse him of, as being real liars and murderers, or misleaders and rebels; they insist on such a course, but endeavor to throw the suspicion on Christ and his adherents, in spite of the fact that these are and teach the very opposite.

26 But we must keep this Word before our eyes; it is our rule of conduct toward the two kingdoms, God’s and Caesar’s, so that we may give to each the honor due him as both of divine order and example. That in both there are many who are not godfearing, who abuse the charge and position committed to them, especially toward Christians, persecuting us as disobedient and disloyal, we admit, but it does not disturb us. We must and are willing to suffer this, at the same time we maintain our right to punish them by word of mouth, telling them the truth and hurling back the accusations heaped upon us. In so doing we satisfy justice and fulfill our duty; the rest we commit to God, how and by whom he may want to avenge us.

27 We have said much about the teaching of Christ’s answer; for it is the doctrine we insist on, that the two powers or governments, God’s and Caesar’s, or spiritual and temporal kingdoms, must be kept apart, as Christ does here in a clear and brief declaration, making a distinction not only, but also illustrating finely how each is to be constituted and administered. When he says, V.21. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he refers to the relation of subjects to their rulers; the other part, V.21. “Render unto God the things that are God’s,” is especially intended for such as are in authority.

28 For it is thus ordained of God that subjects must and shall give to their rulers what they need; when he commands them to give, it is implied that these may take; and where we are to give what is due, there we infer that we owe them something, so that the language might be: “to return,” rather than simply to render or give. That is something for subjects under civil authority.

29 On the other hand, there are restrictions placed upon rulers that they govern in the same spirit, and not take from their subjects what is not due them; but remember to give and do also what they are in duty bound to do by virtue of their presiding over countries and nations, so that they may grow and prosper. That is why they were elevated by God to their respective positions of honor, not that they sit there simply as placethieves, and doing what they like.

30 But if that were emphasized it would be found that the world is full of real thieves and rogues, rulers as well as subjects, and the number would indeed be small from the highest to the lowest, who obey and do what is right. Subjects are most generally so disposed as to cheat their ruler and appropriate to their own use what is his, wherever they can, to say nothing about giving cheerfully, hesitating as they may do to admit that. Princes and office-holders wish to have the name of being Christians and obedient subjects of the emperor, yet they do only what suits them and, if they could, they would gladly usurp the places of their superiors.

31 The same is true of the knights who wait upon and assist the princes; if they could do so, they would gladly confiscate everything, strip their chiefs of what they have and trample them under foot; instead they take villages and castles, delight in being called “dear subjects,” advise and govern in their own interests, thus reveling, oppressing and plaguing both lords and subjects, according to their sweet will. By the way, how many princes and office-holders are there now in high positions who could claim that they give to Caesar what is Caesar’s? Would not all rather fill their own coffers, bags and pockets? This all can do; but giving to Caesar what belongs to him is difficult to find; taking and stealing from him is much more common.

32 There is a similar state of things in all other situations and offices. Servants deceive and cheat their masters, maids their mistresses, day laborers and mechanics those for whom they work. It is so in daily intercourse, at the market and elsewhere; stealing and robbing, even boldly and openly, is the common practice. In that way things go on among high and low, so that there is no royal residence, no city, no house, that is not full of knaves and thieves. Were the world plagued with this sin only, it were already too much and it deserved to have been destroyed long ago; and yet no one wants to be charged with and punished for theft, the evildoers would rather claim honor for their misconduct; especially is that the case with the lords of the nobility who strut around in glittering chains. But if they were treated as they deserve they would not be allowed to wear them on the streets, but would be dealt with as those who stole five or six dollars. It is here, as the saying goes, “Little thieves are hung in iron chains; the big public thieves are permitted to walk about with chains of gold.”

33 It should not be thus, but everyone respects his estate and position and do as it behooves him. Yea, sayest thou, is it not enough that I take nothing from anybody? Yea, truly; but there are many ways of taking; not only from under the bench where there is nothing that belongs to thee, nor out of the bag or chest of another, but also where thou art unfaithful to thy employer and permittest damage to ensue because of negligence or mischief, rather than in consequence of a mistake. As, for instance, where a citizen or neighbor overcharges another, and the nobleman filches and squeezes. According to the seventh commandment all such sharp dealing is called stealing and doing wrong; those who practice it are thieves who care nothing for a troubled conscience, and the maxim, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” becomes a rare bird. All the world is full of the perversity, “taking from Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” from the bottom up; from servant up to knights and princes, so that there is no estate on earth so plagued with thieves and rogues as that of the emperor’s and government’s.

34 Government must also be told how to act toward its subjects. Those in authority also rob and take what is not theirs, and that on the responsibility of their superiors. As when an emperor or prince goes on, plaguing land and people with unnecessary assessments and other burdens. In that situation thou must also hear thy text. If thou desirest the subjects to put into practice their lesson and be honest with thee, thou must also avoid taking from them what is not thine. For Christ does not say here, Render to Caesar that which he wants and likes, but he assigns limits to him, how far he may reach, that is: “The things that are Caesar’s,” or what he is rightfully entitled to.

35 Therefore, land, cities, homes, are not to be governed as the one in authority over them may like, as if an employer could treat his employees to suit his notion, contrary to the Lord’s justice. Nay, the employee would say, I owe thee what is thine, not what thou mayest desire to have. One might require so much as my head or fist, or he would not pay me wages or food and clothing, and so plunder and plague me as not to leave a rag upon my body. That would be taking the rights from the man-servant, and her property from the maid-servant.

36 So also if a burgomaster, ruler or office-holder should compel and plague the people to serve his whims, that could not be regarded as a lordly right, but would be stealing and doing wrong, just as much as if a fellowcitizen should steal from them. However, there is no position nowadays so insignificant but that its occupant should not desire to have the right and the power to do and command what he pleases, studying how he may oppress the people and holding that his authority empowers him to squeeze, drive and torment everybody as he pleases. Even as is now the case more especially with the poor clergymen and preachers, so that there is danger in all estates, especially in the higher ones, for in them the really great thieves are to be found. A house-servant may make a householder poor by his dishonesty; but a nobleman can steal what amounts to something, namely, a whole principality, land and people.

