#35 God Forgives and Pardons Your Log

The grim sentence that Christ pronounces here ought to make us tremble at this vice. As I have said, the one who judges always has a log in his eye as far as God is concerned, while the one who is being judged has only a speck. Now, the log is an infinitely graver sin than the speck, that is, the kind of sin that damns altogether and leaves us no grace. However great our sins and transgressions may be otherwise, He can forgive all of these, as He shows by calling the neighbor’s sin a “speck.” But you spoil everything when to these sins you add the abomination and the filth of judging and condemning someone else on account of his faults and when you refuse to forgive the way you want God to forgive you. You go ahead refusing to see the log, and you imagine that you are without sin. But if you recognized yourself, as has been said, you would also refrain from judging your neighbor. Thus your log would be called a little speck, and it would obtain the forgiveness of sins. You would also be willing to forgive and tolerate and excuse someone else’s speck, in view of the fact that God forgives and pardons your log.” (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 222).

#34 How can I deal with other people’s sins, when I cannot even make myself pious?

“There shall be no such perversion in My kingdom,” Christ says, “but first you must make the big villain pious, the one you find in your own skin when you examine yourself carefully. Once you have accomplished this much, there will be time enough to make a little villain pious. But it will amaze you how much trouble the big villain will cause you every day. Therefore I am willing to guarantee and to stake My life on it that you will never get around to removing the speck from someone else’s eye, and will have to say: ‘How can I deal with other people and make them pious first? I cannot even make myself pious or get rid of my log.’ Thus you will probably leave your brother’s speck unharmed.” You see, what Christ means to say as a summary of this teaching is that we should willingly practice forgiveness, patient forbearance, and humility in our relations with one another; that is what the situation would have to be like if we followed this teaching. Then everything in Christendom would move along correctly and harmoniously, as it should, and God would be with us. But through his members and through Sectarianism the devil keeps this from happening. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 221-222).

#33 Christ Will Be Proclaimed Among the Jews and the Gentiles

Isaiah 52:15. So shall He startle many nations. Here the glory appears again. The prophet proceeds with two members. He says that this Servant is wise and glorious, but there follows another member. He will be without glory and despised. Then follows that His glory will nevertheless be such that He will startle the nations, and the kings will shut their mouths. That is to say, all kings will become ashamed and will know that this King is supreme, and hence they will shut their mouths. They will all humble themselves. Reconcile this contradiction, that all kings regarded themselves as servants with relation to Him. And yet He will be despised and without glory. Therefore Christ’s kingdom is indeed spiritual and ultimately beyond death.

Sprinkle. This is a Hebraism for “it will be preached.” Sprinkling in the Law denotes preaching, as if to say: “After Christ will have suffered, He will be proclaimed not only among the Jews but also among the Gentiles as water is thrown at and sprinkled on people.” So Peter speaks of “sprinkling with His blood” (1 Peter 1:2) to denote preaching about the blood of Christ. So then we must preach that Christ is both glorious and despised. So Paul preaches Christ alone as misshapen and as crucified. And so He must always be preached, but He shall nonetheless be received even by kings. This is a powerful text against the Jews. They can refer this preaching to no king but Christ. (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 217).

#32 After Oppression and Judgment, Christ Lives Eternally

Isaiah 53:8. By oppression and judgment He was taken away. Now he begins to treat His glorification. Behold, here he declares that He whom he had until now depicted as a sheep to be killed and whom he had described as destined for a most shameful death for the sins of others is to be raised again. Now he describes Him again. He is not dead but taken away from oppression. Here he says that His oppression and judgment is finished. This cannot be said of a dead person remaining in the grave, but it can be said of one liberated and revived. The text says that He was oppressed and in judgment but has now been removed from them, hence resurrected.

As for His generation, who will tell it? Who can relate its duration, since His life and duration is eternal? Note the two contrary statements: Someone dying and yet enduring forever. Generation properly means age, era, a lifetime. it is a proverbial statement that “a generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever” (Eccl. 1:4). This must be understood as referring not to generation but to age. Here, then, the prophet established Christ in an eternal age, something that cannot be expressed, namely, that He has been transposed into eternal life. Peter expounds this passage in Acts, where he says (Acts 2:24): “God raised Him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it,” and led Him into generation, that is, into length of life and eternity. Christ has such length of life that it cannot be expressed. Unless we believe it by faith, eternity is beyond expression. (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 226-227).

#31 The King Will Be Glorious After His Death

Isaiah 52:13. Behold, 7 My Servant shall prosper, He shall be exalted and lifted up. … Behold, My Servant shall prosper. Here we begin chapter 53. Until now you have heard Christ’s kingdom depicted in the cross and that it is carried forward by faith and the Word alone. Yet that leading of faith, the Word, and the cross is not without deliverance and protection. In this chapter the prophet speaks primarily of the Head of the Kingdom as he treats of the person of the King and the manner of His deliverance. This is the foremost passage on the suffering and resurrection of Christ, and there is hardly another like it. Therefore we must memorize this passage, for it certainly drives out the stubbornness of the Jews. The Jews cannot deny that this passage speaks of Christ. They indeed grant the glories of Christ in this chapter, but they are unwilling to grant His cross and sufferings. Yet this is what the text says: This King will be glorious, but after His death. This indicates that this King is different from an ordinary one, since He will begin His reign after death. Behold, My Servant shall prosper. He calls Him Servant as He did above (42:1 f.): “He will not cry or lift up His voice, or make it heard in the street.” There He is not just called Servant, as the monastics think, but He is a servant, that is, a minister of the Word, an apostle and an ambassador. What will this Servant do? He shall prosper. (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 215).

