Martin Luther: The Two Commands
Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Resurrection
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words.” (Luke 24:1–8,)
Martin Luther (1483-1546) is a name familiar to most, and his writings and preaching were the fuel which powered the great engines of the Reformation. A Catholic priest, and Augustinian Canon, from 1517 he began to reject some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic church and called her back to an earlier purity. His translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God into the hands of the people, and his hymns put words of praise into their mouths. He married Katharina von Bora (a former nun) and set the pattern for married clergy. A forceful figure indeed!
This sermon was preached in his house in 1544.
You have heard about Christ’s resurrection, how it happened and why, and how we ourselves should benefit from it. This Gospel also teaches about such an application of the resurrection. For in the first place it is a great thing that the beloved angels are the first messengers who bring the good news that Christ has arisen and is no longer in the grave. They remind the women that Christ had earlier told them about these events, but they did not believe or understand him. Such a message is certain proof that, although the angels are totally pure and holy spirits and we are only poor sinners, nevertheless they do not shun or despise us but rather want to be good friends with us, because Christ died for our benefit and is risen again.…
Along with this work, one also hears in these words what sort of meaning is in the resurrection of Christ. For the angels come with two commands: the first is to the women, that they should not be frightened by their appearance, but they should rejoice that Christ is risen; the other command is that they should not keep the resurrection a secret, but they should quickly go forth and announce it to the disciples. We should be very glad in both of these parts, for the angel says first, “Do not be afraid. I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, but has risen from the dead.” It was as if he should have said, “But what sort of silly, simple people are you, that you prefer to be shocked and terrified? However, Christ is alive and has risen from the dead. Therefore it is fitting that you should be happy and that you should not be frightened by anything. For Christ lives that he might live for your good, that you will benefit from him and that you will be protected by him and kept safe from all affliction.”