37 Therefore we must tell them how Christ has limited their prerogatives in this text, so that they may not do what they might personally wish. It would go entirely too far, and the Pope’s rule would go into effect, they being flogged by their subjects; but we neither teach nor approve of such practice. Christ does not say de facto , sed de jure , not by fact, but by right; that is, he teaches what each man must do, namely, the subjects must give, and the government must not take more than what is due; but who is to punish where both parties sin against the law is not stated.

38 Christ does not do, as the Pope teaches that one should hit back, nor does he allow anyone to avenge himself, neither the employer nor his employee; the infliction of punishment and judgment he reserves for himself as the highest Lord and God. “Vengeance is mine,” saith God, Deuteronomy 32:35. He who does not give heed to this teaching will experience this judgment. If God does not punish by the ordinary authorities he will do it by pestilence, war, revolutions and other plagues; for he can punish rulers as well as their subjects. Therefore both are instructed as to their duty, and we will abide by his declaration. We must not and will not coerce anyone by violent measures, but say only what is right and resist wrong-doing by word of mouth. Whoever will not mind that, we excommunicate such an one in accordance with Christ’s teaching, telling him that he belongs to the devil, and let him go. Others may punish the Pope and his followers who will not abide by the Word of God, but resort to violence.

39 This is a brief statement as to the first estate or government, both in its higher and its lower functions, to show how far we. are away from our true position and how full the world is everywhere of thievery. But these matters are worst of all, if one is to expound this passage (Render to God what is God’s) and speak of the God-thieves in the spiritual government of Christendom, in which I and the likes of me are. For as high as heaven is above the earth so dangerous and difficult is this office in comparison with secular or imperial positions which, indeed, are also dangerous where their occupants do not call upon God for help to discharge their duties properly and without injury to their subjects. But if unfaithful ministers or preachers get into their office they will be, not thieves of bread, meat or clothing, wherewith the body is nourished and with which jurists busy themselves, who teach nothing further than what ministers to the belly and try to check that class of stealing; but those who occupy the office that is to give the bread of eternal life to souls and, instead, cause them everlasting thirst, hunger and nakedness, taking away the word by which man is nourished from death to life, such are not simply belly-thieves, but thieves of God and of the heavenly kingdom.

40 Such now is the Pope with his bishops and all their retinue, who do not preach to the people, rather preventing them from receiving God’s Word and what it gives and affords; doing their very best in mischief when they forbid and hinder the sacrament to be administered under both forms, as Christ instituted it, and they well know, in sheer violence and blasphemous thirst; they cannot rightly be called anything else than sacrilegious, public thieves of God, robbers of his Word and sacrament.

41 There are among us also some who so plague and press the poor pastors with hunger and care that they cannot do their work properly; some also lowering their calling so as to reach out for the heavenly things and at the same time hanker after carnal goods, as the cliques of Pope and priest also do, who are charged with spiritual matters, but do not preach them nor suffer it to be done. They practice the two kinds of robbery and deserve all the more severe punishment. Yet the world is just as full of this miserable dishonesty as of the secular sort, and they are thieves through and through, from top to bottom, from the least to the greatest.

42 But how will it be in the end when the final judgment shall take place? What does it mean that God must continue to call and preach: “Do render both to God and to Caesar,” but all in vain, and should thus be mocked and his Word trampled under foot? Are we not to expect that at last there should rain upon the world a flood with thunder, lightning and hellfire? It cannot and must not be otherwise, because the trespass against God’s and Caesar’s right continues so boldly and so eagerly and turns the single into a double robbery, ever defending its course and resisting its punishment. God will and can not suffer that forever. I would that he might take us and ours away in mercy so that we be spared the coming calamity! Wickedness is so very great, and so manifold in the whole world, that it exceeds the leaves on the trees and the blades of grass upon the earth in number. May God preserve and deliver us from this distress, and grant grace that we may hold to his Word in earnestness and be delivered from such evil! 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 Matt 22:34-46, both found here]]

Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:34-46

1 This Gospel consists of two questions. In the first the lawyer on behalf of the other Pharisees asks Christ: Which is the great commandment in the law? In the second the Lord asks the Pharisees and the lawyer: Whose son is David? These two questions concern every Christian; for he who wishes to be a Christian must thoroughly understand them. First, what the law is, and the purpose it serves; and secondly, who Christ is, and what we may expect from him.

2 Christ explains here to the Pharisees the law, telling them what the sum of the whole law is, so that they are completely silenced both at his speech and his question, and know less than nothing of what the law is and who Christ is. From this it follows, that although unbelief may appear as wisdom and holiness before the world, it is nevertheless folly and unrighteousness before God, especially where the knowledge of the two questions mentioned above is wanting.

For he who does not know how he stands before the law, and what he may expect from Christ, surely has not the wisdom of God, no matter how wise and prudent he may pretend to be. Let us therefore consider the first question, namely: What the law is; what it commands and how it is to be spiritually interpreted.

3 When the lawyer asked Christ, which was the great commandment in the law, the Lord said to him:

V.37-40. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets.”

4 As if the Lord would say: He who possesses love to God, and love to his neighbor, has all things, and therefore fulfils the law; for the whole law and all the prophets point to these two themes, namely: how God and our neighbor are to be loved.

5 Now one may wish to ask: How can you harmonize this statement, that all things are to be comprehended in these two commandments, since there was given to the Jews circumcision and many other commandments? To answer this, let us see in the first place how Christ explains the law, namely, that it must be kept with the heart. In other words, the law must be spiritually comprehended; for he who does not lay hold of the law with the heart and with the Spirit, will certainly not fulfil it. Therefore the Lord here gives to the lawyer the ground and real substance of the law, and says that these are the greatest commandments, to love God with the heart and our neighbor as ourselves.

