1. In the preface I said that there are two things to be noted
and considered in the Gospel lessons: first, the works of Christ presented
to us as a gift and blessing on which our faith is to cling and exercise
itself; secondly, the same works offered as an example and model for us
to imitate and follow. All Gospel lessons the us through light first faith
and then good works. We will therefore consider this Gospel under three
heads: speaking first of faith; secondly of good works, and thirdly of
the lesson story and it's hidden meaning.
I. CONCERNING FAITH
2. This Gospel encourages and demands faith, or it pre-figures Christ
coming with grace, and none may receive or accept save he who believes
him to be the man, and has the mind, as this Gospel portrays in Christ.
Nothing but the mercy, tenderness and kindness of Christ are here shown,
and he who so receives and believes on him is saved. He sits not upon a
proud steed, an animal of war, nor does he come in great pomp and power,
but sitting upon an ass, an animal of peace fit only for burdens and labor
and a help to man. He indicates by this that he comes not to frighten man,
nor to drive or crush him, but to help and to carry his burden for him.
And although it was the custom of the country to ride on asses and to use
horses for war, as the Scriptures often tell us, yet here the object is
to show that the entrance of this king shall be meek and lowly.
Again it also shows the pomp and conduct of the disciples towards Christ
who bring the colt to Christ, set him thereon, and spread their garments
in the way; also that of the multitude who also spread their garments in
the way and cut branches from the trees. They manifested no fear nor terror,
but only blessed confidence in him as one for whom they dared to do such
things and who would take it kindly and readily consent to it.
3. Again, he begins his journey and comes to the Mount of Olives to
indicate that he comes out of pure mercy. For olive oil in the Scriptures
signifies the grace of God that soothes and strengthens the soul as oil
soothes and strengthens the body.
4. Thirdly, there is no armor present, no war-cry, but songs and praise,
rejoicing and thanksgiving to the Lord.
5. Fourthly, Christ, as Luke 19,41 writes, weeps over Jerusalem because
she does not know nor receive such grace; yet he was so grieved at her
loss that he did not deal harshly with her.
6. Fifthly, his goodness and mercy are best shown when he quotes the
words of the prophets, Isa. 62, 11; Zach. 9,9, and tenderly invites men
to believe and accept Christ, for the fulfilling of which prophecies the
events of this Gospel took place and the story was written, as the Evangelist
himself testifies. Therefore we must look upon this verse as the chief
part of this Gospel, for in it Christ is pictured to us and we are told
what we are to believe, and to expect of him, what we are to seek in him,
and how we may be benefitted by him.
7. First he says: "Tell ye" the daughter of Zion. This is said to the
ministry and a new sermon is given them to preach, namely, nothing but
what the words following indicate, a right knowledge of Christ. Whoever
preaches anything else is a wolf and deceiver. This is one of the verses
in which the Gospel is promised of which Paul writes in Rom. 1, 2; for
the Gospel is a sermon from Christ, as he is here placed before us, calling
for faith in him.
8. I have often said that there are two kinds of faith. First, a faith
in which you indeed believe that Christ is such a man as he is described
and proclaimed here and in all the Gospels, but do not believe that he
is such a man for you, and are in doubt whether you have any part in him
and think: Yes, he is such a man to others, to Peter, Paul, and the blessed
saints; but who knows that he is such to me and that I may expect the same
from him and may confide in it, as these saints did?
9. Behold, this faith is nothing, it does not receive Christ nor enjoy
him, neither can it feel any love and affection for him or from him. It
is a faith about Christ and not in or of Christ, a faith which the devils
also have as well as evil men. For who is it that does not believe that
Christ is a gracious king to the saints? This vain and wicked faith is
now taught by the pernicious synagogues of Satan. The universities (Paris
and her sister schools), together with the monasteries and all Papists,
say that this faith is sufficient to make Christians. In this way they
virtually deny Christian faith, make heathen and Turks out of Christians,
as St. Peter in 2 Pet. 2,1 had foretold: "There shall be false teachers,
who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master
that bought them."
10. In the second place he particularly mentions, "The daughter of Zion."
In these words he refers to the other, the true faith. For if he commands
that the following words concerning Christ be proclaimed, there must be
some one to hear, to receive, and to treasure them in firm faith. He does
not say: Tell of the daughter of Zion, as if some one were to believe that
she has Christ; but to her you are to say that she is to believe it of
herself, and not in any wise doubt that it will be fulfilled as the words
declare. That alone can be called Christian faith, which believes without
wavering that Christ is the Saviour not only to Peter and to the saints
but also to you. Your salvation does not depend on the fact that you believe
Christ to be the Saviour of the godly, but that he is a Saviour to you
and has become your own.
11. Such a faith will work in you love for Christ and joy in him, and
good works will naturally follow. If they do not, faith is surely not present;
for where faith is, there the Holy Ghost is and must work love and good
12. This faith is condemned by apostate and rebellious Christians, the
pope, bishops, priests, monks, and the universities. They call it arrogance
to desire to be like the saints. Thereby they fulfill the prophecy of Peter
in 2 Pet. 2, 2, where he says of these false teachers: "By reason of whom
the way of the truth shall be evil spoken of." For this reason, when they
hear faith praised, they think love and good works are prohibited. In their
great blindness they do not know what faith, love and good works are. If
you would be a Christian you must permit these words to be spoken to you
and hold fast to them and believe without a doubt that you will experience
what they say. You must not consider it arrogance that in this you are
like the saints, but rather a necessary humility and despair not of God's
grace but of your own worthiness. Under penalty of the loss of salvation,
does God ask for boldness toward his proffered grace. If you do not desire
to become holy like the saints, where will you abide? That would be arrogance
if you desired to be saved by your own merit and works, as the Papists
teach. They call that arrogance which is faith, and that faith which is
arrogance; poor, miserable, deluded people!
13. If you believe in Christ and in his advent, it is the highest praise
and thanks to God to be holy. If you recognize, love, and magnify his grace
and work in you, and cast aside and condemn self and the works of self,
then are you a Christian. We say: "I believe in the holy Christian church,
the communion of saints." Do you desire to be a part of the holy Christian
church and communion of saints, you must also be holy as she is, yet not
of yourself but through Christ alone in whom all are holy.
14. Thirdly be says: "Behold." With this word he rouses us at once from
sleep and unbelief as though be had something great, strange, or remarkable
to offer, something we have long wished for and now would receive with
joy. Such waking up is necessary for the reason that everything that concerns
faith is against reason and nature; for example, how can nature and reason
comprehend that such an one should be king of Jerusalem who enters in such
poverty and humility as to ride upon a borrowed ass? How does such an advent
become a great king? But faith is of the nature that it does not judge
nor reason by what it sees or feels but by what it hears. It depends upon
the Word alone and not on vision or sight. For this reason Christ was received
as a king only by the followers of the word of the prophet, by the believers
in Christ, by those who judged and received his kingdom not by sight but
by the spirit-these are the true daughters of Zion. For it is not possible
for those not to be offended in Christ who walk by sight and feeling and
do not adhere firmly to the Word.
15. Let us receive first and hold fast this picture in which the nature
of faith is placed before us. For as the appearance and object of faith
as here presented is contrary to nature and reason, so the same ineffectual
and unreasonable appearance is to be found in all articles and instances
of faith. It would be no faith if it appeared and acted as faith acts and
as the words indicate. It is faith because it does not appear and deport
itself as faith and as the words declare.
If Christ had entered in splendor like a king of earth, the appearance
and the words would have been according to nature and reason and would
have seemed to the eye according to the words, but then there would have
been no room for faith. He who believes in Christ must find riches in poverty,
honor in dishonor, joy in sorrow, life in death, and hold fast to them
in that faith which clings to the Word and expects such things.
16. Fourthly: "Thy king." Here he distinguishes this king from all other
kings. It is thy king, he says, who was promised to you, whose own you
are, who alone shall direct you, yet in the spirit and not in the body.
It is he for whom you have yearned from the beginning, whom the fathers
have desired to see, who will deliver you from all that has hitherto burdened,
troubled, and held you captive.
Oh, this is a comforting word to a believing heart, for without Christ,
man is subjected to many raging tyrants who are not kings but murderers,
at whose hands he suffers great misery and fear. These are the devil, the
flesh, the world, sin, also the law and eternal death, by all of which
the troubled conscience is burdened, is under bondage, and lives in anguish.
For where there is sin there is no clear conscience; where there is no
clear conscience, there is a life of uncertainty and an unquenchable fear
of death and hell in the presence of which no real joy can exist in the
heart, as Lev. 26, 36 says: "The sound of a driven leaf shall chase them."
