Sunday, April 08, 2012

Luther, Easter Sunday Morning, March 28, 1529

The book featured on the left presents a series of sermons related to Easter from 1529. Most of these sermons are not included in the English edition of Luther's Works. It's a readable series of sermons, and affordable.
Luther recounts the account of the Resurrection of Christ and then states:

"This is the story of Easter. Much could be preached about it, and it is worth dealing with one part at a time.

First, what ought to follow the simple knowledge of this story, is to understand and regard the resurrection of Christ in a truly Christian fashion, because the great majority of people listen to the resurrection of Christ like a story about the Turks. To them it is a story painted on the wall. It must be something better, as we sing in the hymn, "So let our joy rise full and free; Christ our comfort true will be." We must consider that it is ours, that it has to do with you and me. We should not only consider how the resurrection happened, but that you recognize that it happens for you, as the Lord says in the words: "Go and tell my brothers!" (Matthew 28:10). There we hear what he intends with his resurrection.

This is the true teaching of the resurrection: that each person receives the resurrection as his or her own. For there is a great difference between `Christ is a Savior and king,' and `Christ is my Savior and my king.' But just how difficult this is, is indicated by the disciples, who scarcely believe that Christ is raised—not to mention that he is raised for them.

The godless people, who laugh at us when we preach the faith, do not know what faith is and does. They are blind fools and look at the resurrection like a cow staring at a new gate. But when you put your faith in his works, then he is such a champion, giant and hero, who had arrayed against him the gates of hell, all devils with their cunning, and death with all its powers. If they had considered this, they would not laugh so at us. Certainly we must learn it from our own experience that no one on earth, not even the emperor, can withstand death, and yet a Christian can do it. Therefore one must regard the resurrection with other than physical eyes; otherwise one has no comfort from it. Here one must open the eyes of the heart.

You have heard in the Passion how Christ let himself be crucified and buried and how sin and death trampled him underfoot. Satan and the sins of the world lie on him in the tomb. Sin, death and the devil are his lord. Therefore you must look into his tomb and realize that my sins and my death tear him apart and oppress him. There the devil regards himself as secure, and the chief priests boast and rejoice: He is gone and will not return. But in the instant when they believe him destroyed, the Lion tears himself away from sin, death, hell, and the jaws of the devil and rips them to shreds with his teeth. This is our comfort, that Christ comes forth: Death, sin, and the devil cannot hold him. The sin of the entire world is powerless. When he appears to Mary Magdalene, one sees in him neither death nor sin nor sadness but sheer life and joy. There I see that the Lord is mine and treads on the devil. Then I find my sins, torment, and devil where I ought to find them. There is the seed of the woman, who has struck the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), and says: Death, you shall die; Hell, you shall be defeated! Here is the victor.

It is a Christian art when a person can regard the Lord Jesus as the one whose business it is to deal with our sins. But if a sermon comes along that goes like this: You have sinned; you must do this and that and by your own works take action against those sins! Then they pit us against death and sin and call us to struggle against them with our works. Look how they teach us to regard sin and death: namely, that they are the strongest and rule in my conscience. There they lead me, a wretched person, so miserably alone against the devil.

Is this not a devil's sermon and a blasphemy against God and Christ? So if my works do it, I do not need Christ who died and is raised. When Satan and sin are there and you regard them as I have just described, then you are lost. Whenever you feel sin, death, plague, and attack of the devil, you can be given no assistance, save that you abandon what your conscience says and turn to Christ. You must say: Flesh and devil do not lay my sins in the right place; there they are too strong for me. But Christ is not raised for himself but for me, and the Scripture says that the sins of all people are laid on him, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). There they lie! And let them lie there, where the Scripture puts them! If the devil wants to convince you otherwise, then just remember this sermon!

When the sins lie on Christ, then I see what the world, the devil, and sin do to him in the grave and in death: they hang on him and crush him; thus they are strong and devour him. But because today he now comes forth from the grave and remains in honor and glory, everything that the devil, sin, and death have done is destroyed. It is easy to say such words, but still no one believes it. It is truly a difficult article to believe, to stand with certainty on what I say, that all sins that I feel are not mine, that the fear of death is not mine. This is said contrary to all reason. But the Scripture certainly does not lie when it says that my sins lie on him. If this is true then they do not lie on me. Thus I must follow the logic of these utterances and say: I know nothing of sin, death, or the devil, for I look upon Christ. If they have not strangled him, then they must be dead. For when sin and death were capable of something, then I would expect to detect it in Christ. But they do nothing to him. He lives, I see no marks on him. For this reason they must be blown away like dust by the wind. Therefore a Christian ought to feel nothing of sin and death but look only upon Christ. Whoever can believe this article is a Christian." (pp. 123-125).

From a reviewer of this book on

"What a collection! The 18 Holy Week sermons that Luther preached in 1529. And to think that a preacher today might have to preach seven or so sermons in this same period, given that most of us do not preach on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Holy Week as Luther did. Also, contributing to this load was the fact that his fellow preacher there in Wittenberg, Bugenhagen was on the road with Visitation. So the task left to Luther."

1 comment:

Martin Yee said...

Hi James,

Thanks for sharing about this work of Luther's. Btw William J.Wright has written a book on Luther's Two Kingdom idea and traced where it came from - humanism, particularly through Lorenza Valla. Some Lutherans are very suspicious of humanism in any form and here we have Luther drawing his idea of the 2K from it. It must be a shocker. I have been reading this book which is pretty interesting. So nothing new under the sun again? Do you know about this theory and do you think this may be credible? Luther's Two Kingdom (Realm) idea is also the well-spring for the rest of his theology so it is pretty significant. See Steve Wedgewood excellent review here