From this it follows that he, who is not circumcised, who does not fast nor pray, is not doing it from the heart; even though he may perform external acts, he nevertheless does nothing before God, for God looketh on the heart, and not on our acts, I Sam. 16:7. It will not profit a man at all, no matter what work he may perform, if his heart is not in it.

6 From this arises another question: Since works are of no profit to a man, why then did God give so many commandments to the Jews? To this I answer, these commandments were given to the end that we might become conscious whether we really love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and in addition our neighbor as ourselves; for St. Paul says in Rom. 7:7 (3:20), that the law is nothing but a consciousness and a revelation of sin. What would I know of sin, if there were no law to reveal it to me?

Here now is the law that saith: Thou shalt love God with thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself. This we fulfil if we do all that the law requires; but we are not doing it. Hence he shows us where we are lacking, and that, while we ought really to do something, we are doing nothing.

7 That the Jews had to practice circumcision was indeed a foolish ceremony, yea, a command offensive to reason, even though it were given by God still today. What service was it to God, to burden his people with this grievous commandment? What good was it to him, or what service to a neighbor? Yea, and it did not profit the Jew, who was circumcised. Why then did God give the command? In order that this commandment and law might show them whether they really loved God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind, and whether they did it willingly or not. For if there were a devout heart, it would say: I verily do not know why God gave me circumcision, inasmuch as it does not profit any one, neither God, nor me, nor my neighbor; but since it is well pleasing to God, I will nevertheless do it, even though it be considered a trifling and despised act. Hence, circumcision was an exercise of the commandment, Thou shalt love God with all thy heart.

8 It was also a foolish command God gave to Abraham, to slay his son, Gen. 22:2. For if reason had been the judge in this, both it and all mankind would have come to no other conclusion than this: It is an unfriendly and hostile command, how can it be from God, since God himself said to Abraham that he would multiply his seed through this son, and it would become as innumerable as the stars of the firmament and as the sand by the sea. Therefore it was a foolish commandment, a grievous, hard and unbearable commandment. But what did Abraham do? He closes his senses, takes his reason captive, and obeys the voice of God, goes, and does as God commanded him.

By this he proved that he obeyed from the heart; otherwise, even if he had put his son to death a hundred times, God would not have cared for it; but God was pleased that the deed came from his heart and was done in true love to God; yea, it came from a heart that must have thought: Even if my son dies, God is almighty and faithful, he will keep his word, he will find ways and means beyond that which I am able to devise; only obey, there is no danger. Had he not had this boldness and this faith, how could his fatherheart have killed his only and well beloved son?

9 The Jews later wanted to follow this example and, like Abraham, offered their children unto God, hoping thereby to perform a service well-pleasing to God; but it was far from it. These poor people came to the conclusion: The service of Abraham was pleasing to God, therefore will ours also be, and consequently they killed one child after another. O, how many healthy, noble and beautiful children perished! The prophets protested against this service, they preached, warned and wrote against it, telling the people that it was deception, but all was in vain. Yea, many a prophet lost his life because of this, as the history in the books of the kings shows.

10 But why was this service of the Jews displeasing to God? For the reason that it did not come from their heart, and was not done out of love to God; but they simply looked upon the service, and did it without the command and word of God; but God saith: My dear sirs, I was not concerned about the fact that Abraham offered up his son, but that he proved by this act that he loved me with his whole heart. There must be first love in the heart, then follows the service that will be pleasing to God; for all the works of the law tend to the end thereby to prove our love to God, which is in the heart; which love the law requires, and will have above everything else.

11 We are also to notice here that all the works of the law are not commanded merely for the purpose that we simply just perform them; no, no; for if God had given even more commandments, he would not want us to keep them to the injury and destruction of love. Yea, if these commandments oppose the love of our neighbor, he wants us to renounce and annul them. Take the example of this, I recently gave you: Moses brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, leading them for forty years through the wilderness, and not one of them was circumcised, although it was commanded them. Where was their obedience to the commandment? Was God not angry with them because they did not obey his commandment? No, there was a higher commandment in force at that time, namely, that they were to obey God who commanded them to come out of Egypt in haste to the promised land. By their marching they daily obeyed God, and God accepted it as obedience; otherwise he would have been angry in that they did not keep his commandments. Both the need and the love were at hand, which set aside all commandments, for it would have been unbearable to endure the pain of circumcision and at the same time the burden of the journey. Therefore love took the place of the commandment of circumcision, and thus should all commandments be kept in love, or not at all.

12 In like manner Christ excused his disciples, as is recorded in Matthew 12:3-4, when the Jews accused them of transgressing the law, of doing on the Sabbath that which was not lawful to do on the Sabbath day, when they plucked the ears of corn and ate them. Then the Lord gave them to understand that they were doing no wrong, as if to say: Here is no Sabbath; for the body needs food, necessity demands it; we must eat, even though it be on the Sabbath. Therefore the Lord cited the example of David, which he laid before the Jews, and said, “Have ye not read what David did; he and they that were with him, when he was an hungered, how he went into the house of God and ate the shew bread which was not lawful to eat, nor for those that were with him, excepting for the priests?” 1 Samuel 21:3f. Then David ate the bread, though he was not a priest, because hunger pressed him to do it. Neither did Ahimelech the priest violate the law in giving the bread to David, for love was present and urged him to give it. Thus even the whole law would have had to serve David in his need.

13 Therefore, when the law impels one against love, it ceases and should no longer be a law; but where no obstacle is in the way, the keeping of the law is a proof of love, which lies hidden in the heart. Therefore ye have need of the law, that love may be manifested; but if it cannot be kept without injury to our neighbor, God wants us to suspend and ignore the law.

