Seventh Sunday after Trinity
"Dear brethren! For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty." 2 Peter 1:16.
In today's epistle, Apostle Peter makes known those signs of grace which he had seen on the Mount of Transfiguration, and assures those Christians to whom he writes that he had not followed cunningly devised fables, or told them vain recollections when he had spoken to them of the great power and glory of Jesus Christ, and what he spoke to them of that salvation which the Saviour had promised to all believers. We hear therefore, from these words of Peter, that this is a great sign of grace or confirmation to his faith of that forthcoming salvation. Although Peter, according to that sign of grace, could experience many changes of heart and also fell into sin, nevertheless he could not bring this sign of grace to naught, or to think so, that it was nothing, but this great and wonderful brightness, which he saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, always remained in his memory. That same brightness had assured him of that forthcoming salvation! he was like strengthened in his faith through this sign of grace, so that this was not a vain matter, which Jesus has promised to those who follow Him. So also another Christian who has seen some sign of grace can be so assured of that, that salvation is not in vain which the Word of God promises to the believers, although the children of the world understand nothing of that, they do not even believe that those signs of grace are true, but think that there is like some deceit concealed there. But a Christian knows that they are not vain or deceitful flashes, but they are such signs of grace with which that merciful Saviour wants to strengthen the faith of the faint-minded and doubting ones, so that they would not become weary on the way of life, carrying Jesus' cross. To Peter this sign of grace often came to mind when temptations came upon him. Before he had asked the Saviour, "We have forsaken all and followed thee; that shall we have therefore?" And to many a sorrowful crossbearer the same question of Peter probably comes to mind: What will he finally gain from that Christianity, since he has forsaken all the pleasures of the world and begun to follow the footsteps of the Saviour. Then the Saviour saw it necessary to show Peter and the others, who were afraid, that they would receive nothing for their trouble. He saw it necessary to show the doubting ones that their trouble is not in vain. He shows them some sign of His brightness, that they would know just what a great reward awaits them if they continually henceforth remain in the Christianity. But this first sign of grace was shown only to Peter, James, and John. For what reason could the other disciples not then see the Saviour's brightness? Were the other disciples greater sinners than Peter, James, and John, or were they in that condition that it was not fitting to show such signs of grace yet? We cannot understand why the first sign of grace was shown only to Peter, James, and John, and not to others; but we surmise from all aspects of the matter, which happened after these signs of grace, that they were not then better than the other disciples. Although Peter had that thought about himself, that he was the best of all the disciples, nevertheless he had the greatest fall, when he denied the Saviour. And when the Saviour was in that greatest agony and tribulation in the Garden, He again took those same men aside, namely, Peter, James, and John, who had seen Him transformed before. He took them aside and asked them to watch and to pray, but they were not even able to watch, for the sleep of sin pressed their eyes. Therefore, we surmise from these happenings that these three were not better than the other disciples for the reason that they could see the first signs of grace. However, they were as testifiers and witnesses of the Saviour's glory and tribulation; they could remind the other disciples what they had seen and had heard, and certainly these signs of grace also belong to others. Although we cannot say that Peter, James, and John were better than the other disciples, we nevertheless hear now from their mouths that the glory of the Saviour is not in vain, and that salvation, which He has promised to the believing ones, is not an old story. But through these signs of grace even the faith of the other disciples is strengthened, who have not yet seen the brightness of Jesus. And although Peter had that foolish thought that he was the best of all the disciples, nevertheless he was able to experience from his own weakness and fall that: he was sometimes worse than all the rest. It is not written anywhere that the other disciples, because of envy, would have looked askance at Peter, James, and John because of this sign of grace. Neither is it written that the other disciples would have kept Peter'a fall as pleasant. And so not one Christian should be envious of these signs of grace, which one has felt end another has not felt, but a Christian thanks God for those signs of grace, which God has shown to someone, although they are not yet revealed to them. Many an awakened person thinks thus, "Since others are given signs of grace and I am not given them, so I probably am not on the right road. The Saviour does not care for me, since He does not take me to the Mount of Transfiguration." But it is unknown if these thoughts of the awakened are exactly the right thoughts. When the Saviour took only three disciples with Him to the Mount of Transfiguration and left the others, so it is not written that the other disciples would have been rejected by the Saviour, and the three chosen; but it is written so: "Come to me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The Saviour does not take all separately to the Mount of Transfiguration, but only takes some, that they must proclaim to the other disciples the great power and glory of the Saviour to help penitent sinners, who come to Him with a penitent and broken heart.