17. Where the heart receives the king with a firm faith, it is secure
and does not fear sin, death, hell, nor any other evil; for he well knows
and in no wise doubts that this king is the Lord of life and death, of
sin and grace, of hell and heaven, and that all things are in his hand.
For this reason he became our king and came down to us that he might deliver
us from these tyrants and rule over us himself alone. Therefore he who
is under this king cannot be harmed either by sin, death, hell, Satan,
man or any other creature. As his king lives without sin and is blessed,
so must he be kept forever without sin and death in living blessedness.
18. See, such great things are contained in these seemingly unimportant
words: "Behold, thy king." Such boundless gifts are brought by this poor
and despised king. All this reason does not understand, nor nature comprehend,
but faith alone does. Therefore he is called thy king; thine, who art vexed
and harassed by sin, Satan, death and hell, the flesh and the world, so
that thou mayest be governed and directed in the grace, in the spirit,
in life, in heaven, in God.
With this word, therefore, he demands faith in order that you may be
certain that he is such a king to you, has such a kingdom, and has come
and is proclaimed for this purpose. If you do not believe this of him,
you will never acquire such faith by any work of yours. What you think
of him you will have; what you expect of him you will find; and as you
believe so shall it be to you. He will still remain what he is, the King
of life, of grace, and of salvation, whether he is believed on or not.
19. Fifthly: He "cometh." Without doubt you do not come to him and bring
him to you; he is too high and too far from you. With all your effort,
work and labor you cannot come to him, lest you boast as though you had
received him by your own merit and worthiness. No, dear friend, all merit
and worthiness is out of the question, and there is nothing but demerit
and unworthiness on your side, nothing but grace and mercy on his. The
poor and the rich here come together, as Prov. 22, 2 says.
20. By this are condemned all those infamous doctrines of free will,
which come from the pope, universities and monasteries. For all their teaching
consists in that we are to begin and lay the first stone. We should by
the power of free will first seek God, come to him, run after him and acquire
his grace. Beware, beware of this poison! It is nothing but the doctrine
of devils, by which all the world is betrayed. Before you can cry to God
and seek him God must come to you and must have found you, as Paul says,
Rom. 10, 14-15: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not
believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and
how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except
they be sent?" God must lay the first stone and begin with you, if you
are to seek him and pray to him. He is present when you begin to seek.
If he were not you could not accomplish anything but mere sin, and the
greater the sin, the greater and holier the work you will attempt, and
you will become a hardened hypocrite.
21. You ask, how shall we begin to be godly and what shall we do that
God may begin his work in us? Answer: Do you not understand, it is not
for you to work or to begin to be godly, as little as it is to further
and complete it. Everything that you begin is in and remains sin, though
it shines ever so brightly; you cannot do anything but sin, do what you
will. Hence, the teaching of all the schools and monasteries is misleading,
when they teach man to begin to pray and do good works, to found something,
to give, to sing, to become spiritual and thereby to seek God's grace.
22. You say, however: Then I must sin from necessity, if by my free
will I work and live without God? and I could not avoid sin, no matter
what I would do? Answer: Truly it is so, that you must remain in sin, do
what you will, and that everything is sin you do alone out of your own
free will. For if out of your own free will you might avoid sin and do
that which pleases God, what need would you have of Christ? He would be
a fool to shed his blood for your sin, if you yourself were so free and
able to do aught that is not sin. From this you learn how the universities
and monasteries with their teachings of free will and good works, do nothing
else but darken the truth of God so that we know not what Christ is, what
we are and what our condition is. They lead the whole world with them into
the abyss of hell, and it is indeed time that we eradicate from the earth
all chapters and monasteries.
23. Learn then from this Gospel what takes place when God begins to
make us godly, and what the first step is in becoming godly. There is no
other beginning than that your king comes to you and begins to work in
you. It is done in this way: The Gospel must be the first, this must be
preached and heard. In it you bear and learn how all your works count for
nothing before God and that everything is sinful that you work and do.
Your king must first be in you and rule you. Behold, here is the beginning
of your salvation; you relinquish your works and despair of yourself, because
you hear and see that all you do is sin and amounts to nothing, as the
Gospel tells you, and you receive your king in faith, cling to him, implore
his grace and find consolation in his mercy alone.
But when you hear and accept this it is not your power, but God's grace,
that renders the Gospel fruitful in you, so that you believe that you and
your works arc nothing. For you see how few there are who accept it, so
that Christ weeps over Jerusalem and, as now the Papists are doing, not
only refuse it, but condemn such doctrine, for they will not have all their
works to be sin, they desire to lay the first stone and rage and fume against
24. Again, it is not by virtue of your power or your merit that the
Gospel is preached and your king comes. God must send him out of pure grace.
Hence, not greater wrath of God exists than where he does not send the
Gospel; there is only sin, error and darkness, there man may do what he
will. Again, there is no greater grace, than where he sends his Gospel,
for there must be grace and mercy in its train, even if not all. perhaps
only a few, receive it. Thus the pope's government is the most terrible
wrath of God, so that Peter calls them. the children of execration, for
they teach no Gospel, but mere human doctrine of their own works as we,
alas, see in all the chapters, monasteries and schools.
25. This is what is meant by "Thy king cometh." You do not seek him,
but he seeks you. You do not find him, he finds you. For the preachers
come from him, not from you; their sermons come from him, not from you;
your faith comes from him, not from you; everything that faith works in
you comes from him, not from you; and where he does not come, you remain
outside; and where there is no Gospel there is no God, but only sin and
damnation, free will may do, suffer, work and live as it may and can. Therefore
you should not ask, where to begin to be godly; there is no beginning,
except where the king enters and is proclaimed.
26. Sixthly, he cometh "unto thee." Thee, thee, what does this mean?
Is it not enough that he is your king? If he is yours how can he say, he
comes to you? All this is stated by the prophet to present Christ in an
endearing way and invite to faith. It is not enough that Christ saves us
from the rule and tyranny of sin, death and hell, and becomes our king,
but he offers himself to us for our possession, that whatever he is and
has may be ours, as St. Paul writes, Rom. 8, 32: "He that spared not his
own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him
freely give us all things?"
27. Hence the daughter of Zion has twofold gifts from Christ. The first
is faith and the Holy Spirit in the heart, by which she becomes pure and
free from sin. The other is Christ himself, that she may glory in the blessings
given by Christ, as though everything Christ is and has were her own, and
that she may rely upon Christ as upon her own heritage. Of this St. Paul
speaks, Rom. 8, 34: "Christ maketh intercession for us." If he maketh intercession
for us he will receive us and we will receive him as our Lord. And I Cor.
1, 30: "Christ was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and
sanctification, and redemption." Of the twofold gifts Isaiah speaks in
40, 1-2: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably
to Jerusalem; and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her
iniquity is pardoned, for she hath received of Jehovah's hand double for
all her sins."
Behold, this means that he comes to you, for your welfare, as your own;
in that he is your king, you receive grace from him into your heart, so
that he delivers you from sin and death, and thus becomes your king and
you his subject. In coming to you he becomes your own, so that you partake
of his treasures, as a bride, by the jewelry the bridegroom puts on her,
becomes partner of his possessions. Oh, this is a joyful, comforting form
of speech! Who would despair and be afraid of death and hell, if he believes
in these words and wins Christ as his own?
28. Seventhly: "Meek." This word is to be especially noticed, and it
comforts the sin- burdened conscience. Sin naturally makes a timid conscience,
which fears God and flees, as Adam did in Paradise, and cannot endure the
coming of God, the knowing and feeling that God is an enemy of sin and
severely punishes it. Hence it flees and is afraid, when God is only mentioned,
and is concerned lest he go at it tooth and nail. In order that such delusion
and timidity may not pursue us he gives us the comforting promise that
this king comes meekly.
As if he would say: Do not flee and despair for he does not come now
as he came to Adam, to Cain, at the flood, at Babel, to Sodom and Gomorrah,
nor as he came to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai; he comes not in
wrath, does not wish to reckon with you and demand his debt. All wrath
is laid aside, nothing but tenderness and kindness remain. He will now
deal with you so that your heart will have pleasure, love and confidence
in him, that henceforth you will much more abide with him and find refuge
in him than you feared him and fled from him before. Behold, he is nothing
but meekness to you, he is a different man, he acts as if he were sorry
ever to have made you afraid and caused you to flee from his punishment
and wrath. He desires to reassure and comfort you and bring you to himself
by love and kindness.