14 Thus you are to regulate your life and conduct. There are in our day many customs, many orders and ceremonies, by which we falsely think to merit heaven; and yet there is only this one principle, namely: the love to our neighbor, that includes in it all good works. I will give you an example we recently heard. Here is a priest or monk, who is to read his prayers or the rules of his order, or to hold mass, or say penance. At this moment there comes a poor man or woman to him who has need of his help and counsel. What shall this priest or monk do? Shall he perform his service, or shall he assist the poor man? He should therefore act prudently and think: True, I am required to read my prayers, hold mass, or say penance; but now on the other hand, a poor man is here; he needs my help and I should come to his rescue. God commanded me to do this; but the others man devised and instituted. I will let the mandates of men go, and will serve my neighbor according to God's commandment.

15 However, very seldom do we think that the precious service of holding mass and reading prayers should be put in the background; and such a humble service, as you regard it, should have the preference. But what is the reason? The reason is that these dream-preachers, who have nothing to present to us but the ordinances of men, have made us so timid and fearful that we came to the conclusion, if we did not regulate ourselves in everything according to their preaching, heaven itself would fall. Yea, they would rather let ten poor people starve than fail to say one mass. We find even today many monks or priests who rather let a poor man freeze, than violate their statutes and ordinances. So lamentably and miserably have they been deceived by their godless preachers and teachers, and by their superiors, who with their statutes and devilish ordinances have drawn, and are still drawing, them away more and more from the law of God to our own notions.

16 These are the principal fruits of unbelief and godlessness, which, as the Scriptures declare, provoke God. Should not God be angry with me, if he commands me to show my neighbor love, and I go and follow my own or other people's dreams? It is as if a master said to his servant: Go and work in the field, and the servant went and desired to wash the dishes. Should not the master rightly be angry with such a servant? Thus it is also with God. He wants us to keep his commandments, and to regard them more than the commandments of men, and all the commandments to be subservient to love, so that all be comprehended in these two commandments, of which the Lord here speaks in this Gospel: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.”

17 Do you want to do something pleasing to God, then do it out of genuine love. That the Jews practiced circumcision, fasted much, prayed much, and performed other like services, was not pleasing to God, for it did not come from the heart, as this commandment requires: Thou shalt love God with all thy heart. Thus it will be also with you, even though you should belong to the Carthusian friars, or to a still more exacting order; all would avail nothing, if you had not the love of God. From this you are to conclude, all works are nothing, that do not originate in love, or are against love. No commandments should be in force, except those in which the law of love can be exercised.

18 From this it now appears what a misleading calling that of the monks and priests is, in that they wish to merit heaven through their works alone, and they also bind the people to do good works, in order that they may thereby merit heaven, which is a cursed and godless service. Hence, as already stated, the law is to be only an exercise to prove our love; otherwise, aside from love, God never inquires about works, no matter how excellent they are.

19 You can now see how many people know what the law means: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself. Surely they are few who know it, and fewer still who keep it. How can they keep that which they do not know? We are blind and our nature is totally blind, and so is also human reason. It knows nothing so imperfectly as that which the law of God requires.

20 Now here Christ shows the Pharisees and the Scribes a twofold kindness. In the first place, he dispels their blindness and teaches them what the law is. In the second place, he teaches them how impossible it is for them to keep the law. Their blindness he dispels, in that he teaches them what the law is, namely: that love is the law. Human reason cannot comprehend this nowadays any more than the Jews did then, for if it had been possible for human reason to comprehend it, the Pharisees and Scribes, who at that time were the best and wisest of the people, could have understood it; but they thought it consisted alone in performing the external works of the law; in giving to God, whether it be done willingly or unwillingly; but their inward blindness, their covetousness, and their hardened heart they could not see, and thought they thoroughly understood the law and were fine fellows, holy and pious people; but they stood in their own light. For no one is able to keep the law unless his nature is thoroughly renewed.

21 Therefore consider it an established fact that reason can never understand and fulfil the law, even though it knows the meaning of the law. When do you do to another what you want him to do to you? Who loves his enemy from his heart? Who loves to die? Who willingly suffers disgrace and shame? Dear sir, point me to a man who enjoys to have a bad reputation or to live in poverty! For nature and human reason flee entirely from this, are afraid, terrified and shocked; and if it were possible, as far as it were in their power, they would never suffer such misfortune. Human nature alone will never be able to accomplish what God in this commandment requires, namely, that we surrender our will to the will of God, so that we renounce our reason, our will, our might and power, and say from the heart: Thy will be done. And indeed, nowhere will you find a person who loves God with his whole heart and his neighbor as himself. It may indeed happen that two companions live friendly together; but even there hypocrisy is hidden, which continues until you are wounded by him; then you will see how you love him, and whether you are flesh or spirit. This commandment therefore requires me to be friendly with all my heart to him who has offended me; but when do I do this?

22 Thus Christ desires to show us that we preach the law rightly, only when we learn from it that we are unable to fulfill it, and that we are the property of the devil. This we learn from experience, and it is shown now and then in the Scriptures, especially by St. Paul when he says in Romans 8:7-8: “Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” and it follows, that they who are in the flesh cannot please God.

23 Hence, take to thyself this commandment: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and think upon it, contemplate it, and search what kind of a law it is; how far you are from fulfilling it, yea, how you have not yet even made a beginning to suffer and to do from the heart what God demands of you. It is pure hypocrisy, if anyone wants to creep into a hiding- place and think: Oh I will love God. Oh, how I do love him, he is my Father! How gracious he is to me I and the like. Yes, when God does our pleasure, then we can easily say such things; but when he sends misfortune and adversity, we no longer regard him as our God, nor as our Father.

