Virgin Mary's Day.
At a certain time our Saviour asked His disciples, "Whom do men say that I am?" And the disciples answered, "Some say you are Elijah and some, one of the prophets." And then He asked the disciples again, "But whom say ye that I am?" And Peter answered, "Thou art the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:13-16.
From these surmisings we hear that those people who saw Jesus while He was in the days of His flesh, had many kinds of surmisings about Him| they surmised what man He could be. Some thought He was the prophet Elijahs and some thought He was some other prophet, but Peter had received that assurance that Jesus was the Son of the living God. And this faith was given to Peter from above, as we hear from the Saviour's own mouth when He says to Peter, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee." And upon this confession of Peter the grace thieves now found their faith, that Peter at that time had living faith. But if no more is needed for salvation than only that confession of Peter, that Jesus is the Son of God, then all the whores and thieves would become saved, for in these times no one denies that Jesus is the Son of God, except some worldly wise who do not want to confess that Jesus is the Son of God. All peasants and all drunkards and whiskey merchants, all whores and thieves confess that Jesus is the Son of God. But they do not become saved with that confession for they, nevertheless, do not believe that from the heart although they say it with the mouth, when the life of the sorrowless is such that the god of the world is more befitting as a god than that God who lives in heaven, who is unknown to them. For if they believed from the heart that He is the Son of the living God and believed upon Him, they would not be able to mock Him with their ungodly life. Peter could have had such an intention then, that he believed it from the heart, but afterward Peter became deceived through that same faith, when he confessed that he was ready to die with Jesus and, however, was not ready. Then he could experience and know that he did not yet have a living and saving faith, when his faith did not stand in the trial. But only after he received the Holy Spirit did he receive a living and saving faith.
But let us now observe what the scribes and Pharisees believe of Jesus. They believed, first, that according to His natural birth He was a bastard child and an illegitimate child, whom Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, had conceived in adultery; and some wise of the world who held themselves to be very wise, thought also that Jesus was Joseph's son, "and as children of whores are always proned to mischief, so also was Jesus of Nazareth sly and deceitful in deceiving people with His sorcery." In the minds of the Pharisees He was a Samaritan, a disturber of the people, who had learned His tricks of sorcery in Egypt, when already in Moses' time there were sorcerers and the doctrine of sorcery. Such a faith the scribes and Pharisees had then, and some worldly wise have the same faith even now, who cannot confess that Jesus is the Son of God. No doubt they will also be saved with that faith, if only they believe?
But what faith did Nicodemus have, who came to Jesus at night? No doubt Nicodemus had the right and saving faith, when he confessed with his own mouth that Jesus was a teacher sent by God? No doubt, Nicodemus believes now that the doctrine of Jesus is the right doctrine. But in that place of new birth, Nicodemus did not want to follow Jesus' doctrine, for Nicodemus surmised, "Can an adult person enter into his mother's womb and be born again?" There is the strait place, through which Nicodemus cannot go. And in that place of new birth, probably all of Nicodemus' brothers in faith will be caught, for they are so big and fat that they do not fit in at the strait gate. Now Peter and the other disciples have the right faith, but it is not living before they receive the Holy Spirit, and therefore such a faith as Peter had does not help us before we receive the Holy Spirit. No doubt you see from the third Article of the Creed in Luther's catechism, that a person cannot believe upon the Lord Jesus of his own strength or understanding, before he receives the Holy Spirit. But when now have the sorrowless received the Holy Spirit? Have they received it on Pentecost or on Easter Day? It seems as though they would have received the Holy Spirit at market time. Then it is told that they have a great and joyous time shouting and cursing, and when they have been able to experience this great joy and rejoicing in the kingdom of darkness, then they can beat their beast of burden and cry out, "Off the road, satan and the devil!" But Mary had received the Holy Spirit as soon as the Son of God was conceived; Mary became elated when she saluted her cousin Elizabeth. She has sung thanks and praise to God saying, "My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." For Mary knows that she bears the Son of God under her heart; she knows that the Son of God has effected that she has become fruitful; if even the whole world would say that He is an illegitimate child, Mary knows and all Christians know that He is the Son of God. Although Joseph first doubted of the faithfulness of his betrothed bride, nevertheless he also believed that it had come from the power of the Holy Spirit when the angel revealed it to him. Now Mary, Joseph's betrothed bride, the world barks at you as a whore, and your son will be shamed and called a bastard child. How can you be joyous, when you are so despised by the world? But your heart rejoices nevertheless and is glad in the Lord, when you know and feel that the Son of God lives in your heart. Let the world call you a whore, do not be concerned about that, when the angel from heaven has revealed to you that the Holy One who is in you will be called the Son of the most High. So bow your heart in the Lord Jesus' name to pray that the Son of God would always live in your heart. If the sword would yet go through your soul, then pray, nevertheless, that the Holy One who is in you, namely the Son of the living God, would take you up to heaven when you die. Hear, you living Son of God, the sighs of the poor and down-pressed. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Luke 1:26.