#30 Place the Loving Christ into Your Heart

Isaiah 53:12. Fourth: And made intercession for the transgressors. There he commends His patience to us. He was heartily glad to do it. First He depicts the suffering, second, the kind of suffering, third, the power of the suffering, and fourth, His patience. Thus He compassionately prayed for transgressors and crucifiers and shed tears for them and did not deal with them with threats. Who can place the Christ thus depicted in love into his heart, as He is here described? Oh, we would be blessed people if we could believe this most noble text, which must be magnified. I would wish it to be honored in the church, so that we might accustom ourselves to an alert study of this text, to bring us to see Christ as none other than the One who bears and shoulders the burden of our sins. This figure is a solace to the afflicted, but to snoring readers these are nothing but idle words.  (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 231-232).

#29 Let Us Believe in a Crucified Christ!

Isaiah 53:12. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong. Here he repeats as if by an exclamation. Since He poured out His soul in death and was not simply dead but was numbered with the transgressors, the prophet in these words repeats the suffering of Christ. Here he says: He gave His life into death. With that battering ram he strikes the stubbornness of the Jews, who do not want to hear about the Christ who dies but who look for a Christ who never dies. Here the prophet in a very simple and expressive way depicts the manner of His death. He says He will die and then points with the fingers, He will be numbered with the transgressors, as if to say, “You Jews want to acknowledge your Christ. He will appear in such a form that He will die the most despised kind of death in the midst of robbers.” The Jews, who look for a glorious Christ before they will believe in a crucified one, did not want to see this text. This is the way it happens to us who are blind, although as for us, let us believe in the crucified One.

Yet He bore the sins of many. He has described the death. Now he delineates the force and power of His sufferings. He says, “He did not die in vain, but all promises of Scripture have been fulfilled, and all our sins have been taken away. No, He did not toil in vain by His death, but He died to fulfill the promises and to set us free.  (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 231).

#28 Hold Tight and Remain with the Word as the World Attacks

Isaiah 62:11. Behold, the Lord has proclaimed … the daughter of Zion: Behold, your salvation comes. This is the conclusion and an exclamation. Summary: “Hold tight, and let the Word remain with you, even though the whole world should attack you. Just hold tight, and you will be recompensed. This is so because behold, your salvation comes, that is, “your glory is in the gates.” Behold, His reward is with Him. He brings His reward along with Him. What you have believed will follow. And His recompense before Him. “Reward and recompense” is the fruit of the farmer and the earth. So the recompense of the farmer is the harvest. This, then, is the conclusion and summary: “You have salvation and a Savior coming to you.” Behold the reward, that is, “your labor will not be in vain, but it will have its own fruit.”

  1. And they shall be called The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord. They shall be called is impersonal. “One will call them.” And you shall be called. Formerly you were forsaken and despised by your enemies. The ungodly perish and then the church remains. The Roman empire and all the kingdoms rage against the church. They have perished, but the church remains. So it will be today. The prophets gathered this from Moses. This is one sermon concerning the promises given to the church. (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 350-351).

#27 Drive Off the Ungodly Preachers

Isaiah 62:10  “Prepare the way for the people. Build up the highway. Go, go through, Clear it of stones.  …After the godly and honest men have preached, they must work at driving off the ungodly preachers. “Beware of false prophets” (Matt. 7:15). It is their endeavor to put away offenses, ungodly teachings, so that the people may not be offended. It is our task to see to it that a godly people, well taught, can simply proceed on the way without a stumbling block. The chief teaching is already present. There remains the one endeavor, namely, that the teaching be retained. To guard possessions is no less a virtue than to acquire them. Take care that some sectarian does not come who will impose upon you. Thus I, Martin Luther, was in four dangers, and yet, beyond my own planning, I was set free by God. When Satan sees us standing firm in the Word, he begins to set another plan before us and tries to lead us into it, so that the whole world will perish by our counsel. He has a thousand tricks.

Lift up an ensign over the peoples. Thus Ps. 4:6 reads: “Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us.” Raise up the banner. Set yourselves in battle array, and do not be sleepy. For the whole world is against us. The Word is a fighting word. In the first place, by teaching it one wages war against the ungodly. Then that which is taught is attacked by the ungodly. Do not be smug and do not sleep, but lift up an ensign, since the pastors must be on guard, lift up the Word, study, and apply themselves to defending the Word. Therefore let us not be smug, for Satan does not sleep. (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 350).

#26 The Lord Himself is Present As Our Helper in Afflictions

Isaiah 50:6. I gave My back to the smiters, etc. Christ is the first to undergo a host of afflictions because of the Word, and thus it is for us disciples the supreme usefulness, strength, wisdom, and power which enables us to bear all things, however difficult, for its sake. This is a theme in the Book of Job. The wisdom of the world cannot be put to shame except through foolishness and weakness.

I hid not My face from shame and spitting. What does that spitting accomplish except extolling the wisdom of the world? Thus our face toward the world, if anyone will look at it with spiritual eyes, is so spit upon, so polluted by endless disgraces, that no profession is less imposing in the world than that of those who profess the Gospel. But for one disgrace a hundred glorious rays will one day appear, because the Lord Himself is present as our Helper. He strengthens, preserves, and liberates the hearers.  (Luther’s Works, v. 17, pages 194-195).