This means to speak consolingly to a sin-burdened conscience, this means
to preach Christ rightly and to proclaim his Gospel. How is it possible
that such a form of speech should not make a heart glad and drive away
all fear of sin, death and hell, and establish a free, secure and good
conscience that will henceforth gladly do all and more than is commanded.
29. The Evangelist, however, altered the words of the prophet slightly.
The prophet says in Zech. 9, 9: "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion; shout,
0 daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just,
and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt,
the foal of an ass." The Evangelist expresses the invitation to joy and
exultation briefly in these words: "Tell the daughter of Zion." Further
on he leaves out the words: "just and having salvation." Again the prophet
says, "he is lowly," the Evangelist, "he is meek." The prophet says: "upon
the colt, the foal of an ass," he mentions the last word in the plural
number; the Evangelist says: "upon the colt, the foal of an ass that is
used for daily and burden-bearing labor." How shall we harmonize these
30. First, we must keep in mind that the Evangelists do not quote the
prophets word by word, it is enough for them to have the same meaning and
to show the fulfillment, directing us to the Scriptures so that we ourselves
may read, what they omit, and see for ourselves that nothing was written
which is not richly fulfilled. It is natural, also, that he who has the
substance and the fulfillment, does not care so much for the words. Thus
we often find that the Evangelist, quote the prophets somewhat changed,
yet it is done without detriment to the understanding and intent of the
31. To invite the daughter of Zion and the daughter of Jerusalem to
joy and gladness the prophet abundantly gives us to understand that the
coining of this king is most comforting to every sin-burdened conscience,
since he removes all fear and trembling, so that men do not flee from him
and look upon him as a severe judge, who will press them with the law,
as Moses did, so that they could not have a joyful confidence in God, as
the knowledge and realization of sin naturally come from the law. But he
would arouse them with this first word to expect from him all grace and
goodness. For what other reason should he invite them to rejoice and command
them even to shout and be exceeding glad! He tells this command of God
to all who are in sorrow and fear of God. He also shows that it is God's
will and full intent, and demands that they entertain joyful confidence
in him against the natural fear and alarm And this is the natural voice
of the Gospel which the prophet here begins to preach, as Christ speaks
likewise in the Gospel and the apostles always admonish to rejoice in Christ,
as we shall hear further on.
It is also full of meaning that he comes from the Mount of Olives. We
shall notice that this grace on account of its greatness might be called
a mountain of grace, a grace which is not only a drop or handful, but grace
abundant and heaped up like a mountain.
32. He mentions the people twice while the Evangelist says only once,
daughter of Zion. For it is one people, daughter of Zion and daughter of
Jerusalem, namely the people of the same city, who believe in Christ and
receive him. As I said before, the Evangelist quotes the Scriptures only
briefly and invites us to read them ourselves and find out more there for
ourselves. That the Evangelist does not invite to joy like the prophet,
but simply says: Tell it to the daughter of Zion, he does it to show how
the joy and exultation shall be carried on. None should expect bodily but
spiritual joy, a joy that can be gathered alone from the Word by the faith
of the heart. From a worldly aspect there was nothing joyful in Christ's
entrance, his spiritual advent must be preached and believed; that is,
his meekness; this makes man joyful and glad.
33. That the prophet gives Christ three titles, lowly, just, and having
salvation, while the Evangelist has only one, meek, is again done for brevity's
sake, he suggests more than he explains. It seems to me that the Holy Ghost
led the apostles and evangelists to abbreviate passages of the Scriptures
for the purpose that we might be kept close to the holy Scriptures, and
not set a bad example to future exegetes, who make many words outside the
Scriptures and thereby draw us secretly from the Scriptures to human doctrines.
As to say: If I spread the Scriptures verbatim everyone will follow the
example and it will come to pass that we would read more in other books
than in the holy writings of the principal book, and there would be no
end to the writing of books and we would be carried from one book to another,
until, finally, we would get away from the holy Scriptures altogether,
as has happened in fact. Hence, with such incomplete quotations he directs
us to the original book where they can be found complete, so that there
is no need for everyone to make a separate book and leave the first one.
34. We notice, therefore, that it is the intention of all the apostles
and evangelists in the New Testament to direct and drive us to the Old
Testament, which they call the Holy Scriptures proper. For the New Testament
was to be only the incarnate living Word and not scripture. Hence Christ
did not write anything himself, but gave the command to preach and extend
the Gospel, which lay hidden in the Scriptures, as we shall hear on Epiphany
35. In the Hebrew language the two words meek and lowly do not sound
unlike, and mean not a poor man who is wanting in money and property, but
who in his heart is humble and wretched, in whom truly no anger nor haughtiness
is to be found, but meekness and sympathy. And if we wish to obtain the
full meaning of this word, we must take it as Luke uses it, who describes
how Christ at his entrance wept and wailed over Jerusalem.
We interpret therefore the words lowly and meek in the light of Christ's
conduct. How does he appear? His heart is full of sorrow and compassion
toward Jerusalem. There is no anger or revenge, but he weeps out of tenderness
at their impending doom.. None was so bad that he did or wished him harm.
His sympathy makes him so kind and full of pity that he thinks not of anger,
of haughtiness, of threatening or revenge, but offers boundless compassion
and good will. This is what the prophet calls lowly and the Evangelist
meek. Blessed he who thus knows Christ in him and believes in him. He cannot
be afraid of him, but has a true and comforting confidence in him and entrance
to him. He does not try to find fault either, for as he believes, he finds
it; these words do not lie nor deceive.
36. The word "just" does not mean here the justice with which God judges,
which is called the severe justice of God. For if Christ came to us with
this who could stand before him.? Who could receive him, since even the
saints cannot endure it? The joy and grace of this entrance would thereby
be changed info the greatest fear and terror. But that grace is meant,
by which he makes us just or righteous. I wish the word justus, justitia,
were not used for the severe judicial justice; for originally it means
godly, godliness. When we say, he is a pious man, the Scriptures express
it, he is justus, justified or just. But the severe justice of God is called
in the Scriptures: Severity, judgment, tribunal.
The prophet's meaning, therefore, is this: Thy king cometh to thee pious
or just, i.e., he comes to make you godly through himself and his grace;
he knows well that you are not godly. Your piety should consist not in
your deeds, but in his grace and gift, so that you are just and godly through
him. In this sense St. Paul speaks, Rom. 3, 26: "That he might himself
be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus." That is, Christ
alone is pious before God and he alone makes us pious. Also, Rom. 1, 17:
"For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith,"
that is the godliness of God, namely his grace and mercy, by which he makes
us godly before him, is preached in the Gospel. You see in this verse from
the prophet that Christ is preached for us unto righteousness, that he
comes godly and just, and we become godly and just by faith.
37. Note this fact carefully, that when you find in the Scriptures the
word God's justice, it is not to be understood of the self-existing, imminent
justice of God, as the Papists and many of the fathers held, lest you be
frightened; but, according to the usage of Holy Writ, it means the revealed
grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ in us by means of which we
are considered godly and righteous before him. Hence it is called God's
justice or righteousness effected not by us, but by God through grace,
just as God's work, God's wisdom, God's strength, God's word, God's mouth,
signifies what he works and speaks in us. All this is demonstrated clearly
by St. Paul, Rom. 1, 16: "1 am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for
it is the power of God (which works in us and strengthens us) unto salvation
to everyone that believeth. For therein is revealed a righteousness of
God," as it is written in Hab. 2, 4: "The righteous shall live by his faith."
Here you see that he speaks of the righteousness of faith and calls the
same the righteousness of God, preached in the Gospel, since the Gospel
teaches nothing else but that he who believes has grace and is righteous
before God and is saved.
In the same manner you should understand Ps. 31, 1: "Deliver me in thy
righteousness," i.e. by thy grace, which makes me godly and righteous.
The word Saviour or Redeemer compels us to accept this as the meaning of
the little word "just." For if Christ came with his severe justice he would
not save anyone, but condemn all, as they are all sinners and unjust. But
now he comes to make not only just and righteous, but also blessed, all
who receive him, that he alone as the just one and the Saviour be offered
graciously to all sinners out of unmerited kindness and righteousness.
38. When the Evangelist calls his steed a burden-bearing and working
foal of an ass he describes the animal the prophets mean. He wants to say:
The prophecy is fulfilled in this burden-bearing animal. It was not a special
animal trained for this purpose, as according to the country's custom riding
animals are trained, and when the prophet speaks of the foal of the ass
it is his meaning that it was a colt, but not a colt of a horse.
