This sermon, which is also not found in edition c., appeared in pamphlet form under the title: “A sermon on Pentecost, the Gospel of John 14. ‘He that loveth me, keepeth my Word.’ Preached by Dr. Martin Luther, Wittenberg,” (1522). Another edition was issued in 1523.
German text: Erlangen Edition, 12:282; Walch Edition 11:1389; St. Louis Walch, 11:1032.
A SERMON OF COMFORT CHRIST PREACHES TO HIS DISCIPLES.
I. THE INTRODUCTION WHICH TREATS OF LOVE TO CHRIST.
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THIS SERMON OF CONSOLATION.
1. The conclusion 22.
2. An objection raised by this conclusion, and its answer 23.
I. THE INTRODUCTION TO THIS SERMON OF COMFORT, TREATING OF CHRIST’S LOVE.
1. In today’s GospelChrist says plainly and bluntly: “If a man love me, he will keep my Word; he that loveth me not, keepeth not my words.” The text stands there clear; whoever lovesGod keeps his commandments, and on the contrary, whoever does not loveGod, does not keep his commandments. Christ here simply casts out of his kingdom all who do not keep his commandments with pleasure and love. Let us thoroughly understand this. It is briefly pictured to us here who are and who are not Christians. No one is a Christian unless he keeps Christ’s Word, as he here says. And no one can keep it, unless he first lovesGod. God had tested the plan of making people godly by means of force. For, in olden times, God dealt severely with his people, so that they were forced to keep his Word, and not to blasphemeGod; to observe the Sabbath and to obey all the other commandments. To this end he threatened to afflict and punish them, severely, as is written in Leviticus 26:14ff. Thus, God from without coerced the people to be pious by means of the fear of punishment; but their hearts were not obedient. The result is the same in the present day.
Therefore, to keep God’s Word is a thing that can be accomplished only by divinelove.
2. Accordingly, in the New Testament, God ceased to punish and only administered the Word; for the means must yet come to the point that the divinelove be present. Neither the stake, nor bulls nor bans help in the least. Where this love is not, all amounts to nothing, do as we will. If one were to take all the swords in the world in his hands, he would not bring a single heretic to the faith. The people may, indeed, appear to accept the Word, but in their inward hearts there is no faith. Hence God has abolished the sword in this matter and his plan of salvation aims to possess the heart.
The bishops are commanded first to take the heart captive, so that it may find love and pleasure in the Word, and the work is then accomplished.
Hence, he who wishes to be a true bishop, arranges all his administration to the end that he may win souls and develop a love for and a delight in God’s Word and be able to oppose the false babblers with sound teaching, and to stop their mouths. Titus 1:2. This will never be accomplished by means of commandments, bans and bulls.
And that is the right kind of spiritual tactics. But in case people will not outwardly obey the Word, their parents should educate their children, and the civilgovernment its subjects, to obedience. However, by this method, none are yet brought to believe. For it is affirmed in our text: “He that loveth me not keepeth not my words.” Thus you hear what a Christianlife is, namely to loveGod; it is not to storm about, eat flesh, destroy pictures in churches, become monks or nuns — neither a married nor a single life avails here. It means to love, and they do this who keep his Word.
4. Now, what is God’s Word? It is that we love one another as Christloved us, and that we believe on him. If one truly possesses the Word, it must break forth out of-the heart from pure love. One may possess the words and commands of man, even if he does not love; he may receive the command of a superior and execute it. But the only thing that will keep God’s commandments and Word is love. Therefore, observe how foolishly our princes and bishops act, in that they coerce and constrain the people to believe by means of force.
5. How does one now acquire this love? The human heart is so false that it cannot love unless it first sees the benefit of loving. When, in the Old Testament, God struck blows among the people as if among dogs, and he dealt severely and fearfully with them, they naturally had no love for him.
Then God thought: I must show my love to you and be so affectionate that you cannot help but love me. Then he took his Son and sent him into our filth, sin and misery, pouring out his mercy so freely and fully that we had to boast of all his treasures as if they were our own. He thus became a lovingFather, and he declared his mercy and caused it to go forth into all the world that whosoever believes this and lays hold of it with his heart shall have a gracious and merciful God, who never becomes angry nor deals blows, but who, instead, is kind and affectionate. Now, where a heart believes and experiences this, and gets glimpses of so much, then it must place all its confidence and affection in God, and deal with its neighbor as God has dealt with itself. As a result the Word of God goes forth out of the heart, and his commandments will be kept with pleasure. Thus, first, there is no other God; secondly, man calls upon the name of the Lord; and thirdly, he lets Godreign — God can do as he will, and he possesses his soul in quiet and observes the Sabbath. In this way, the commandments of the First Table are fulfilled. Henceforth, he is kindly and humbly disposed toward all persons, he honors his father and mother and serves his neighbor as his highest pleasure and with all the love of his heart. His thought is ever this: I wall do to my neighbor, as God has done to me. Thus love alone is the fulfillment of the Law, as Paul says to the Romans 13:10.
