Luther’s Notes on the Sunday Gospel: All Saints’ Day -Saints and Martyrs

November 1

All Saints’ Day

Matthew 5:1-12

New King James Version

5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luther’s Explanatory Notes:

The Sermon on the Mount.

Christ, in Matthew v., vi., vii., teaches briefly these points:

  1. First, as to the eight beatitudes or blessings, how every Christian ought particularly to live, as it concerns himself;
  2. Secondly, of the office of teaching; what and how a man ought to teach in the church, how to season with salt and enlighten, reprove and comfort and exercise the faith.
  3. Thirdly, he confutes and opposes the false expounding of the law;
  4. Fourthly, he condemns the wicked, hypocritical kind of living;
  5. Fifthly, he teaches what are upright and good works;
  6. Sixthly, he warns men against false doctrine;
  7. Seventhly, he clears and solves what might be found doubtful and confused;
  8. Eighthly, he condemns the hypocrites and false saints, who abuse the precious word of grace.

1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

Jesus went up into a mountain. Here the Evangelist gives a preface and display of how Christ disposed him self for the sermon. It is not God’s will that we should run astray with his word, as though any one were driven by the Holy Spirit, and therefore must preach and seek places and corners, houses and pulpits, where he has no official appointment. Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 10:15 and John 16:20.

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Those who are not spiritually high minded. To be spiritually poor means, that we do not attach our hearts to worldly possessions, whether God has given us worldly goods or not.

And again, to be rich in spirit means to be attached in our hearts to worldly possessions, whether God has given us worldly goods or not. (Psalm 62:10) Those are spiritually poor who are not self-confident, who keep God before their eyes, and do not live at random, like the world; but who are careful of what they do, and do not do; who honestly compare their lives with the word of God, and see how our nature is so corrupted by sin that the proper obedience is sadly lacking, and they appear to themselves as the greatest sinners.

The kingdom of heaven is theirs. That is to say: Behold, man shall be delivered from death, sin, hell and all misfortunes, and shall have God for his friend, a cheerful conscience and in addition eternal life.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are they that mourn. Thisis another characteristic of the Christians, that they not only have oppressed hearts, but also tearful eyes, because all kinds of misfortunes befall them. Because, while the devil and the world are the most inveterate enemies of the Christians, it is impossible, that such enmity should continue without injury. But since Christians also have flesh and blood, it is not possible that they should laugh in their afflictions; they are plagued, oppressed and driven so long, that their eyes overflow with tears.

They shall be comforted. Christians mourn; but only for a season. Look to the future and then the promise is: “Blessed are they, for they shall be comforted.” This we see exemplified in the case of poor Lazarus. For it is not Christ’s will that there shall be nothing but mourning and sorrow; but he warns those who are not willing to mourn, and teaches his Christians, that when they meet with adversity it is God’s will, and they should also be resigned to their condition, and that they should not curse and rage and despair, as though there were no mercy with God.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are the meek. When it goes evil with worldly people their eyes overflow and they conduct themselves badly; but my disciples, says Jesus here, have a meek and lowly heart, and would not think of avenging themselves; but as God in his providence has permitted the affliction to come upon them, they cheerfully resign themselves to his will, and endure the affliction.

For they shall inherit the earth. Here we see what his promises are: In verse 3 heaven was promised them, and here in addition also an earth ly inheritance is promised them — their bodily wants shall also be supplied.

The world regards itself in possession of the earth, and seeks to protect its claims.

Therefore choose one of two things, whichever you will; either that you live in meekness and patience among the people, and retain what you have in peace and good conscience; or lose more by tumultuous, riotous contention and strife, than you can gain, and yet have dissatisfaction and a bad conscience in addition.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are they which hunger and thirst. This hunger and thirst is experienced, by those who love to hear and read God’s word. Such a one has this firm hope, that he shall find comfort and consolation from the word of God, in all kinds of trial, perplexity and in death. But those who are filled with their own conceit, who do not read or hear God’s word, but disregard and despise it, shall finally hunger and thirst so intensely, that no one can relieve them with the smallest drop of water, just as was the case with the rich man in hell. Luke 16:24.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the merciful. One quality of mercy is, that we readily forgive sinners and fallible ones. The other quality is, that we are generous to those who are suffering distress and are in need of help, and this also towards our enemies, for all of which we can not expect any recompense.

These, the merciful, then have the consoling promise, Ye shall also find pure mercy, both here and hereafter; and such mercy shall ye find, which shall unspeakably transcend all human benefaction and mercy. Just as we are merciful, and assist the poor in their distress, even if they are our bitterest enemies, so God also will assist us in our trouble, readily forgive and forget all our sins, and grant us grace and mercy.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the pure in heart. He who would indicate a pure heart to be such an one in which there are no evil thoughts, no murder, no adultery, etc., has indeed correctly indicated; but the Holy Ghost alone prepares the heart by means of the word of God; otherwise where the word and faith are not already in the heart, the heart remains unclean.

Shall see God. This does not mean to lead a contemplative life, or to see him with our bodily eyes (with these no one can see him in this life) but by faith which sees his paternal, friendly heart, in which there is no anger or unkindness.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers. The peacemakers are more blessed than the peaceable; namely, those who make, promote and maintain peace among others; here they offer a good word, there they interpose a good word, and every where they seek to promote quietness and peace, where they find strife, disturbance and con tention. Thus also did our Lord Christ.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so per secuted they the prophets which were be fore you.

Blessed are they which are persecuted. Here the Lord states in conclusion, what shall be the treatment of the faithful Christian, that for this, that he is full of good works, even towards enemies, and bad people, his reward from the world shall be that he shall be persecuted, and exposed to bodily injury, the loss of all worldly goods and life itself for Christ’s sake.

But he also distinctly adds, For righteousness’ sake, to show, that it is not sufficient to be simply persecuted, when it is not for righteousness’ or Christ’s sake.

Blessed people are ye! For in the first place, ye suffer from the world and have not deserved it; therefore ye suffer for my sake, and I will richly reward you in heaven. Are there one or two who persecute us, then there are many more, yea, ten thousand angels, to one, who take our part, who smile upon us, console us, and pronounce us blessed.

But what do you say to this, that there is so much said in the Sermon on the Mount about reward and gain? Answer: It is not meant here, that by our own merit, we shall gain the grace of our baptism, or Christ and heaven ; but all relates to the fruits of Christianity. For in this sermon Christ does not say how we become Christians, but speaks only of the works which no one can do, unless he is already a Christian, and is in grace, as the words show, that they must endure poverty, distress and persecution, because they are Christ ians, and inherit the kingdom of heaven. These are pure consolations to the Christians, as without them they could not endure such distress, persecution and misery, which they know he will certainly reward. This does not mean that they merit for giveness of sins and the inheritance of heaven, but that they shall be rec ompensed for their sufferings with so much greater glory.

Luther’s Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 25-27.

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