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Mercy, Not Merit
Scripture and a reading from Luther's sermons and devotional writings

Today's online Scripture jigsaw

From the Word

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 

Matthew 28:10, RSV

From Luther

These are the first words they heard from Christ after his resurrection from the dead, by which he confirmed all the former utterances and loving deeds he showed them, namely, that his resurrection avails in our behalf who believe, so that he anticipates and calls Christians his brethren, who believe it, and yet they do not, like the apostles, witness his resurrection. The risen Christ does not wait until we ask or call on him to become his brethren. Can we here speak of merit, by which we deserve anything? What did the apostles merit? Peter denied his Lord three times; the other disciples fled from him; they tarried with him like a rabbit does with her young. He should have called them deserters, betrayers, reprobates, anything but brethren. Therefore this word is sent to them through the women out of pure grace and mercy, as the apostles at the time keenly experienced, and we experience also when we are mired in our sins, temptations and condemnation.

These are words full of comfort that Christ receives desperate villains, as you and I are, and calls us his brethren. Is Christ really our brother, then indeed what more do we need? Brothers according to the flesh enjoy the same possessions, have the same father, the one inheritance; so we enjoy with Christ the same possessions, have in common one Father and one inheritance. He who has a part of this spiritual inheritance has it all.

If I believe on Christ, I become partaker with him of all his possessions. I obtain eternal righteousness, eternal wisdom, eternal strength, and become a lord and reign over all. The stomach will no longer hunger, sins will not oppress, I will no more fear death, nor be terror-stricken by Satan, but will be like Christ the Lord himself. The title of being Christ’s brethren is so high that the heart of man cannot understand it. The Holy Spirit must bestow this grace.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 134–35.

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