The angel Gabriel has revealed to the virgin Mary that the Son of God would be born of her, but the world does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. So we must at this moment observe through God's grace what each one believes of Him. First consideration: What do the scribes and Pharisees believe of Him? Second consideration: What does Nicodemus believe of Him? Third consideration: What do the sorrowless people believe of Him? Fourth consideration: What do the disciples and women believe of Him?
The first consideration: What do the scribes and Pharisees believe of Him? That He is Joseph's son and was conceived before wedlock in adultery. From where have the scribes and Pharisees received such a faith? From their own experience, no doubt. Namely, they themselves are whores and think others are the same kind. They themselves lie in adultery and imagine that others do too. There is one devil's spirit which has given them that enlightenment, that the Son of God is a bastard child. And it is also another devil which confirms that faith, it is the devil of anger when namely Jesus barks at them as an adulterous generation; all the meek whores become angry and say, "You yourself have been conceived in the bed of adultery, and you come to bark at us." When the spiritual hatred is kindled to burn, the Pharisees receive that enlightenment from hell that Jesus of Nazareth is a bastard child, for the Pharisees and scribes cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God. If they believed that He is the Son of God, then they would believe His word also and His doctrine to be true. But spiritual hatred; that is the devil of anger, gives them that enlightenment that Jesus is the Son of Joseph the carpenter and was conceived in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees also have the same faith, that Jesus of Nazareth is a bastard child, who had been in the school of sorcery in Egypt and has been a great sorcerer and reverser of the eyes, and the disciples were ignorant and simple, who believed such tricks of sorcery and thought that He did them with God's power. As the scribes and Pharisees then said, "He drives out devils with the power of Beelzebub," so also the scribes and Pharisees of this time say that the effects of the Christianity are of the devil, and that the awakened are possessed of evil spirits, and that the Christians are false prophets and wild spirits. Such descriptions the devil paints before the eyes of the sorrowless, when the effects of true Christianity are changed to be false and the effects of the devil's spirit. When the light of Christianity appears before the eyes of the world as the devil's torch light and that great change which occurs in a person's heart is proclaimed as delusion, then the devil has reversed the eyes of the world, then Christ changes to be a sorcerer, and the Son of God changes in the eyes of the scribes and Pharisees to be the son of Joseph. And that Holy One, who was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, changes into a bastard child. The scribes and Pharisees imagine that a pure virgin is a secret whore, but a whore is called a virgin by the world. And are the scribes and Pharisees alone in that faith, that the Son of God is the son of Joseph? Do not the sorrowless people also follow that same doctrine or faith of the Pharisees? When Christ, the Son of God, revealed His spiritual wisdom, then the sorrowless people said, "Is this not Joseph the carpenter's son? And how does He know the Scriptures?" The sorrowless people follow the faith of the Pharisees, and also drive Jesus out of the church when He brings forth such places from the Scriptures, which come against the breast. The scribes and Pharisees and also the sorrowless people had such a faith that the Son of God is Joseph's son, that the Holy One, who was conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the seed of a whore.
