From the Word
As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them.
Luke 24:36, RSV
The disciples are gathered together in seclusion. They are afraid of the Jews and are in danger of their lives; they are fearful and faint-hearted and afraid of sin and death. Had they been strong and courageous, they would not have thus crept into a corner; later, when the Holy Spirit came, strengthened and comforted them, they were made so courageous that they stepped forth and preached publicly without fear. This is written for us, that we might learn that the gospel of Christ’s resurrection comforts only the faint-hearted. They are the poor, conscience-stricken ones, whose sins lie heavily upon them, who feel faint at heart, are loth to die and are well-nigh startled by the sound of a rustling leaf. To these contrite, poor, and needy souls the gospel offers comfort, to them it is a sweet savor.
This is also learned from the nature of the gospel, for the gospel is a message and a testimony, which declares how the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, that he might remove sin, death and all evil from all who believe in him. If I recognize him as such a Saviour, I have heard the gospel aright, and he has in truth revealed himself to me. If now the gospel teaches naught but that Christ has overcome sin and death by his resurrection, then we must indeed confess that it can be of service to none save those who feel sin and death. They who do not feel their sin, and are not dismayed, nor see their infirmities, profit not a whit by it, nor do they delight in it. Though they hear the gospel, it has no effect upon them, except that they learn the words, and speak of what they have heard. They do not treasure them in their hearts, and receive neither comfort nor joy from them.
It were well, if the gospel could be preached only where faint-hearted and conscience-stricken ones are found. But this cannot be, and for this reason it bears so little fruit. The fault is not in the gospel, but in the hearers. They hear it, but they do not feel their own affliction and misery, nor have they ever tried to feel it.
Hence none need marvel if the gospel does not everywhere bring forth fruit.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 141–42.