II. CONCERNING GOOD WORKS.
39. We have said enough of faith. We now come to consider good works.
We receive Christ not only as a gift by faith, but also as an example of
love toward our neighbor, whom we are to serve as Christ serves us. Faith
brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you
to your neighbor with all your possessions. These two things constitute
a true and complete Christian life; then follow suffering and persecution
for such faith and love, and out of these grows hope in patience.
40. You ask, perhaps, what are the good works you are to do to your
neighbor? Answer: They have no name. As the good works Christ does to you
have no name, so your good works are to have no name.
41. Whereby do you know them? Answer: They have no name, so that there
may be no distinction made and they be not divided, that you might do some
and leave others undone. You shall give yourself up to him altogether,
with all you have, the same as Christ did not simply pray or fast for you.
Prayer and fasting are not the works he did for you, but he gave himself
up wholly to you, with praying, fasting, all works and suffering, so that
there is nothing in him that is not yours and was not done for you. Thus
it is not your good work that you give alms or that you pray, but that
you offer yourself to your neighbor and serve him, wherever he needs you
and every way you can, be it with alms, prayer, work, fasting, counsel,
comfort, instruction, admonition, punishment, apologizing, clothing, food,
and lastly with suffering and dying for him. Pray, where are now such works
to be found in Christendom?
42. I wish to God I had a voice like a thunderbolt, that I might preach
to all the world, and tear the word "good works" out of people's hearts,
mouths, ears, books, or at least then the right understanding of it. All
the world sings, speaks, writes and thinks of good works, everyone wishes
to exercise themselves in good works, and yet, good works are done nowhere,
no one has the right understanding of good works. Oh, that all such pulpits
in all the world were cast into the fire and burned to ashes! How they
mislead people with their good works! They call good works what God has
not commanded, as pilgrimages, fasting, building and decorating their churches
in honor of the saints, saying mass, paying for vigils, praying with rosaries,
much prattling and bawling in churches, turning nun, monk, priest, using
special food, raiment or dwelling,-who can enumerate all the horrible abominations
and deceptions? This is the pope's government and holiness.
43. If you have ears to hear and a mind to observe, pray, listen and
learn for God's sake what good works are and mean. A good work is good
for the reason that it is useful and benefits and helps the one for whom
it is done; why else should it be called good! For there is a difference
between good works and great, long, numerous, beautiful works. When you
throw a big stone a great distance it is a great work, but whom does it
benefit? If you can jump, run, fence well, it is a fine work, but whom
does it benefit? Whom does it help, if you wear a costly coat or build
a fine house?
44. And to come to our Papists' work, what does it avail if they put
silver or gold on the walls, wood and stone in the churches? Who would
be made better, if each village had ten bells, as big as those at Erfurt?
Whom would it help if all the houses were convents and monasteries as splendid
as the temple of Solomon? Who is benefitted if you fast for St. Catherine,
St. Martin or any other saint? Whom does it benefit, if you are shaved
half or wholly, if you wear a gray or a black cap? Of what use were it
if all people field mass every hour? What benefit is it if in one church,
as at Meissen, they sing day and night Without interruption? Who is better
for it, if every church had more silver, pictures and jewelry than the
churches of Halle and Wittenberg? It is folly and deception, men's lies
invented these things and called them good works; they all pretend they
serve God thus and pray for the people and their sins, just as if they
helped God with their property or as if his saints were in need of our
work. Sticks and stones are not as rude and mad as we are. A tree bears
fruit, not for itself, but for the good of man and beast, and these fruits
are its good works.
45. Hear then how Christ explains good works, Math. 7, 12: "Whatsoever
ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them; for this
is the law and the prophets." Do you hear now what are the contents of
the whole law and of all the prophets? You are not to do good to God and
to his dead saints, they are not in need of it; still less to wood and
stone, to which it is of no use, nor is it needed, but to men, to men,
to men. Do you not hear? To men you should do everything that you would
they should do to you.
46. I would not have you build me a church or tower or cast bells for
me. I would not have you construct for me an organ with fourteen stops
and ten rows of flute work. Of this I can neither eat nor drink, support
neither wife nor child, keep neither house nor land. You may feast my eyes
on these and tickle my ears, but what shall I give to my children? Where
are the necessaries of life? 0 madness, madness! The bishops and lords,
who should check it, are the first in such folly, and one blind leader
leads the other. Such people remind me of young girls playing with dolls
and of boys riding on sticks. Indeed, they are nothing but children and
players with dolls, and riders of hobbyhorses.
47. Keep in mind, that you need not do any work for God nor for the
departed saints, but you ask and receive good from him in faith. Christ
has done and accomplished everything for you, atoned for your sins, secured
grace and life and salvation. Be content with this, only think how he can
become more and more your own and strengthen your faith. Hence direct all
the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but
it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself.
You need it not, since Christ has done and given for you all that you might
seek and desire for yourself, here and hereafter, be it forgiveness of
sins, merit of salvation or whatever it may be called. If you find a work
in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your
neighbor, know that such a work is not good.
48. A man is to live, speak, act, hear, suffer and die for the good
of his wife and child, the wife for the husband, the children for the parents,
the servants for their masters, the masters for their servants, the government
for its subjects, the subjects for the government, each one for his fellow
man, even for his enemies, so that one is the other's hand, mouth, eye,
foot, even heart and mind. This is a truly Christian and good work, which
can and shall be done at all times, in all places, toward all people. You
notice the Papists' works in organs, pilgrimages, fasting, etc., are really
beautiful, great, numerous, long, wide and heavy works, but there is no
good, useful and helpful work among them and the proverb may be applied
to them: It is already bad.
49. But beware of their acute subtleties, when they say: If these works
are not good to our neighbor in his body, they do spiritual good to his
soul, since they serve God and propitiate him and secure his grace. Here
it is time to say: You lie as wide as your mouth. God is to be worshiped
not with works, but by faith, faith must do everything that is to be done
between God and us. There may be more faith in a millerboy than in all
the Papists, and it may gain more than all priests and monks do with their
organs and jugglery, even if they had more organs than these now have pipes.
He who has faith can pray for his fellow man, he who has no faith can pray
It is a satanic lie to call such outward pomp spiritually good and useful
works. A miller's maid, if she believes, does more good, accomplishes more,
and I would trust her more, if she takes the sack from the horse, than
all the priests and monks, if they kill themselves singing day and night
and torment themselves to the quick. You great, coarse fools, would you
expect to help the people with your faithless life and distribute spiritual
goods, when there is on earth no more miserable, needy, godless people
than you are? You should be called, not spiritual, but spiritless.
50. Behold, such good works Christ teaches here by his example. Tell
me what does he do to serve himself and to do good to himself? The prophet
directs all to the daughter of Zion and says: "He cometh to thee," and
that he comes as a Saviour, just and meek, is all for you, to make you
just and blessed. None had asked nor bidden him to come; but he came, he
comes of his own free will, out of pure love, to do good and to be useful
Now his work is manifold, it embraces all that is necessary to make
us just and blessed. But justification and salvation imply that he delivers
us from sin, death, hell, and does it not only for his friends, but also
for his enemies, yea, for none but his enemies, yet he does it so tenderly,
that he weeps over those who oppose such work and will not receive him.
Hence he leaves nothing undone to blot out their sin, conquer death and
hell and make them just and blessed. He retains nothing for himself, and
is content that he already has God and is blessed, -thus he serves only
us according to the will of his father who wishes him to do so.
51. See then how he keeps the law: "Whatsoever ye would that men should
do unto you, even so do ye unto them." Is it not true, everyone heartily
wishes that another might step between man and his sin, take it upon himself
and blot it out, so that it would no more sting his conscience, and deliver
him from death and hell? What does everyone desire more deeply than to
be free from death and hell? Who would not be free from sin and have a
good, joyful conscience before God? Do we not see how all men have striven
for this, with prayer, fastings, pilgrimages, donations, monasteries and
priestdom? Who urges them? It is sin, death, hell, from which they would
be saved. And if there were a physician at the end of the world, who could
help here, all lands would become deserted and every one would hasten to
this physician and risk property, body and life to make the journey.
And if Christ himself, like we, were surrounded by death, sin and hell,
he would wish that some one would help him out of it, take his sin away
and give him a good conscience. Since he would have others do this for
him, he proceeds and does it for others, as the law says, he takes upon
himself our sins, goes into death and overcomes for us sin, death and hell
so that henceforth all who believe in him, and call upon his name, shall
be justified and saved, be above sin and death, have a good, joyful, secure
and intrepid conscience forever, as he says in John 8, 51: "If a man keep
my word, he shall never see death," and John 11,25-26: "I am the resurrection,
and the life; he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live
I and whosoever liveth and believeth on me, shall never die."