24 True love to God does not act in this way, but in the heart it thinks and with the lips says: Lord God, I am thy creature; do with me as thou wilt; it matters not to me. I am ever thine, that I know; and if thou desirest, I will die this very hour or suffer any great misfortune; I will cheerfully do so from my heart. I will not regard my life, honor and goods and all I have, higher and greater than thy will, which shall be my pleasure all my days. But you will never find a person who will constantly regulate himself according to this commandment; for the whole life you are living in the body, in the five senses, and whatever you do in your body, should all be so regulated as to be done to the glory of God, according to the regulations of this commandment, which saith, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind.” As if Christ said: If you love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, then nothing will be lacking; you shall experience it in your daily life, namely: when everything you do, whether you wake or sleep, whether you labor or stand idle, whether you eat or drink, is directed and done out of love to God from the heart. In like manner your mind and thoughts will also be directed wholly and entirely to God, so that you will approve of nothing you are not certain is pleasing to God. Yea, where are those who do this?

25 And this part where he says, “With all thy mind,” argues powerfully against the writings and teachings of man, upon which he especially depends, and thinks thereby to obtain a merciful God and merit heaven. Such imagination of the human reason draws us in a wonderful manner from this commandment, so that we do not love God with all the mind; as has been done hitherto, and is still done at the present day. For these priests and monks think nothing else than that God is moved by the mass and by other human inventions; but he abhors it and does not desire it, as is said in Isaiah 29:13: “In vain do they serve me, because they are teaching such doctrines which are only the commandments of men.” Mat. 15:8-9. The commandment here requires you to consider nothing good that is against God and against everything he has commanded or forbidden. It thus requires, you to give yourself wholly and entirely to him in all your life and conduct.

26 From this you can conclude, there is no human being who is not condemned, inasmuch as no one has kept this commandment, and God wants everyone to keep it. There we stand in the midst of fear and distress, unable to help ourselves, and the first knowledge of the law is, that we see our human nature is unable to keep the law; for it wants the heart, and if it is not done with the heart, it avails nothing before God. You may indeed do the works outwardly, but God is not thus satisfied, when they are not done from the heart, out of love; and this is never done except man is born anew through the Holy Spirit. Therefore God aims to accomplish through the law nothing more than that we should in this way be forced to acknowledge our inability, frailty and disease, and that with our best efforts we are unable to fulfil a letter of the law. When you realize this, the law has accomplished its work. This is what Paul means when he says in Romans 3:20, “Through the law is the knowledge of sin.”

27 From this it appears clearly that we are all alike, and are one in the inner wickedness of the heart, which the law reveals, when we look into it rightly. Therefore we might well say, If one is good, then all are good. Therefore no one should accuse another. It is indeed true that in public and gross sins there sticks a deeper sin; but the heart is alike bad, unless it be renewed by the Holy Ghost. But what shall I do when I once recognize my sin? What does it profit me? It helps me very much, for when I have come thus far, I am not far from the kingdom; as Christ says to a scribe in Mark 12:34, who also knew that the works of the law were nothing without love.

28 But what shall we do to get rid of our bad conscience? Here follows now the other part of this Gospel, namely, who Christ is and what we can expect of him. From him we must receive and secure freedom from a wicked conscience, or we shall remain in our sins eternally, because for this purpose is Christ made known and given by the Father, in order that he might deliver us from sin, death, from a wicked conscience, and from the law.

29 We have now heard what the law is, and how through the law we come to the knowledge of sin; but this is not enough, another has a work to do here, whose name is Christ Jesus; although the first, the law, must indeed remain; yea, it is necessary. For if I have no sense of my sins, I will never inquire for Christ; as the Pharisees and scribes do here, who thought they had done everything the law commanded and were ready to do yet more; but of Christ they knew nothing. Therefore, first of all, when the law is known and sin revealed through the law, it is then necessary that we know who Christ is; otherwise the knowledge of sin profits us nothing.

30 But the law is known, when I learn from it that I am condemned, and see that there is neither hope nor comfort anywhere for me, and I cannot even help myself, but must have another one to deliver me. Then it is time that I look around for him who can help, and he is Christ Jesus, who for this purpose became man, and became like unto us, in order that he might help us out of the mire into which we are fallen. He loved God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself, and submitted his will to the will of his Father, fulfilled the law in every respect; this I could not do and yet I was required to do it. Therefore, he accepts him; and that which he fulfilled in the law, he offers me. He freely gives me his life with all his works, so that I can appropriate them to myself as a possession that is my own and is bestowed upon me as a free gift. He delivers us from the law, for when the law says, Love God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself, or thou wilt be damned, then I say, I cannot do it. Then Christ says: Come to me, take me and cling to me by faith; then you shall be rid of the law.

31 Now this is accomplished in the following manner: Christ has through his death secured for us the Holy Spirit; and he fulfils the law in us, and not we. For that Spirit, whom God sends into your heart for the sake of his Son, makes an entirely new man out of you, who does with joy and love from the heart everything the law requires, which before would have been impossible for you to do. This new man despises the present life, and desires to die, rejoices in all adversity, and submits himself wholly and entirely to the will of God. Whatever God does with him, is well pleasing to him. This Spirit you cannot merit yourself, but Christ has secured and merited it. When I believe from the heart that Christ did this for me, I receive also the same Holy Spirit that makes me an entirely new man. Then everything God commands is sweet, lovely and agreeable, and I do everything he desires of me; not in my own strength, but by the strength of him that is in me, as Paul says in Philippians, 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me.”

32 But you must take heed, that you do not undertake to secure this faith in Jesus Christ by your own works or power, or that you think lightly about this matter; for it is impossible for the natural man; but the Holy Spirit must do it. Therefore beware of the preachers of selfrighteousness, who simply blabber and say: We must do good works in order to be saved. But we say that faith alone is sufficient to this end. Our good works are for another purpose, namely, to prove our faith, as you have already frequently heard from me.

33 Now this is the purpose of the question the Lord put to the Pharisees: What think ye of Christ; who is he and whose Son is he? But their answer, in that they say, He is the son of David, the Lord rejects and obscures their answer and refers to a passage from the Psalm, in order to leave them in doubt; so that no one is able to answer him a word.