8. It comes to pass in this way: I know first, that Christ has served me by his whole life, and that Christ is God; thus I see that it is God’s will that Christ should give himself for me and that the Father commissioned him to that end Thus, I climb to the Father through Christ. Then my confidence in him begins to grow, so that I esteem him as a lovingFather. Christ here means to say: Man must begin with my love and then he will come to the Father; Christ is a mediator. Therefore, I must first be loved — must first feel the great treasure and blessing in Christ. Hence, God takes the very first step and allows his dear child to die for me, before I ask him to do so, yea, before I ever know him. Then a confidence in and love to God grow in me; this I must feel. Christ also says here: “And my Father will love him;” that is, the convert will feel that he is placed with me in the same kingdom and co-inheritance, and will, through me’ and with me and with my voice, say to the Father in comforting confidence: Dearly belovedFather. Then the text continues: “And we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
10. Thus there develops in man a confident defiance of everything upon earth, for he has God and all that is God’s. He does all that he is now required to do, and fears not. On the contrary, where there is no love of God, that heart does not keep God’s Word; and if the heart does not keep God’s Word, the hand never will. There God will never enter and make his abode. There the devil dwells, until the weak and despairing soul will even fear the sound of a driven leaf, as Moses says in Leviticus 26:36. Man cannot endure the gnawing of conscience. The conscience can never know any peace when oppressed by sin, nor can it experience a joyfulconfidence in God yea, it will sink lower than hell, while confidence is higher than the heavens. There is then nothing but despair and fear for that heart. All creatures are above it. Such is a picture of the kingdom of Satan. Christ continues by saying: “And the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.”
11. These words Christ speaks only in order to bring us to the Father, either in a gracious or ungracious way, either with pleasure and love or with fear, for all must lean and depend upon him. Hence, whoever will not understand these words scornsGod. Then no teaching, no words nor anything else will help in his case. Now Christ comes and says: “These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you.
But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.”
II. THE SERMON OF COMFORT.
12. Here Christ says, The Father will send you the Holy Spirit, who will bring to your remembrance what I told you, and the same Spirit will explain it to you. In other words: Your hearts are as yet rough and untutored and you cannot understand what I have spoken to you; but when the Holy Spirit comes he will make all so plain to you that you will experience the assurance that it is as I told you before. Thus, the Holy Spirit, and he alone, has explained the Scriptures and Christ, and made them clear. This knowledge, then, is sufficient for me and enables me to fulfill God’s commandments. Beyond this, however, I have no obligations.
13. As if he had said: I shall now leave you. Farewell! It was a common greeting among the Jews, in the Hebrew language, when they met or parted, to say: Peace be with your That is as much as to say: Take good care of yourself, be of good spirits, hope you may prosper; as we in German say: Godgreet you (Gott grusze euch), or Godbless you!
14. And the Lord adds the kind of peace he wishes them to have, and says:
16. These are consoling words, but for the time they are not effectual. Be not afraid, he says, for you have my peace. No one will harm you; only cling to me. The words they indeed hear, as do we, but without seeing their significance. Therefore he says in clearer language: “Ye heard how I said to you, I go away, and I come unto you.”
17. As if he said: Be not fearful because I said to you! go away from you: I will come again to you; yea, it is especially for your sake that I go away, that afterwards when! return to you, you may be the happier and be of good spirits. But neither did they understand this until the Holy Spirit later interpreted it to them. Just so it is with us in the time of temptation: we do not then understand what God intends to teach us; but later, when grace and comfort return, we understand it very well. The Lord says to the disciples: “If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I go unto the Father.”
18. His words mean: The only failing you have is that you do not love me, or do not understand what it is to love. If ye loved me, ye would gladly let me go; yea, ye would laugh for joy, because I depart from you. And the more you are visited with ill-fortune and adversity, the happier you should be. But human reason does not understand this. It is certainly true that the more a Christiansuffers persecution from without, the happier he is in heart, and the more peace he possesses. The reason is that he lovesChrist.
This St. Paul well understood from his own experience when he wrote to the Corinthians in the second epistle ( 2 Corinthians 4:4-10): We are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body.”
And again, he says, in verses 16 to 18: “Wherefore we faint not; but though our outward man is decaying, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. For our lightaffliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
19. This is the experience of the Christianheart when the Holy Spirit has entered it. St. Paul writes more about this later, in the sixth chapter of Second Corinthians. It made an impression upon the heathen when they saw the Christians thus hastening to death; they thought the Christians were foolish and intervened to spare their lives. The Gentiles did not understand what it meant; but the Christians very well knew whence it came. Therefore the Lord adds: “For the Father is greater than I.”
20. Even if I should tell you many things, ye would not understand them; they reach no farther than the ears and never enter the heart. However, when I return to the Father, then I will take upon myself the power to send into your hearts the Holy Spirit, through whose help ye may understand all that I said to you. For the present I am in the service of my ministry upon earth; I only speak and preach the Word as it has been commanded me by my Father. The Arians paid no attention here to the words: “I go to the Father,” which means nothing more than, I go and receive the honor the Father has. It is as if the Lord had said to his disciples: I have two offices.
At present I am upon the earth, where I am performing my office of preaching, for which I was sent by the Father. When I come to the Father I will fulfill the other office, namely, this. I will send the Holy Spirit into your hearts. The disciples could not understand this, and neither do we understand how he administers the gift. He concludes by saying: “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe.”
21. The meaning is: I know very well that you do not understand this now; but I tell you it now so that, when it comes to pass as I have told you, you may remember that I declared it to you before, and you can then say: It is true. In what follows now in this Gospel, the Lord speaks of the hour of his suffering, that it is at hand, and says: “I will no more speak much with you, for the prince of the world cometh; and he hath nothing in me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.”
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THIS SERMON OF CONSOLATION.
22. In other words: The time of my suffering and death is at hand. The prince of this world, the devil, is present in his adherents, and will seize me.
But he will accomplish nothing, for he will unjustly lay hold of me, desiring to ‘crush me. His tactics will fail; I will triumph over him, and I will do it justly.