52. Behold, this is the great joy, to which the prophet invites, when
he says: "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem!"
This is the righteousness and the salvation for which the Saviour and King
comes. These are the good works done for us by which he fulfills the law.
Hence the death of the believer in Christ is not death but a sleep, for
he neither sees nor tastes death, as is said in Ps. 4, 8: "In peace will
I both lay me down and sleep, for thou, Jehovah, alone makest me dwell
in safety." Therefore death is also called a sleep in the Scriptures.
53. But the Papists and their disciples, who would get rid of death,
sin and hell by their own works and satisfaction, must remain in them eternally
for they undertake to do for themselves what Christ alone did and could
do, of whom they should expect it by faith. Therefore they are foolish,
deluded people who do works for Christ and his saints, which they should
do for their neighbor. Again, what they should expect of Christ by faith
they would find in themselves and have gone so far as to spend on stone
and wood, on bells and incense what they should spend on their neighbors.
They go on and do good to God and his saints, fast for them and dedicate
to them prayers, and at the same time leave their neighbor as he is, thinking
only, let us first help ourselves! Then comes the pope and sells them his
letter of indulgence and leads them into heaven, not into God's heaven,
but into the pope's heaven, which is the abyss of hell. Behold, this is
the fruit of unbelief and ignorance of Christ, this is our reward for having
left the Gospel in obscurity and setting up human doctrine in its place.
I repeat it, I wish all pulpits in the world lay in ashes, and the monasteries,
convents, churches, hermitages and chapels, and everything were ashes and
powder, because of this shameful misleading of souls.
54. Now you know what good works are. Think of it and act accordingly.
As to sin, death and hell, take care that you augment them not, for you
cannot do anything here, your good works will avail nothing, you must have
some one else to work for you. To Christ himself such works properly belong,
you must consent to it that he who comes is the king of Zion, that he alone
is the just Saviour. In him and through him you will blot out sin and death
through faith. Therefore, if anyone teaches you to blot out your own sin
by works, beware of him.
55. When in opposition to this they quote verses of the Bible like Dan.
4, 27: "Break off thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor," and I
Pet. 4, 8: "Love covereth a multitude of sins," and the like, be not deceived,
such passages do not mean that the works could blot out or remove sin,
for this would rob Christ of his word and advent, and do away with his
whole work; but these works are a sure work of faith, which in Christ receives
remission of sins and the victory over death. For it is impossible for
him who believes in Christ, as a just Saviour, not to love and to do good.
If, however, he does not do good nor love, it is sure that faith is not
present. Therefore man knows by the fruits what kind of a tree it is, and
it is proved by love and deed whether Christ is in him and he believes
in Christ. As St. Peter says in 2 Pet. 1, 10: "Wherefore, brethren, give
the more diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do
these things, ye shall never stumble," that is, if you bravely practice
good works you will be sure and cannot doubt that God has called and chosen
56. Thus faith blots out sin in a different manner than love. Faith
blots it out of itself, while love or good works prove and demonstrate
that faith has done so and is present, as St. Paul says, 1 Cor. 13, 2:
"And if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing." Why? Without doubt, because faith is not present where there
is no love, they are not separate the one from the other. See to it then
that you do not err, and be misled from faith to works.
57. Good works should be done, but we should not confide in them, instead
of in Christ's work. We should not touch sin, death and hell with our works,
but direct them from us to the Saviour, to the king of Zion, who rides
upon an ass. He who knows how to treat sin, death and hell, will blot out
sin, overcome death, and subdue hell. Do you permit him to perform these
works while you serve your neighbor,-you will then have a sure testimony
of faith in the Saviour who overcame death. So love and good works will
blot out your sin for you that you may realize it; as faith blots it out
before God where you do not realize it. But more of this later.
THE LESSON STORY AND THE FALSE NOTIONS THE JEWS HELD CONCERNING THE
58. In the story of this Gospel we will first direct our attention to
the reason why the Evangelist quotes the words of the prophet, in which
was described long ago and in clear, beautiful and wonderful words, the
bodily, public entrance and advent of our Lord Jesus Christ to the people
of Zion or Jerusalem, as the text says. In this the prophet wanted to show
and explain to his people and to all the world, who the Messiah is and
how and in what manner he would come and manifest himself, and offers a
plain and visible sign in this that he says: "Behold, thy king cometh unto
thee, meek, and riding upon an ass," etc., so that we would be certain
of it, and not dispute about the promised Messiah or Christ, nor wait for
He therewith anticipates the mistaken idea of the Jews, who thought,
because there were such glorious things said and written of Christ and
his kingdom, he would manifest himself in great worldly pomp and glory,
as a king against their enemies, especially the Roman empire, to the power
of which they were subject, and would overthrow its power and might, and
in their place set up the Jews as lords and princes. They thus expected
nothing in the promised Christ but a worldly kingdom and deliverance from
bodily captivity. Even today they cling to such dreams and therefore they
do not believe in Christ, because they have not seen such bodily relief
and worldly power. They were led to this notion, and strengthened in it,
by their false priests, preachers and doctors, who perverted the Scriptures
concerning Christ and interpreted them according to their own worldly understanding
as referring to bodily, worldly things, because they would fain be great
59. But the dear prophets plainly foretold and faithfully gave warning
that we should not think of such an earthly kingdom nor of bodily salvation,
but look back and pay attention to the promises of a spiritual kingdom
and of a redemption from the pernicious fall of mankind in paradise; of
which it is said in Gen. 2, 17: "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die." The first prophecy of Christ is also against it, Gen.
3, 15: "The seed of woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Which means,
he shall deliver all mankind from the power of the devil and the captivity
of sin and eternal death and, instead bring justification before God and
eternal life. Hence this prophet calls him "just and having salvation."
This truly is a different salvation than that of bodily freedom, bodily
power and glory, the end of which is death, and under which everything
must abide eternally.
They ought to have considered this and rejoiced in it, since the prophets
had heartily yearned and prayed for it, and this prophet admonishes to
such great joy and gladness. But they and their shameless preachers made
a temporal affair out of this misery and unhappiness, as if it were a joke
about sin and death or the power of the devil, and considered it the greatest
misfortune that they lost their temporal freedom and were made subject
to the emperor and required to pay taxes to him.
60. The Evangelist therefore quotes this saying of the prophet, to punish
the blindness and false notions of those who seek bodily and temporal blessings
in Christ and his Gospel, and to convince them by the testimony of the
prophet, who shows clearly what kind of a king Christ was and what they
should seek in him, in that lie calls him just and having salvation and
yet adds this sign of his coming by which they are to know him: "He cometh
to thee meek and riding upon a colt,
the foal of an ass." As if to say: A poor, miserable, almost beggarly
horseman upon a borrowed ass who is kept by the side of its mother not
for ostentation but for service. With this he desires to lead them away
from gazing and waiting for a glorious entrance of a worldly king. And
he offers such signs that they might not doubt the Christ, nor take offense
at his beggarly appearance. All pomp and splendor are to be left out of
sight, and the heart and the eyes directed to the poor rider, who became
poor and miserable and made himself of no kingly reputation that they might
not seek the things of this world in him but the eternal, as is indicated
by the words, "just and having salvation."
61. This verse first clearly and effectively does away with the Jewish
dream and delusion of a worldly reign of the Messiah and of their temporal
freedom. It takes away all cause and support for excuse, if they do not
receive Christ, and cuts off all hope and expectation for another, because
it clearly and distinctly announces and admonishes that he would come on
this wise and that he has fulfilled everything. We Christians thus have
against the Jews a firm ground and certain title and conviction from their
own Scripture that this Messiah, who thus came to them, is the Christ predicted
by tile prophets and that no other shall come, and that in the vain hope
of another's coming they forfeit their temporal and eternal salvation.
III. THE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION OF THIS GOSPEL
62. This has been said about the history of this Gospel. Let us now
treat of its hidden or spiritual meaning. Here we are to remember that
Christ's earthly walk and conversation signify his spiritual walk; his
bodily walk therefore signifies the Gospel and the faith. As with his bodily
feet he walked from one town to another, so by preaching he came into the
world. Hence this lesson shows distinctly what the Gospel is and how it
is to be preached, what it does and effects in the world, and its history
is a fine, pleasing picture and image of how the kingdom of Christ is carried
on by the office of preaching. We will consider this point by point.
"And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage,
unto the Mount of Olives."
