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Luther Quotes for Palm Sunday and/or Good Friday

by pastorjuhl ~ March 30th, 2009

These from Blessed Martin Luther’s Fourth Holy Week Sermon in the House Postils. Originally preached on Good Friday, April 2, 1534.

For no man’s, no angel’s, no other creature’s suffering has accomplished and is able to accomplish what this man’s suffering has. For he suffers not for his own person but for us, that in this way we might be free and rid of sin and death (1:421).

Now as our dear Lord Jesus Christ is lifted into the air to hang on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, with nothing any longer on earth to call his own, he is exercising his true, real, priestly office, accomplishing the work he came on earth to do, not only with his suffering, by offering up himself, but also by his intercessions. For both constitute a priest’s work, to sacrifice and to intercede (ibid).

But when he offers himself thus for us, what garment or priestly garb does this priest, Jesus Christ, wear and what is his altar? His adornment is not a gold or silk cloak, decked with pearls or jewels, like the pope’s bishops adorn themselves, nor like the Old Testament high priest who had his special priestly resplendent robes. Instead he hangs on the cross bare and naked, covered with wounds, and  has, so to speak, not a thread on his body. Instead of a purple robe he is red with blood, his body covered with wounds and welts, badly swollen. Instead of a priestly headdress he wears a bloodied crown of thorns. That the adornment of this High Priest. For he is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek,” as Psalm 110:4 states. This High Priest is both priest and offering; for he offers up his body and life on the cross. It appears to be totally out of priestly character for him to hang on the cross, naked and bare, bloody and swollen, wearing a crown of thorns. Yet, he is the true Priest and Bishop, who in great love offers up himself and lets his own body be consumed for the redemption of the whole world (1:422).

It is our comfort (and we are therefore exhorted to take comfort in this) that this High Priest has prayed for you and me and for us all, that is, for his crucifiers. For just as he suffers for us all, so he also prays for us all. thus his crucifiers are not only the Jews and Gentiles, who at that time laid hands on him and nailed him to the cross, but also we ourselves and the whole world. For it was our sins which crucified him, wounded, and crowned him with thorns. Those crucifiers were simply our sins’ servants and lackeys. Had your sins and mine not nailed Christ to the cross, those crucifiers would have had to let him alone. Christ is there as the true Priest and Lamb of God paying for the sins and death of the whole world with his offering; that is why the Jews and Gentiles seize him. For that reason his prayer covers the entire world. When Christ prays for those who crucify him, he is praying for all men, also for us who by our sins were the cause of his cross and death; and he does not pray for our condemnation but for our salvation (1:424-425).

The chief point simply is this, that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, offered himself on the cross for us, and there was nothing else that moved his heart but our distress and misery. For you and I, all of us, are implicated in the wounds, thorns, and spittle, because by those very wounds, thorns, and spittle, he snatches and grabs at us in order to deliver us (1:428).

This, therefore, is a necessary distinction we must make: that Christ’s vicarious sacrifice and intercession stand between all sin and God. God will not impute them as long as they are confessed and the penitent holds fast to this High Priest with his offering and intercession on the cross. However, sins which stand opposed to grace and are not acknowledged to be sins, like the blasphemies of the malefactor on the left and the high priests, these are not included here under Christ’s prayer. A great difference between the sins which a person acknowledges as sins and the sins which he does not acknowledge to be sinful. The sins which a person acknowledges as sins, be it unbelief or weakness in faith or other failings, are all careless sins. God does not want to reject me on account of such sins but is ready to forgive me as long as I confess them to be sins, pray for grace, and lay hold on Christ. However, the sins, which a person does not acknowledge as sins but offers excuses for them, are not trivial; for they do not want to be considered sins but contend against grace (1:430-431).

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