34 However, when David calls Christ his Lord, in that he says in Psalm 110, “But the lord said unto my Lord, 'Sit thou on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool,'” it is to be understood that David speaks of him both as God and man, for according to the flesh alone he was the son of David. Paul also joins these two when he says in Romans 1:1-4: “I am called to be an apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God, which he promised afore through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh; who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” But it is something to know that Christ is Lord; for this has might and power and is especially comforting in the time of affliction. But concerning this I have said more elsewhere and will therefore now close, and pray God for grace.

Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 22:34-46 (2nd Sermon)


1 In this Gospel Christ answers the question the Pharisees put to him: Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? and in turn asks them the question: What think ye of the Christ, whose son is he? Thus this Gospel presents to us that which we continually hear and should hear, so that these two sermons must continue to be preached in Christendom, namely: the first, the teaching of the Law or of the ten commandments, and the second, the doctrine concerning the grace of Christ. For if either of these fall it pulls the other with it; while on the other hand, wherever the one remains steadfast and is faithfully put into practice, it brings the other with it.

2 And God has ordained that these two themes shall be preached forever in the Christian Church, yea, they have always since the beginning of the world accompanied one another; they were given to our father Adam, while he was still in Paradise, and were later confirmed through Abraham, Moses and the Prophets.

For they are required by the needs of humanity, fallen as it is under the power of satan, so that we live and move in sin and are worthy of eternal death. Adam felt and lamented sin and its injuries; but later the sense of sin soon weakened and was disregarded, so that the heathen did not consider it sin although they indeed felt evil lust and desire in their bodies; but they imagined all that belonged to the character and nature of man. Yet they taught man should restrain such lust and desires and not allow them to go too far; but this nature in itself they did not condemn.

3 Therefore God gave this one simple teaching that reveals what man is, what he has been, and what he should again become. This is the doctrine of the Law, which Christ here cites: V.37. “Thou shalt love God with all thy heart, etc.” As if to say: Thus thou hast been, and thus thou shalt still be and become. In Paradise you were in possession of the treasure, and were thus created that you loved God with all your heart; this you have lost; but now you must again become as you were, or you will never enter the Kingdom of God. In like manner he speaks clearly and plainly in other places, Matthew 19:17: “If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments.” Likewise, Luke 10:28: “This do and thou shalt live, etc.” This must in short be kept; and that we wish to dispute so much about it amounts to nothing, as if one might be saved without it, namely, without that which is called loving God with the whole heart and your neighbor as yourself. This divine law must be fulfilled by you as purely and completely as the angels in heaven fulfill it.

4 Therefore it is wrong and not to be allowed, as some in ancient times said and as some stupid spirits now say: Although you do not keep the commandment, and do not love God and your neighbor, yea, although you are even an adulterer, that makes no difference, if you only believe, then you will be saved. No, dear mortal, that amounts to nothing; you will never thus gain heaven; it must come to the point that you keep the commandments, and abide in love toward God and your neighbor. For there it stands briefly determined; “If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments.” Again, to the Galatians, 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things, shall not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, etc.”

5 And Christ wishes this doctrine to be observed by the Christians so that they may know what they have been, what they are still lacking and what they should again become, that they continue not in the misery and filth in which they find themselves now; for if they do, they must be lost.

Christ speaks right out plainly in Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, the Law must be so taught and observed that not the smallest letter or one tittle of it shall in any wise pass away, till all things be accomplished.” Again, Christ says further in Matthew 12:36: “And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof on the day of judgment.” And St. Paul in Romans 8:4: “God sent his Son in the flesh that the righteousness, required by the Law, might be fulfilled in us.” And in Romans 3:31: “Do we then make the Law of none effect if we teach man is justified through faith, and not through works. That is far from us; nay, we establish the Law.” That is, for this very reason we teach faith, by which the law is fulfilled.

6 For this is indeed a glorious doctrine that teaches what we are to become; but that it may also be realized and not continue to be preached in vain, the other doctrine must be added, namely, how and through what means we may again return to our former state. We return when we hear what we lost in Paradise; when Adam lived in full love to God, and in pure love to his neighbor, and in perfect obedience without evil lust, and that had he remained thus we would still be so; but now, since through sin he fell from this command, we also lie in the same misery, full of sin and disobedience, under God’s wrath and curse, and fall from one sin to another, and the Law stands there, holds us guilty, urges and requires us to be pious and obedient to God.

7 What shall we then do here, since the Law continually commands and drives us, and we are powerless? For here my own conscience argues ever against me: Since I am to love God with my whole heart and my neighbor as myself, and I do not do it, I must therefore be condemned and God approves and confirms the sentence of condemnation. Who will counsel me in this instance? I do not know what to counsel you, says the Law; but it decrees and demands plainly that you be obedient.

Here the Prophets come now, and preach Christ, and say: One is coming who will give counsel how man may regain what he lost and again enter the state from which he fell, to which the Law points him. This is the other sermon that should and must be preached until the day of judgment, namely, the help from sin, death and satan, and restoration of our bodies and souls, so that we may come into the state that we love God and our neighbor from our hearts. This is to be done fully and perfectly in the future life, but here in this life it should be commenced.

8 For in the life beyond there will be no longer any faith, but perfect love, and all the Law demands we will do with our whole heart. Therefore we must now preach what we should become and should forever continue to be, namely, that we are to love God and our neighbor with our whole heart. This I will commence, says Christ, and complete, not alone as to my own person, but I will aid you to make a beginning, and to continue ever in it, until you come where you will also fulfill it perfectly.

9 Now this will come to pass thus. Since we are unable to keep the Law and it is impossible for the natural man to do so, Christ came and stepped between the Father and us, and prays for us: Beloved Father, be gracious unto them and forgive them their sins. I will take upon me their transgressions and bear them; I love thee with my whole heart, and in addition the entire human race, and this I will prove by shedding my blood for mankind. Moreover, I have fulfilled the Law and I did it for their welfare in order that they may partake of my fulfilling the Law and thereby come to grace.