The second consideration: What kind of faith did Nicodemus have? What kind of a man did he think Jesus was? Nicodemus had once confessed his faith when he came to Jesus at night. He then revealed his faith when he said, "Master, we know that Thou art a teacher sent by God," but this confession of faith is not such as Peter's confession of faith, "Thou art the Son of the living God." And we now understand from this Peter's confession of faith, that Nicodemus' faith is not the right faith, for if Nicodemus confesses Jesus of Nazareth to be a right teacher, then it is not a saving faith. Many are right spiritual teachers, but there is only One Son of God. Nicodemus confesses his faith that Jesus of Nazareth is a right spiritual teacher, but that is not a saving faith when he does not believe all that this spiritual teacher says to him, for example, of new birth. And if he would even believe that it is necessary that a person must be reborn, and however does not come into that rebirth, it avails him nothing. And so Nicodemus' faith is partly false faith when he has a different faith than the disciples. He does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and his salvation is founded only upon natural meekness. When he comes to bury the body of Jesus, he has that assurance that God will repay him for his trouble, and the brothers in faith of Nicodemus even now have the same faith, that God will repay them for their trouble if the people do not pay, and what a person lacks in meekness, that God will give him by grace. The faith of the disciples is not such. Luther's faith is this, "that they are duty bound to do all these, and although a person would do only good, nevertheless all is sin that he does in a natural state." If he gives all his possessions to the poor, it is a sin as long as he is in an unconverted state without new birth, and if he gives nothing, then it is a still greater sin; said in a word, Nicodemus and all who follow him will go straight to hell.
The third consideration: What do the sorrowless people believe and what kind of a man do they think Jesus is? Some believe that he is Elijah and some believe that He is a prophet. But finally they reveal their faith when the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees incite the people to cry, "Crucify"; then their faith becomes evident. If the lords say to the people, "Ask for the release of Barabbas," then the sorrowless people ask. If the lords say to the people, "Cry, 'Crucify'," then the sorrowless people cry out, "Crucify!" Such is the faith of the sorrowless people. But, however, this sorrowless people surely have a desire to peer. The people gathered from every city to hear the teachings of Jesus; they gathered to peer. He is in their mind one strange and extra-ordinary man, who preaches so that some from among the people go to cry out. But these sorrowless people are not gathered for that reason, that they believe His teachings to be rights nor for the reason that they would need to hear where the road goes to heaven, but the people came only to peer. And when Jesus of Nazareth gives them some word which conflicts with their blind intellects, they turn their back and say, "This is a hard saying, who can bear to hear it?" And so this sorrowless people go to hell, if the same kind of change does not come to these people as to the disciples on Pentecost. Then the sorrowless peoples came to mock the effects of the Holy Spirit, but some were taken ahold of by the power of the Holy Spirit, when Peter reproached them of the murder of the Saviour, and that speech went through their hearts, and they began with fear and trembling to ask, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" But the sorrowless were filled with anger and rashness to war against the truth, and because of this anger they sunk even deeper into hell. Because of anger they grit their teeth and thirst for Christian's blood.
The fourth consideration: What do the disciples and women believe of Him? Peter has confessed his faith and said to the Saviour, "Thou art the Son of the living God," and this confession of faith has come from Peter's mouth before he received the Holy Spirit. This faith of Peter is surely right, but it is not saving before the Holy Spirit comes into the heart and there effects the feeling of life, for all grace thieves now believe that Jesus is the Son of God, although Jesus is entirely unknown in the heart; they believe and mock His tears; they believe and trample His blood; they believe and hate the Christians. Peter had the right faith according to the letter, but power of faith and fruit of faith were far from him, until the time that the Holy Spirit came into his heart and made his faith living. Behold! To that point everyone must follow Christ, that he be filled with the Holy Spirit and power, that he can live and die in faith, that he is able to strive in faith until death, that he can give his life and blood because of Jesus. Such a faith Peter had after Pentecost, and that same true faith all Christians have, who have followed Jesus' bloody footsteps from the garden to the place of the Skull, to the grave, and finally to the resurrection, so that the power of resurrection becomes alive in the heart, from which follows spiritual joy. Then the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Just at this place of resurrection, the disciples of Jesus are filled with the Holy Spirit and preach with new tongues; when that former dead faith becomes living they are given power to preach to the Jews and Gentiles the living gospel of that Crucified one. Although the word of the cross is an offense to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, nevertheless the Galilean has now won a few souls for the kingdom of heaven, and these souls, who are few, rejoice and are exceedingly glad in the wedding of the Lamb now and forever. Amen.