63. All the apostles declare that Christ would become man at the end
of the world, and that the Gospel would be the last preaching, as is written
in 1 John 2, 18: "Little children, it is the last hour, and as ye have
heard that Antichrist cometh, even now hath there arisen many Antichrists;
whereby we know that it is the last hour," etc. He mentions here the Antichrist.
Antichrist in Greek means he who teaches and acts against the true Christ.
Again, 1 Cor. 10, 11: "All these things were written for our admonition,
upon whom the ends of the ages are come." As the prophets came to man before
the first advent of Christ, so the apostles are the last messengers of
God, sent before the last advent of Christ at the last day to preach it
faithfully. Christ indicates this by not sending out his apostles to fetch
the ass, until he drew nigh unto Jerusalem, where he was now to enter.
Thus the Gospel is brought into this world by the apostles shortly before
the last day, when Christ will enter with his flock into the eternal Jerusalem.
64. This agrees with the word "Bethphage," which means, as some say,
mouth-house, for St. Paul says in Rom. 1, 2, that the Gospel was promised
afore in the Holy Scriptures, but it was not preached orally and publicly
until Christ came and sent out his apostles. Therefore the church is a
mouth-house, not a pen-house, for since Christ's advent that Gospel is
preached orally which before was hidden in written books.
It is the way of the Gospel and of the New Testament that it is to be
preached and discussed orally with a living voice. Christ himself wrote
nothing, nor did he give command to write, but to preach orally. Thus the
apostles were not sent out until Christ came to his mouth-house, that is,
until the time had come to preach orally and to bring the Gospel from dead
writing and pen-work to the living voice and mouth. From this time the
church is rightly called Bethphage, since she has and bears the living
voice of the Gospel.
65. The sending shows that the kingdom of Christ is contained in the
public oral office of preaching, which shall not stand still nor remain
in one place, as before it was hidden with the Jewish nation alone in the
Scriptures and foretold by the prophets for the future, but should go openly,
free and untrammeled into all the world.
66. The Mount of Olives signifies the great mercy and grace of God,
that sent forth the apostles and brought the Gospel to us. Olive oil in
Holy Writ signifies the grace and mercy of God, by which the soul and the
conscience are comforted and healed, as the oil soothes and softens and
heals the wounds and defects of the body. And from what was said above,
we learn what unspeakable grace it is that we know and have Christ, the
justified Saviour and king. Therefore he does not send into the level plain,
nor upon a deserted, rocky mountain, but unto the Mount of Olives, to show
to all the world the mercy which prompted him to such grace. There is not
simply a drop or handful of it, as formerly, but because of its great abundance
it might be called a mountain. The prophet also calls in Ps. 36, 6, such
grace God's mountain and says: "Thy righteousness is like the mountains
of God," that is, great and abundant, rich and overflowing. This he can
understand who considers what it means that Christ bears our sin, and conquers
death and hell and does everything for us, that is necessary to our salvation.
He does not expect us to do anything for it, but to exercise it towards
our neighbor, to know thereby whether we have such faith in Christ or not.
Hence the Mount of Olives signifies that the Gospel was not preached nor
sent until the time of grace came; from this time on the great grace goes
out into the world through the apostles.
"Then Jesus sent two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village
that is over against you."
67. These two disciples represent all the apostles and preachers, sent
into the world. The evangelical sermon is to consist of two witnesses,
as St. Paul says in Rom. 3,21: "A righteousness of God has been manifested,
being witnessed by the law and the prophets." Thus we see how the apostles
introduce the law and the prophets, who prophesied of Christ, so that
it might be fulfilled that Moses spoke in Deut. 17, 6 and Christ in Math.
18,16: "At the mouth of two witnesses or three, every word may be established."
68. When he says: "Go into the village over against you", not mentioning
the name, it signifies that the apostles are not sent to one nation alone,
as the Jews were separated from the Gentiles and alone bore the name "People
of God" and God's word and promise of the future Messiah were with them
alone. But now when Christ comes he sends his preachers into all the world
and commands them to go straight forward and preach everywhere to all the
heathen, and to teach, reprove, without distinction, whomsoever they meet,
however great, and wise and learned and holy, they may be.
When he calls the great city of Jerusalem a village and does not give
her name, he does it for the reason that the name Jerusalem has a holy
significance. The kingdom of heaven and salvation are the spiritual Jerusalem,
that Christ enters. But the apostles were sent into the world amongst their
enemies who have no name.
69. The Lord here comforts and strengthens the apostles and all ministers,
when he calls the great city a village, and adds, she is over against you.
As if he would say, like Math. 10, 16: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep
in the midst of the wolves", I send you into the world, which is against
you, and seems to be something great, for there are kings, princes, the
learned, the rich and everything that is great in the world and amounts
to anything, this is against you. And as he says in Math. 10, 22: "Ye shall
be hated of all men for my name's sake." But never fear, go on, it is hardly
a village, do not be moved by great appearances, preach bravely against
it and fear no one. For it is not possible that he should preach the gospel
truth, who fears the multitude and does not despise all that the world
esteems highly. It is here decreed that this village is against the apostles,
therefore they should not be surprised if the great, high, rich, wise and
holy orders do not accept their word. It must be so, the village must be
against them; again, the apostles must despise them and appear before them,
for the Lord will have no flatterer as a preacher. He does not say: Go
around the village, or to the one side of it: Go in bravely and tell them
what they do not like to hear.
70. How very few there are now who enter the village that is against
them. We gladly go into the towns that are on our side. The Lord might
have said: Go ye into the village before you. That would have been a pleasing
and customary form of speech. But he would indicate this mystery of the
ministry, hence he speaks in an unusual way: Go into the village that is
over against you. That is: Preach to them that are disposed to prosecute
and kill you. You shall merit such thanks and not try to please them, for
such is the way of hypocrites and not that of the evangelists.
"And straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her;
loose them and bring them unto me."
71. This is also offered as consolation to ministers that they should
not worry as to who would believe or receive them. For it is decreed, Is.
55,11: "My word shall not return unto me void." And St. Paul says, Col.
1, 6: "The Gospel is in all the world bearing fruit." It cannot be otherwise
than that where the Gospel is preached there will be some, who accept it
and believe. This is the meaning of the mystery that the apostles shall
find the ass forthwith and the colt, if they only go. As if he would say:
Only go and preach, care not who they are that hear you. I will care for
that. The world will be against you, but be not afraid, you will find such
as will hear and follow you. You do not know them yet, but I know them;
you preach, and leave the rest to me.
72. Behold, In this way he consoles them that they should not cease
to preach against the world, though it withstands and contradicts them
ever so hard, it shall not be in vain. You find people now who believe
we should be silent and cause no stir, because it is impossible to convert
the world. It is all in vain, they say; pope, priests, bishops and monks
reject it and they will not change their lives, what is the use to preach
and storm against them? This is the same as if the apostles had said to
Christ: Thou tellest us to go into the village that is over against us;
it it is against us, what use is it that we enter there, let us rather
stay outside. But the Lord refutes this and says: Go ye there and preach,
what does it matter if it is against you? You will find there what I say.
We should now do likewise. Although the masses storm against the Gospel
and there is no hope that they will be better, yet we must preach, there
will yet be found those who listen and become converted.
73. Why does he have them bring two asses or not both young or old ones,
since one was enough for him to ride upon? Answer: As the two disciples
represent the preachers, so the colt and its mother represent their disciples
and hearers. The preachers shall be Christ's disciples and be sent by him,
that is, they should preach nothing but Christ's doctrine. Nor should they
go to preach except they be called, as was the case with the apostles.
But the hearers are old and young.
74. Here we should remember that man in Holy Writ is divided into two
parts, in an inner and an outer man. The outer man is called according
to his outward, visible, bodily life and conversation; the inner man, according
to his heart and conscience. The outer man can be forced to do the good
and quit the bad, by law, pain, punishment and shame, or attracted by favor,
money, honor and reward. But the inner man cannot be forced to do out of
his own free will, what he should do, except the grace of God change the
heart and make it willing.
Hence the Scriptures say all men are liars, no man does good of his
own free will, but everyone seeks his own and does nothing out of love
for virtue. For if there were no heaven nor hell, no disgrace nor honor,
none would do good. If it were as great an honor and prize to commit adultery,
as to honor matrimony, you would see adultery committed with much greater
pleasure than matrimony is now held sacred. In like manner all other sins
would be done with greater zeal than virtues are now practiced. Hence all
good conduct without grace is mere glitter and semblance, it touches only
the exterior man, without the mind and free will of the inner man being
75. These are the two asses: The old one is the exterior man; he is
bound like this one, with laws and fear of death, of hell, of shame, or
with allurements of heaven, of life, of honor. He goes forward with the
external appearance of good works and is a pious rogue, but he does it
unwillingly and with a heavy heart and a heavy conscience.