10 Thus there is first given us through Christ the sense that we do not fulfill the Law and that sin is fully and completely forgiven: however, this is not bestowed in a way or to the end, that we in the future need not keep the Law, and may forever continue to sin, or that we should teach, if we have faith then we need no longer to love God and our neighbor. But there is bestowed upon us the sense that the fulfilling of the Law may now for the first time be successfully attempted and perfectly realized, and this is the eternal, fixed and unchangeable will of God. To this end it is necessary to preach grace, that man may find counsel and help to come to a perfect life.

11 But the help offered us is, that Christ prays the Father to forgive us our sins against this Law, and not to impute what we are still indebted. Then he promises also to give the Holy Spirit, by whose aid the heart begins to love God and to keep his commandments. For God is not gracious and merciful to sinners to the end that they might not keep his Law, nor that they should remain as they were before they received grace and mercy; but he condones and forgives both sin and death for the sake of Christ, who has fulfilled the whole Law in order thereby to make the heart sweet and through the Holy Spirit to kindle and move the heart to begin again to love from day to day more and more.

12 Thus begins in us not only love, but also truth, that is, a true character, as the Law requires; like St. John says in 1:17, that Christ is full of grace and truth, and through him grace and truth grow in us, which neither Moses nor the law can give us. For the Law is not abolished thus by grace, that the truth is to be overlooked, and that we should not love God; but through him we experience that we do not as perfectly keep the Law as we ought in the kingdom of forgiveness or of grace. But besides the Holy Spirit is given us, who kindles a new flame or fire in us, namely, love and desire to do God’s commandments. In the kingdom of grace this should begin and ever grow until the day of judgment, when it shall no longer be called grace or forgiveness, but pure truth and perfect obedience. In the meantime he continues to give, forgive, to bear and forbear, until we are laid in our graves.

13 Now if we thus continue in faith, that is, in what the Holy Spirit gives and forgives, in what he begins and ends, then the fire on the judgment day, by which the whole world is to be consumed, will cleanse and purify us, so that we will no longer need this giving and forgiving, as if there were something unclean and sinful in us, as there really is at present; we will certainly be as the brightness of the dear sun, without spot and defect, full of love, as Adam was at the beginning in Paradise.

Thus will it then be truly said, the Law is established and fulfilled, Romans 3:31. For it will then no longer blame and rebuke us; but the Law shall be considered satisfied, and the debt paid, even by ourselves; since all is now fulfilled, not through us, and yet by it we are freed and saved, so that we creep under Christ’s mantle and wings, that he makes satisfaction for us until we lie under the earth and then come again out of the grave with a beautiful, glorified body that will be nothing but holiness and purity, with a cleansed soul full of the love of God. Then we will no longer be in need of his mantle and of his prayers, but we will all be there perfect and complete, as we should be. Now, since I believe in him, my sins are forgiven and I am called a child of grace. And moreover, the truth also should arise in me, that is, a new righteous character, that shall continue until it perfects me; since Christ, the truth, has come, not to destroy the Law, but to establish it, not only in himself, which was done long ago. but in me and in all Christians.

14 These are the two doctrines that should accompany one another, since they belong together or the one is in the other, and they must always go together as long as we live here, by which the Law or God’s commandment may begin to work in Christians, so that the wicked, disobedient persons of the world may be restrained and punished. Since they will not fear and love God like Christians and believers, they are obliged to fear eternal fire, perdition and other punishments. Others, however, will be taught by it from what they have fallen and how sorely and fully they have inherited sin.

15 For when I compare my life with the Law I see and experience always the contrary of what the Law enjoins. I shall entrust to God my body and soul, and love him with my whole heart; yet, I would rather have a dollar in my chest than ten gods in my heart, and I am happier when I know how to make ten dollars, than when I hear the whole Gospel. Let a prince give a person a castle or several thousand dollars, what a jumping and rejoicing it creates! On the other hand, let a person be baptized or receive the communion which is a heavenly, eternal treasure, there is not one-tenth as much rejoicing. Thus we are by nature; there is none who so heartily rejoices over God’s gifts and grace as over money and earthly possessions; what does that mean but that we do not love God as we ought? For if we trusted and loved him, we would rejoice more that he gave us the sense of sight than if we possessed the whole world. And the word of consolation he speaks to me through the Gospel ought to give me higher joy than the favor, money, wealth and honor of the whole world. But that it is not so and ten thousand dollars can make people happier than all the grace and possessions of God, proves what kind of fruit we are, and what a distressing and horrible fall it is in which we lie. And yet we would not see nor realize it, if it were not revealed to us through the Law, and we would have to remain forever in it and be lost, if we were not again helped out of it through Christ. Therefore the Law and the Gospel are given to the end that we may learn to know both how guilty we are and to what we should again return.

16 This now is the Christian teaching and preaching, which, God be praised, we know and possess, and it is not necessary at present to develop it further, but only to offer the admonition that it be maintained in Christendom with all diligence. For satan has continually attacked it hard and strong from the beginning until the present, and gladly would he completely extinguish it and tread it under foot. For he cannot endure that the people continue in it and conduct themselves uprightly and he seeks a hundred thousand arts and wiles only to crush it. Therefore I so gladly preach it, as it is greatly needed; for until the present it has never been heard nor known in the Papacy.

17 For I myself was a learned doctor of theology and yet I never understood the ten commandments rightly. Yea, there were many highly celebrated doctors who did not know whether there were nine, ten or eleven commandments, and much less did we know the Gospel and Christ. But the only thing that was taught and advocated was: Invoke the Virgin Mary and other saints as your mediators and intercessors; fast often and pray much; make pilgrimages, enter cloisters and become monks, or pay for the saying of many masses and like works. And thus we imagined when we did these things we had merited heaven.

