Martin Luther: Through His Suffering, All of Creation is Radically Altered

19 12 2011

By virtue of the person, this suffering is extremely, indescribably great. For one drop of Christ’s blood is incomparably greater than heaven and earth. There is a great difference between the killing of a king and the killing of a peasant. The greatness of the person makes the wrong committed against him all the greater. But we shall skip this now, and only state that his suffering must be highly esteemed because of its fruit and benefit, namely that through this suffering all creation is radically altered and all things made new, heaven too. This is what the words spoken on the cross make plain, words which every Christian should know by heart.

The first word Jesus spoke on the cross was his prayer for his crucifiers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” These words are indeed brief but very comforting. The Lord may have spoken other words, but only these are recorded and they are written for our consolation.

Now as our dear Lord Jesus Christ is lifted into the air to hang on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, with nothing any longer on earth to call his own, he is exercising his true, real, priestly office, accomplishing the work he came on earth to do, not only with his suffering, by offering up himself, but also by his intercessions. For both constitute a priest’s work, to sacrifice and to intercede.

The purpose of his suffering and priestly offering is, as he himself states in the Gospel (John 17.19): “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” And John 10: 15: “I lay down my life for my sheep.” There is it stated that his suffering is a suffering for us, not for himself personally. Plainly he affirms in those words that he is a faithful shepherd, priest, and bishop of our souls, who accomplishes his priestly work so that the entire world may become new.

But when he offers himself thus for us, what garment or priestly gard does this priest, Jesus Christ, wear and what is his altar? His adornment is not a gold or silk cloak, decked with pearls or jewels, like the pope’s bishops adorn themselves, nor like the Old Testament high priest who had his special priestly resplendent robes. Instead he hangs on the cross bare and naked, covered with wounds, and has, so to speak, not a thread on his body. Instead of a purple robe he is red with blood, his body covered with wounds and welts, badly swollen. Instead of a priestly headdress he wears a bloodied crown of thorns.

Martin Luther, Fourth Sermon of Holy Week, preached at the parish church on Good Friday, April 2, 1534 taken from Luther’s Church Postil, vol V pg 420.


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