Therefore the apostle calls her "subjugalem," the yoked animal, who
works under a burden and labors hard. It is a miserable, pitiable life
that is under compulsion by fear of hell, of death and of shame. Hell,
death and shame are his yoke and burden, heavy beyond measure, from which
he has a burdened conscience and is secretly an enemy to law and to God.
Such people were the Jews, who waited for Christ, and such are all who
rely upon their own power to fulfil God's commands, and merit heaven. They
are tied by their consciences to the law, they must, but would rather not,
do it. They are carriers of sacks, lazy beasts of burden and yoked rogues.
76. The colt, the young ass, of which Mark and Luke write, on which
never man rode, is the inner man, the heart, the mind, the will, which
can never be subject to law, even if he be tied by conscience and feels
the law. But he has no desire nor love for it until Christ comes and rides
on him. As this colt was never ridden by anyone, so man's heart has never
been subject to the good; but, as Moses says, Gen. 6, 5 and 8, 21, is evil
continually from his youth.
77. Christ tells them to loose them, that is, he tells them to preach
the Gospel in his name, in which is proclaimed grace and remission of sins,
and how he fulfilled the law for us. The heart is here freed from the fetters
of conscience and things. Thus man is loose not from the law, that he should
and joyful, willing and anxious to do and to leave undone all things. Thus
man is loose not from the Law, that he should do nothing, but from a joyless,
heavy conscience he has from the law, and with which he was the enemy of
the law, that threatens him with death and hell. Now he has a clear conscience
under Christ, is a friend of the law, neither fears death nor hell, does
freely and willingly, what before he did reluctantly. See, in this way
the Gospel delivers the heart from all evil, from sin and death, from hell
and a bad conscience through faith in Christ.
78. When he commands them to bring them to him, he speaks against the
pope and all sects and deceivers, who lead the souls from Christ to themselves;
but the apostles bring them to Christ; they preach and teach nothing but
Christ, and not their own doctrine nor human laws. The Gospel alone teaches
us to come to Christ and to know Christ rightly. In this the stupid prelates
receive a heavy rebuke at their system of bringing souls to themselves,
as Paul says in Acts 20, 29-30: "1 know that after my departing grievous
wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among
your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away
the disciples after them." But the Gospel converts men to Christ and to
none else. Therefore he sends out the Gospel and ordains preachers, that
he may draw us all to himself, that we may know him as he says, John 12,
32: "And I, if I be lifted tip from the earth, will draw all men unto myself."
"And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say., The Lord hath
need of them; and straightway he will send them."
79. St. Paul, in Gal. 4, 2, compares the law to guardians and stewards,
under whom the young heir is educated in fear and discipline. The law forces
with threats that we externally abstain from evil works, from fear of death
and hell, although the heart does not become good thereby. Here are, as
Luke writes, the masters of the ass and its colt, speaking to the apostles:
What, do ye loose the colt? Where the Gospel begins to loose the conscience
of its own works, it seems to forbid good works and the keeping of the
law. It is the common speech of all the teachers of the law, and of the
scribes and doctors, to say: If all our works amount to nothing and if
the works done under the law are evil, we will never (to good. You forbid
good works and throw away God's law; you heretic, you loose the colt and
wish to make bad people free. Then they go to work and forbid to loose
the colt and the conscience and to bring it to Christ and say, You must
do good works, and keep people tied in bondage to the law.
80. Our text shows how the apostles should act toward such persons.
They should say: "The Lord hath need of them," they should instruct them
in the works of the law and the works of grace and should say: We forbid
not good works, but we loose the conscience from false good works, not
to make them free to do evil deeds, but to come under Christi their true
Master, and under him do truly good works; to this end he needs them and
will have them. Of this Paul treats so well in Rom. 6, where he teaches
that through grace we are free from the law and its works; not so as to
do evil, but to do truly good works.
81. It all amounts to this, that the scribes and masters of the law
do not know what good works are; they therefore will not loose the colt,
but drive it with unmerciful human works. However, where wholesome instruction
is given concerning good works, they let it pass, if they are at all sensible
and honest teachers of the law, as they are here represented. The mad tyrants,
who are frantic with human laws, are not mentioned in this Gospel. It treats
only of the law of God and of the very best teachers of the law. For without
grace, even God's law is a chain and makes burdened consciences and hypocrites
whom none can help, until other works are taught, which are not ours, but
Christ's and are worked in us by grace. Then all constraint and coercion
of the law is ended and the colt is loose.
"Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled, which was
spoken through the prophet,* saying, Tell ye the daughter of Zion."
82. This verse has already been sufficiently explained. The Evangelist
introduces it that we may see how Christ has come not for the sake of our
merits, but for the sake of God's truth. For he was prophesied long a-
before we, to whom go he comes, bad a being. God out of pure grace has
fulfilled the promises of the Gospel to demonstrate the truth that he keeps
his promises in order to stir us confidently to trust in his promise, for
he will fulfil it.
And this is one of the passages, where the Gospel is promised, of which
Paul speaks in Rom. 1, 2: "Which he promised afore through his prophets
in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son Jesus Christ," etc. We have
heard how in this verse the Gospel, Christ and faith are preached most
distinctly and consolingly.
'And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them, and
brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments, and he sat
thereon, (and they set him thereon.)"
83. These are the ministers who by the Gospel have freed the consciences
from the law and its works and led them to the works of grace, who made
real saints out of* hypocrites, so that Christ henceforth rides upon them.
84. The question arises here, whether Christ rode upon both animals.
Matthew- speaks as if the disciples put him on both, while Mark, Luke and
John mention only the colt. Some think be sat first on the colt and, because
it was too wanton and untamed, lie then sat on its mother. These are fables
and dreams. ',Ale take it that he rode only on the colt. He had them both
brought to him on account of the spiritual significance above mentioned.
When Matthew says he sat on them as though he rode on both, it is said
after the manner of the Scriptures and the common way of speaking by synecdoche,
where a thing is ascribed to the community, the whole people, which applies
only to a few of them; for example, Matthew writes: the thieves on the
cross reviled him, while only one did it, as Luke tells us, Christ says
in Mat. 23, 37, that the city of Jerusalem stoned the prophets, while only
a few of the city did it. You say, the Turks killed the Christians, although
they killed only a few. Thus Christ rode on the asses, though he rode only
on the colt, because the two are compared to a community. What happened
to one is expressed as if it happened to all.
85. Now consider the spiritual riding. Christ rides on the colt, its
mother follows, that is, when Christ lives through faith in the inner man
we are tinder him and are ruled by him But the outer man, the ass, goes
free, Christ does not ride on her, though she follows in the rear. The
outer man, as
Paul says, is not willing, he strives against the inner man, nor does
he carry Christ, as Gal. 5, 17 says: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary, the one to the
other; that ye may not do the things that ye would." Because the colt carries
Christ, that is, the Spirit is willing by grace, the ass, that is, the
flesh, must be led by the halter, for the Spirit -,chastises and crucifies
the flesh, so that it becomes subject.
86. This is the reason Christ rides upon the colt and not upon its mother,
and yet uses both for his entrance into Jerusalem, for both body and soul
must be saved. If, here upon earth, the body is unwilling, not capable
of grace and Christ's leading, it must bear the Spirit, upon which Christ
rides, who trains it and leads it along by the power of grace, received
through Christ. The colt, ridden by Christ, upon which no one ever rode,
is the willing spirit, whom no one before could make willing, tame or ready,
save Christ by his grace. However, the sack-carrier, the burden-bearer,
the old Adam, is the flesh, which goes riderless without Christ; it must
for this reason bear the cross and remain a beast of burden.
87. What does it signify that the apostles, without command, put their
garments on the colt? No doubt again not all the disciples laid on their
garments, nor were all their garments put on, perhaps only a coat of one
disciple. But it is written for the spiritual meaning, as if all the garments
of all the disciples were used. It was a poor saddle and ornaments, but
rich in meaning. I think it was the good example of the apostles, by which
the Christian church is covered, and adorned, and Christ is praised and
honored, namely, their preaching and confession, suffering and death for
Christ's sake, as Christ says of Peter, that he would glorify God by a
like death, John 21, 19. Paul says in one of his epistles, we shall put
on, Christ, by which he doubtless wishes to show that good works are the
garments of the Christians, by which Christ is honored and glorified before
all people. In the epistle Paul says, Rom. 13, 12: "Let us put on the armor
of light." By this he means to show that good works are garments in which
we walk before the people, honorably and well adorned. The examples of
the apostles are the best and noblest above all the saints, they instruct
us best, and teach Christ most clearly; therefore they should not, like
the rest, lie on the road, but on the colt, so that Christ may ride on
them and the colt go under them. We should follow these examples, praise
Christ with our confession and our life and adorn and honor the doctrine
of the Gospel as Tit. 2, 10 says.