But the children of the world know nothing about that. If the disciples of Jesus would yet say to the sorrowless, "We saw the Lord," they do not believe. The children of the world say, when they see some sorrowful soul weeping and sighing: "That is a remarkable superstition." If they see someone rejoicing from God's grace, they look at him as demented. The children of the world do not understand that both sorrow and joy are effects of the Holy Spirit. Neither the naturally meek nor the confessors of dead faith care to see such demented ones who weep although there is nothing to weep over, and laugh although there is nothing to laugh at, and sigh although there is no visible reason why they should sigh, but when the sorrowless themselves begin to whore and make merry, no one keeps that to be strange. The devil's spirit often shows his slaves the honor of the world and says, "All this I will give to you, if you will serve me." And when he makes his children intoxicated with the wine of adultery, he says, "Look what kind of joy awaits you in hell! Serve me faithfully and I will give you honor of the world for a reward; keep a whiskey trade, I will give you worldly possessions as a reward; drink liquor and I will give you great joy and pleasure as a reward; curse and I will give you a good name in hell." And surely the blind wretches believe that this joy of the world reaches even to hell. The blind wretches cannot distinguish the Creator of heaven and earth from the god of the world. They willingly and surely believe what the daughters of the earthlings whisper, that the Christians are possessed of evil spirits. The very same faith the pagans formerly had, that the Christians are the disciples of the devil, when they despised their gods.
When now the god of the world gives his slaves such great possessions, joy and honor, and promises also to give them more in hell, than the Saviour also must sometimes show his sorrowful disciples that their troubles are not in vain, if they only await the moment of their redemption in patience. The Saviour has not shown His glory to some without a reason. If the other disciples take heed of these, which have happened to Peter, James, and John then certainly their faith would become strengthened, although many a sorrowful disciple thinks: "The Saviour does not care for me, since I cannot see His glory." But if you sorrowful soul have not seen His glory on Mount Tabor, then you nevertheless can see His glory in the Garden if sleep does not press your eyes. You can also see His glory on the hill of Golgotha, where the whole world was upon Him. So the Saviour Himself has said that the Son of Man is glorified. Although the world looks at it as a great shame that the Son of God hangs on the cross, nevertheless the honor of the Saviour is there glorified. The honor of the Saviour is not so bright in any place in the eyes of the penitent sinners, as in the Garden and on Golgotha's Hill, where He bore the crown of glory. That was the great glory of the Saviour, that His blood was shed even for those who mock His tears. If you penitent soul have not seen His glory on Mount Tabor, then behold, nevertheless, His glory in the Garden, where the bloody sweat drips from His holy body, and where the load of sin presses Him to the ground. Where He must bow His knees because of you and with hands crossed cry out, "Abba, dear Father, if it would be possible that I could be relieved of this pain, of this torment of hell, which these ungodly children have caused me." If you are so sleepy that you cannot see His glory in the Garden, then go to the hill of Golgotha. There, nevertheless, His glory shines like the sun to all penitent souls, and only the entirely blind cannot see other than one disturber of the people and a teacher who counsels people on the wrong road. The completely blind see only one blasphemer of God and a great sorcerer on the cross. But the penitent souls, whose conscience the tears of the Parent burn, surely see their Parent's blood flowing on the cross. They see the One who has given them birth, in the pains of death and sitting in the blood bath, they hear their Parent crying out in the distress of death. Behold, penitent soul, the Saviour's glory in this tribulation, in this torment, in this blood bath, in this crown of glory which made holes in His head, from which the red blood flows. Behold yet the Saviour's glory in this nakedness on the cross, in this pitiable state and bloody form. Behold yet His glory in the nail holes and open side. In blood-red raiment He trod the winepress of God alone, all of His wounds open before the whole world, but the blind do not see His glory and His brightness there, shining through His heart and soul. Dear Saviour! Show your glory to all penitent souls, who have not yet seen your brightness. Open your heart and allow the drops of grace to flow into the mouths of the thirsting, who have not yet tasted of the water of life. Let your sun of grace shine to those solitary travelers who sit upon the road and await the dawn of day. Soften the hard hearts and break the hard hearts, that they would begin to melt as honey in the sunshine. Hear the sigh of the sorrowful heart because of your love. Our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Matthew 17:1-8