18 That was the time of blindness when we knew nothing of God’s Word, but led ourselves and others into misery by our own idle talk and dreams. And I was one of those who indeed bathed in this sweat or in this bath of anxiety. Therefore let us give heed that we may thoroughly grasp and retain this doctrine, if other fanatics and false spirits wish to attack it, so that we may be fore-armed and learn, while we have the time and the beloved sun again enlightens us, and buy while the market is at our door. For it will come to this when once these lights, which God now gives, have departed, satan will not take a furlough until he raises up other fanatical spirits to do harm; as he has already commenced to do in many places during our generation. What will take place after we are gone?

19 Therefore learn, who can learn, and learn well, so that we may know, first the ten commandments, what we owe to God. For if we do not know this, then we know nothing and we will not inquire about Christ in the least. Just like we monks did who either held Christ to be an angry judge or despised him entirely in the face of our imaginary holiness. We fancied we were not in sin, which the ten commandments show and punish; but we had the natural light of reason and free will, and if we lived according to that, as much as we were able, then God would have to bestow upon us his grace, etc. But now, if we are to know Christ as our helper and Savior, then we must first know, out of what he can help us, not out of fire or water, or other bodily need and danger, but out of sin and the hatred of God. But whence do I know that I lie drowned in misery? From no other source than from the Law, that must show me what my loss and disease are, or I will never inquire for the physician and his help.

20 Thus we have both parts of the help of Christ: the one, that he must represent us over against God and be a cloak to cover our shame, as the one who takes upon himself our sins and disgrace; a cloak, I say, for us, as the one who takes our sins and shame upon himself, but before God a throne of grace in whom there is no sin or shame; but only virtue and honor. And like a hen he spreads out his wings against the buzzard, the devil with his sin and death, so that God for his sake forgives all, and to us he can do no harm. But on the condition that you only remain under these wings. For while you are under his mantle and protection and do not come out from under it, sin that is still in you must not be sin for the sake of him who covers you with his righteousness.

21 Then in the second place Christ does not only thus cover and protect us, but he will also nourish and feed us as the hen does her little chickens, that is, he gives us the Holy Spirit and strength, to begin to love God and to keep his commandments. And this shall continue to the last day when faith and this cloak of shame will cease, so that we will behold the Father without any medium or covering, and we ourselves stand before him, and there will be no longer any sin in us to be forgiven; but all will be again restored and brought back or perfected, as St. Paul says in Acts 3:21, purified and perfect, what satan from the beginning disturbed and ruined.

22 Now Christ wishes to teach this by his answer and the question, with which he in reply upbraided the Pharisees. As if he should say, you know nothing more than to speak of the Law, which teaches you that you should love God and your neighbor and yet you do not understand it; for you imagine you have fulfilled it, though you are still far from doing so. Just like the one in Matthew 19:20-21, who boasts he had kept all the commandments from his youth; but Christ says to him: “If thou wouldst be perfect, go sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” This is as much as to say: Whoever will love God aright and keep his commandments, must be able to sacrifice his possessions, body and life. Therefore another thing is necessary, Christ will say, for you to know, namely, that you know and possess the man called Christ, who helps us to the end that this doctrine of the Law may be established and perfected in you.

23 But what does it mean to know Christ aright? This the Pharisees and scribes do not know; for they do not consider him more than David’s son, that is, he who is to sit on David’s throne (as born from his flesh and blood) and is lord and king, also greater and mightier than David was, and yet only to be a temporal ruler to make his people the lords of the world and bring all heathen under his rule, etc. But that they should need him in their lost state, to help them out of sin and death, of that they knew nothing. Therefore the Holy Spirit must teach that he was not only David’s son, but also God’s Son, as was taught after his resurrection.

24 Now here Christ does not explain this, but he only broaches that David in Psalm 110:1, called Christ his Lord: V.43. “How then,” he says, “doth David in the Spirit call him Lord?” It does not sound right and it is against nature for a father to call his son lord, and to be subject to him and serve him. Now David calls Christ his Lord, and a Lord, to whom Jehovah himself says: V.44. “Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” that is, be like me, acknowledge and worshipped as the right and true God; for it becometh none other to sit at his right hand; he is indeed so jealous that he allows no one aside from himself to sit equal to him, as he says in the prophesy of Isaiah 48:11, “My glory will I not give to another.” Since Jehovah now places Christ equal with himself, he must be more than all creatures. Therefore he proposes to them a great question, but lets them thus stick; for they did not understand it and it was not yet the time to make this known public. But the meaning is as our articles of faith teach us to believe; that Christ was both David’s true natural son of his blood and flesh and also David’s Lord, whom David himself must worship and hold as God. However it was impossible to make these statements harmonize, as it is still impossible for human reason, where the Holy Spirit does not reveal it, how the two should be at the same time in the one Christ, both that he was truly David’s seed and God’s Son by nature.

25 Now Christ propounded this question to teach it is not enough to have the Law which is the only thing that shows from what state we have fallen; but whoever will return again to it and become renewed, that Christ must do through a knowledge of him, who is indeed born of David and is his flesh and blood, but not born in sin, as David and all men are born, but had to be born without man of a drop of the pure blood of a virgin, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, that he was born a real and true man without any sin.

26 He is the only man that has been able to keep and fulfill the Law; like all other men by nature, and yet not in the same guilt, but reared without sin and God’s wrath. This one had to intercede in our behalf before God and be our right hand and protection, be to us what the hen is to her little chickens, in whom we have forgiveness of sins and deliverance from God’s anger and hell. And not only this, but he also gives us the Holy Ghost to follow him, and here begins to extinguish and slay sin, until we come to him and be like him without any sin and in perfect righteousness; for he was raised from the dead to the right hand of the Father to totally abolish sin, death and hell and bring us to the new eternal righteousness and eternal life. Amen.

Copyright information for Luther