88. Hear how Paul lays his garments on the colt, I Cor. 11, 1: "Be ye
imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ," and Heb. 13, 7: "Remember
them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the Word of God;
and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith." No saint's
example is as pure in faith as that of the apostles. All the other saints
after the apostles have an addition of human doctrine and works. Hence
Christ sits upon their garments to show that they are true Christian and
more faithful examples than others.
89. That they set him thereon must also signify something. Could he
not mount for himself? Why does he act so formal? As I said above, the
apostles would not preach themselves, nor ride on the colt themselves.
Paul says, 2 Cor. 1, 24: "Not that we have lordship over your faith." And
2 Cor. 4, 5: "We preach not ourselves, 'hut Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves
as your servants for Jesus' sake." Again, 1 Pet. 5, 3: "Neither as lording
it over the charge allotted to you." They preached to us the pure faith
and offered their examples, that Christ might rule in us, and our faith
remain undefiled, that we might not receive their word and work as if it
were their own, but that we might learn Christ in their words and works.
But how is it today? One follows St. Francis, another St Dominic, the third
this, and the fourth that saint; and in none is Christ alone and pure faith
sought; for they belong only to the apostles.
"And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the
way; and others cut branches front the trees, and spread them in the way."
90. The garments are the examples of the patriarchs and prophets, and
the histories of the Old Testament. For, as we ,;hall learn, the multitude
that went before, signifies the saints
before tile birth of Christ, by whom the sermon in the New Testament
and the way of faith are beautifully adorned and honored. Paul does likewise
when he cites Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Peter cites Sarah, and, in Heb.
It, many patriarchs are named as examples, and by these are confirmed faith
and the works of faith in a masterly way. The branches mean the sayings
of the prophets, one of which is mentioned in this Gospel, which are not
stories nor examples but the prophecy of God. The trees are the books of
the prophets. Those who preach from these cut down branches and spread
them in the way of Christian faith.
91. All this teaches the character of an Evangelical sermon, a sermon
on the pure faith and the way of life. It must first have the word Christ
commands the apostles, saying: Go, loose and bring hither. Then the story
and example of the apostles must be added which agree with Christ's word
and work, these are the garments of the apostles. Then must be cited passages
from the Old Testament, these are the garments and branches of the multitude.
In this way the passages and examples of both Testaments are brought home
to the people. Of this Christ speaks in Math. 13, 52: "Every scribe who
hath been made a disciple to tile kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man
that is a householder, who bringeth forth out of his treasure things new
and old." This signifies the two lips of the mouth, the two points of a
bishop's hat, the two ribbons on it and some other like figures. But now
none of these is kept before the eyes, the devil through the Papists throws
sulphur and pitch in the way, himself rides on the colt and banishes Christ.
92. To spread garments in the way, means that, following the example
of the apostles, we should with our confession and our whole life, honor,
adorn and grace Christ, by giving up all glory, wisdom and holiness of
our own and bowing to Christ in simple faith; also that we turn everything
we have, honor, goods, life, power and body to the glory and advancement
of the Gospel and relinquish everything for the one thing needful. Kings
and lords and the great, powerful and rich should serve Christ with their
goods, honor and power; further the Gospel and for its sake abandon everything.
The holy patriarchs, prophets and pious kings in the Old Testament did
so by their examples. But now everything is turned around, especially among
the papal multitudes, who usurp all honor and power against Christ and
thus suppress the Gospel.
93. To cut branches from the trees and spread them in the way means
also the office of preaching and the testimony of the Scriptures and the
prophets concerning Christ. With this the sermon of Christ is to be confirmed
and all the preaching directed to the end that Christ may be known and
confessed by it. John writes in 12,13 that they took branches of palmtrees
and went forth to meet him. Some add, there must have been olive branches
also, because it happened on the Mount of Olives. This is not incredible,
although the Gospels do not report it.
94. There is reason why palm-branches and olive-branches are mentioned.
They signify what is to be confessed, preached and believed concerning
Christ. It is the nature of the palm-tree that when used as a beam, it
yields to no weight but rises against the weight. These branches are the
words of divine wisdom; the more they are suppressed, the higher they rise.
This is true if you firmly believe in those words. There is an invincible
power in them, so that they may well be called palm-branches, as St. Paul
says in Rom. 1, 16: "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone
that, believeth;" and as Christ says, "The gates of hell shall not prevail
against it." Math. 16,18. Death, sin, hell and all evil must bend before
the divine Word, or only rise, when it sets itself against them.
95. Olive branches are named, because they are words of grace, in which
God has promised us mercy. They make the soul meek, gentle, joyful, as
the oil does the body. The gracious Word and sweet Gospel is typified in
Gen. 8, 11, where the dove in the evening brought in her mouth an olive
branch with green leaves into the ark, which means, that the Holy Spirit
brings the Gospel into the Church at the end of the world by the mouth
of the apostles.
"And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried,
saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name
of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."
96. For this reason they carried palm-trees before kings and lords,
when they had gained a victor), and celebrated their triumph. Again, the
carrying of palm-branches was a sign of submission, especially of such
as asked for mercy and peace, as was commonly done among ancient people.
By their pomp before Christ they indicated that they would receive him
as their Lord and King, sent by God as a victorious and invincible Saviour,
showing themselves submissive to him and seeking grace from him. Christ
should be preached and made known in all the world, as the victorious and
invincible King against sin, death and the power of the devil and all the
world for those who are oppressed and tormented, and as a Lord with whom
they shall find abundant grace and mercy, as their faithful Priest and
Mediator before God.
The word of the Gospel concerning this King is a word of mercy and grace,
which brings us peace and redemption from God, besides invincible power
and strength, as St. Paul in Rom. 1, 16 calls the Gospel "a power of God
unto salvation" and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," as
Christ says in Math. 16, 18.
97. Paul says, Heb. 13,8: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today,
yea, forever." All who will be saved from the beginning to the end of the
world, are and must be Christians and must be saved by faith. Therefore
Paul says, 1 Cor. 10, 3-4: "Our fathers did all eat the same spiritual
food; and did all drink the same spiritual drink." And Christ says in John
8, 56: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was
98. Hence the multitudes going before signify all Christians and saints
before Christ's birth; those who follow signify all the saints after the
birth of Christ. They all believed in and adhered to the one Christ. The
former expected him in the future, the latter received him as the one who
had come. Hence they all sing the same song and praise and thank God in
Christ. or may we give anything else but praise and thanks to God, since
we receive all from him, be it grace, word, work, Gospel, faith and everything
else. The only true Christian service is to praise and give thanks, as
Ps. 50, 15 says: "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee,
and thou shalt glorify me."
99. What does "Hosanna to the son of David' signify? Hosanna in Ps.
118, 25-26, means: "Save now, we beseech thee, 0 Jehovah; 0 Jehovah, we
beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name
of Jehovah." This verse was applied to Christ and is a well-wishing as
we wish happiness and safety to a new ruler. Thus the people thought Christ
should be their worldly king, and they wish him joy and happiness to that
end. For Hosanna means: "0, give prosperity;" or: "Beloved, help;" or:
"Beloved, save;" or whatever else you might desire to express in such a
wish. They add: "To the son of David," and say: God give prosperity to
the son of David! 0 God, give prosperity, blessed be," etc. We would say:
0, dear Lord, give happiness and prosperity to this son of David, for his
new kingdom! Let him enter in God's name that he may be blessed and his
100. Mark proves clearly that they meant his kingdom when he writes
expressly in Mark 11, 10, that they said: "Blessed is the kingdom that
cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest." When
some in the churches, read it "Osanna", it is not correct, it should be
"Hosanna." They made a woman's name out of it, and her whom they should
call Susanna they call Osanna. Susanna is a woman's name and means a rose.
Finally, after making a farce out of baptism, the bishops baptize bells
and altars, which is a great nonsense, and call the bells Osanna. But away
with the blind leaders! We should learn here also to sing Hosanna and Hazelihana
to the son of David together with those multitudes, that is, joyfully wish
happiness and prosperity to the kingdom of Christ, to holy Christendom,
that God may put away all human doctrine and let Christ alone be our king,
who governs by his Gospel, and permits us to be his colts! God grant it,