The brightness of the Saviour on Mount Tabor is one sign of grace which was shown only to some of the disciples, and we cannot say why all the disciples could not see such signs of grace. But that we know, that the Saviour has shown His power and glory to the other disciples in a different place and in another form, but especially has He shown His glory and godly nature in that bloody strife, when He gave His life for the redemption of all mankind, although the blind people do not see any glory in that, but only shame and dishonor. However, the Saviour Himself has said of this strife, "Now is the Son of Man glorified." Now people can see the glory of the Son of Man. When now the Saviour reveals Himself to His disciples in many ways and in many different forms, so a suitable opportunity comes to us here to consider: In how many ways the Saviour reveals Himself to His disciples. When we search out those places in the Scriptures where it speaks of the revealing of the Saviour, we find that the Saviour revests Himself in that form which best befits the soul condition which His disciple is in. When the Saviour revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene, His wounds were covered. When He revealed Himself to Thomas, He showed His wounds. When He revealed Himself to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, He spoke of the Scriptures. When He revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, He was brighter than the sun. When He revealed Himself to John, He was like a slain lamb. That we know assuredly, that all the disciples have seen the Saviour in His bloody form on the cross. He has also revealed Himself to the sorrowless crowd of the world as a great prophet or as a godly teacher, but the blind crowd of the world held Him to be a false prophet, who taught people wrongly. And although the sorrowless people of this time do not care to openly say that the Saviour has taught the people wrongly, they nevertheless bear hatred toward those who have been converted through His doctrine and received living faith. The Saviour has also revealed His godly power through signs, but the blind throng of the world said that He performed miracles with the power of the devil. The Saviour was, in their mind, a great sorcerer. He has also revealed to the blind crowd of the world His godly power and brightness upon the cross, but they looked on Him as an evil doer and blasphemer of God. Therefore, although the Saviour revealed Himself to the children of the world in many ways, they nevertheless do not confess Him to be the Saviour, but they mock His tears. We have just said that when some person sees the Saviour, then the Saviour has such a form which befits the condition which the person is in. Before the eyes of the Jews, the Saviour is a sorcerer, a false prophet, a disturber of the people and a blasphemer of God. Since the devil had reversed their eyes, they beheld all spiritual matters in reverse: the Saviour changed into a sorcerer, the Son of God changed, in their eyes, to a blasphemer of Cod. The best Teacher on the earth changed into a false prophet, and when He effected with the power of God, the people thought that He effected with the power of the devil. Even now the Saviour would become the same kind of a man in the eyes of the sorrowless throng, if He would begin to effect bodily. They would say to Him as did the Jews, "Thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil." Some confessors of dead faith, who through the deceit of the devil's spirit think they are the closest ones to the Saviour, surely say that if the Saviour would meet them, they would take Him around the neck. But I think that they would spit at His mouth if He would begin to reprove them as whores and thieves. They would soon say, "It is not the Son of God who barks so shamelessly at honorable people." The meek people would say, "It is not the Son of God who barks at meek people as meek whores and honest thieves." The confessors of dead faith would say that it is not the Saviour who wants to rob them of their faith. Said in a word, the sorrowless people of this time would become more angry with the Saviour than the Jews were. But if the god of the world would come in the form of a great lord and begin to thank and praise, begin to counsel them how they must become rich and gain through crookedness, to keep a whiskey trade, and become an honorable lord, then they would soon say, "This would be a suitable king for us." Even all the poor would come to such a lord and would say, "Counsel us, good lord, what we should do so that we, too, would become rich." And he would say to them, "Gather all the poor together and rob them of their possessions wherever you find them." Behold, thus the devil is busy with a person. But the Saviour who confesses the truth to the people, He is, in the eyes of the sorrowless crowd, worse than the enemy.
