From the Word
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
Matthew 8:1–3, RSV
This leper would not have been so bold as to come to the Lord and ask to be cleansed, if he had not trusted and expected with his whole heart that Christ would be kind and gracious, and would cleanse him. Because he was a leper, he had reason to be timid. Moreover the law forbids lepers to mingle with the people. Nevertheless he approaches, regardless of law and people, and of the purity and holiness of Christ.
Here behold the attitude of faith toward Christ: it sets before itself absolutely nothing but the pure goodness and free grace of Christ, without seeking and bringing any merit. Here it certainly cannot be said that the leper merited by his purity to approach Christ, to speak to him and to invoke his help. Nay, just because he feels his impurity and unworthiness, he approaches all the more and looks only upon the goodness of Christ. This is true faith, a living confidence in the goodness of God. The heart that does this has true faith; the heart that does it not has not true faith, as they do who do not keep in sight the goodness of God and that alone, but first look around for their own works, in order to be worthy of God’s grace and to merit it. These never make bold to call upon God earnestly or draw near to him.
This confidence of faith, or knowledge of the goodness of Christ, would never have originated in this leper by virtue of his own reason, if he had not first heard a good report about Christ, how kind, gracious and merciful he is, ready to help, comfort and counsel every one that comes to him. Such a report must undoubtedly have come to his ears, and from this fame he derived courage, and interpreted the report to his own advantage; he applied this goodness to his own need. His faith therefore did not grow out of his reason, but out of the report he heard of Christ, as Paul says: “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” This is the gospel that is the beginning, middle, and end of everything good and of all salvation.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. 1915. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern.
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