Second Christmas Day Sermon A.
"Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." 1 John 3:15
What John here writes of those who hate their brothers is the everlasting truth, although they who hate their brothers do not feel their hatred when hatred changes to truth. With hatred is understood in this place especially that spiritual hatred, which has been throughout time between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, from that time when Adam's first son Cain slew his brother. They did not have a dispute over temporal things, but then as he who was born after the flesh persecuted him who was born after the spirit, so it happens even now. Cain was, namely, born after the flesh; he was the serpent's seed, he was the first persecutor of Christians, and his descendents are yet living. This persecution of Christians has remained from that time when Cain slew his brother, and it will remain as long as some Christian is found in the world.
And who are they who especially persecute the Christians? Whores and thieves are the first ones to persecute Christians, then drunkards and whiskey merchants, cursers and fighters, and last, the mouth Christians and the meek ones. All these hate and persecute Christians.
In the Old Testament such people have persecuted prophets, and in the New Testament the same kind of people have persecuted Christians. And all of this hatred and persecution has come from this, that prophets have, on behalf of God, barked at and rebuked the sorrowless for sin. Because of this barking all sorrowless have become angry at the prophets, because of this same barking John the Baptist was killed, and because of this same barking and judging the Saviour also was crucified. And it is not so remarkable that open whores and thieves hate Christians because of barking, but it is more remarkable that virtuous people also become angry at Christians. The high priests, scribes, and pharisees are, in their own mind, virtuous people, but they are the ones who hate the Saviour the worst. And so it is seen even now that priests, scribes and pharisees are the worst ones to persecute Christians. It comes from that, that they understand to fetch light from hell, or to reverse the world's laws so that the law which has been made against the sorrowless comes against the Christians, But the Saviour says to His disciple "Whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things they will do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me."
Saul in his blindness was zealous in persecuting God's congregation, for he had received that enlightenment from hell that Christians were wild spirits, who supposedly wanted to destroy the faith of Moses, And the sorrowless of this time say that the Christians want to destroy Luther's faith. But those poor wretches do not know what Luther's faith is and from where Luther's faith has had its beginning.
In today's Gospel the Saviour has read a terrible condemnation to those blood worms who have shed the blood of prophets, and that condemnation belongs to all the enemies of Jesus' cross, both the former blood worms as well as those of this time who even now persecute God's congregation and through that show their hatred toward God. Christians can be in agony, fear, and oppression because of those sorrowless ones who hate them because of faith. But Christians have the hope and confidence in God that they will soon leave the persecution of the enemies, when the great Crossbearer comes to judge the world. Then the enemies, scoffers, and opposers of Christians will begin to howl and to gnash their teeth when they can see whom they have pierced. The penitent and believing ones will soon be able to move into the bright air. And as Stephen already here saw the Son of God sitting on the right hand of God, so also all believing ones can soon see the Son of God sitting on the right hand of power. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Matthew 23: 24
In today's Gospel, Jesus reproaches the Jews for persecution of prophets and threatens them with a terrible condemnation.
We must behold what a terrible condemnation comes to those Jews who hate and persecute the prophets.
So much had been preached to the Jews of penitence and repentance that they should have already long before repented in sackcloth and ashes, but the Jews became offended and hardened from that preaching of repentance, as also here the sorrowless harden; the more it is preached to them. Hardening has come to the Jews from the sermons of the prophets, John the Baptist, and Saviour. But was it the fault of the prophets and teachers that the Jews hardened? The Jews so imagine that it is the fault of the prophets that they hardened, although the greatest part of the Jews do not recognize their hardening. They imagine that those are false prophets and wild spirits and therefore they must be killed and destroyed; for the Jews have sometimes said thus: "The prophets speak to the wind and they do not have the word of God," And so some Jews say even now: "The Christians come with a curse upon people. They do not speak according to the word of God," From where do the Jews understand the Word of God? They imagine that they see and ask, "Are we blind also?" The devil yet teaches them that they must believe lies. If a poor year comes, then the prophets are blamed for it. If hunger oppresses the people, then the head of the prophets must answer for it. The Jews do not want to confess that they have merited punishment. And this is now the right reason why the Jews persecute prophets and Christians. The devil has reversed their eyes so that the prophets become false and the Jews true. The Christians change to wild spirits and the sorrowless become Christians.
In this way the prince of the world has given the Jews the right to persecute prophets and hate Christian. This righteous blood has begun to flow from Abel and throughout time has been shed and will be shed even now in the pagans' midst. But this righteous blood must once become burning when the eyes open, although the conscience of the sorrowless and hardened will no longer awaken in the time of grace. So it appears from all of their actions that they will go hardened to hell. So it went for those Jews who hardened during the time of John, Christ, and the apostles. The devil made them so blind that they rose up against the government, for which reason the government punished them terribly. There is a danger that it would go just the same with the Jews of this time. Such signs of the times have already appeared, and if repentance does not come to this hardened people, then it will go amiss. Here they drink, here they curse, here they steal, here they commit adultery, as in Sodom and Gommorah. Here they ridicule the Christians and despise the word and mediums of grace. Hunger and hard times are already beginning to oppress the poorer ones. Is it not therefore apparent that God has intended to pour the vial of His wrath upon the earth? The mockers and opposers of Christians can soon see what will follow their hardening. All the righteous blood which was shed in the Old Testament, from the blood of righteous Abel even unto the blood of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, came upon the Jews after the Saviour's death, in the destruction of Jerusalem. And the righteous blood which has been shed in the New Testament first by the pagans and after that by the Papists must also be avenged, for the more the Christians are hated and persecuted, the greater becomes hardening in the sorrowless people, who because of this hatred and persecution are given into the care of Satan. Nor do the mockers have it easier, and to the opposers who resist the truth will come the same condemnation.
But the prince of the world would not have such great power to rule the pagans if he did not have power to reverse their eyes so that they see Christianity as wrong and their own sorrowlessness they see as right. The Jews saw seven sins in Christ's life and therefore the Jews could not believe His doctrine to be right. Likewise, they also saw faults in the disciples, therefore the Jews did not believe their doctrine to be right. In these times the sorrowless have the same brightness to see the faults of the Christians. Who has given them such bright eyes to see the faults of the Christians? No one other than the same lawmaster who in Christ's time gave the Jews bright eyes to see His faults. And as long as a sorrowless person sees faults of the Christians, he must remain in his hardening.
So now the world has hated and persecuted prophets, Christ and His disciples since the beginning of the world, as so will the world hate them as long as the world stands, that the measure of sin would be fulfilled, that all blood worms would be squeezed on the day of visitation. They must finally vomit up all the righteous blood which they have sucked, as it is written in today's Gospel, And the righteous blood which they have sucked must burn their consciences forever.
Stephen was the first Christian in the New Testament whose righteous blood the hardened ones shed. They were so terribly angry at Stephen that they gnashed their teeth and stopped their ears. Do not the sorrowless now understand what a terrible hatred they have toward God, when they see their form in the outcome of the Jews? Can not the sorrowless now surmise that they are enemies of Jesus' cross? It is hidden from their eyes. The Christians surely know that the world cannot be without hatred and persecution, but they also know that the great Hero of faith can so strengthen their faith in that great war and strife that the devil and the world cannot injure their souls, even though the devil's crowd would kill the body. Jesus says to His disciples: "Fear not them which kill the body, but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." And do not rejoice over that, that a terrible condemnation will come to those Who persecute you but rejoice over this, that your names are written in the book of life. Amen.