Now we must consider what kind of a form the Saviour has when He reveals Himself to awakened souls. These are in that soul condition that they feel they need a spiritual Saviour who would redeem their soul from the torment of hell. But self-righteousness is also so great, that they do not dare to come to the Saviour as poor and unworthy as they are, but they first try to beautify themselves with their own repentance, and when it does not go so, they begin to doubt that the Saviour probably does not care for them. In that soul condition, the Saviour sometimes comes before the eyes of the awakened in the form of the cross, that signifies only that the Saviour wants to show them how they must become, namely stripped naked, as the Saviour was on the cross, and also blasphemed by the world, despised and hated. It is as if the Saviour wanted to say to the awakened souls, "Behold, you must also become so poor and unworthy before you can suck the reconciling blood from my breasts. Your flesh must be crucified, the old man must be destroyed, all the old rags must be stripped off, all shame must be shown, all the dogs of the world must bark at you, all the meek whores must spit upon you. You must become honorless. You must cry out that God has cast you into destruction. You must become so poor and unworthy that the closest relatives, parents and children will begin to pity you and cry because of you, that you have gone into such a poor condition, that you have become so foolish that you have begun to carry Jesus' cross and to sigh under it." Therefore, since the Saviour reveals Himself to the awakened as crucified, bleeding and full of bloody wounds, it signifies that the heart of the sinner is not yet broken, but it will break just at beholding such a pitiable sight. A very bitter sorrow came to the disciples over that, when they beheld Jesus in that pathetic form on the cross. It was that sorrow of which the Saviour said, "Ye shall weep and lament." Just then the tears of the Parent began to really burn their conscience after the death of the Saviour. That former dead faith disappeared entirely; all their hope was lost. When this sorrow after the Saviour became greater and greater, just then their hearts were really broken, and just then other kinds of signs of grace began to appear. The Saviour began to live in their hearts; they began to see the Saviour resurrected. Therefore when one penitent soul sees the Saviour on the cross in a bloody shirt, then it signifies only this, that he who sees it is in that soul condition that the old faith is waning, and that the heart becomes rightly broken in that same place when he beholds it. Certainly this beholding or looking at the Saviour upon the cross is one sign of grace, but it is not such a sign of grace that it brings joy, but it brings or effects a still greater sorrow; the heart becomes thereby rightly broken. Just then the tears of penitence begin to really flow, a person just then begins to truly feel that he has been left an orphan and without refuge. So it happened to Mary and the disciples, that the tears just then began to flow very freely after the Saviour's death. And so it also happens to other awakened ones, if they could take heed of all the changes of heart. For the law by itself is the scolding of the Parent. It frightens the sinner and makes the heart hard. But the tears of the Parent, or the Saviour's spiritual and natural tribulation, when they begin to burn the conscience, just then they effect the true sorrow and grief. They break that stone hard heart. So Luther himself testifies that the severe righteousness of the law caused him a great anguish, fear and trembling; but the Saviour's sufferings that did break the heart. When now one penitent soul who through the hammering of the law has truly awakened, sees the Saviour on the cross, we cannot say to him, "It is not right, it is not a sign of grace." But we say to him that he has truly seen one great sign of grace in that soul condition which he is in. For which is a greater sign of grace, than that a parent, whose most loving exhortations you have despised, and to whom you have caused such great bitterness of mind through your disobedience, when you went to commit adultery with the devil — this Parent, whose tears you have mocked so many times, still shows you such great grace and such great love, that He allows His blood to flow because of you and yet cries out to you in that bloody form, "Behold, unfortunate child, behold what kind of anguish and tribulation you have caused me. Look what kind of wounds I have received because of you, but my heart still burns with love toward you. These tears flow just because of you, my final sighs arise even to heaven because of you so that the evil deceiver could not get you entirely in his keeping. Cannot this tribulation of the Parent cause your hard heart to move to true penitence? Come, come! lost sheep, and give a kiss to your Parent before He dies." Behold, thus speaks the Saviour to the awakened, when He reveals Himself in that pitiable bloody form on the cross. If this is not a sign of grace, then other signs are not better. But these signs of grace are not yet such, that they would cause joy. A penitent soul can certainly receive a blessed assurance from these signs of grace, that he is not entirely rejected or cast away from the Parent, when he sees the heart of the Parent bleeding from love. But if he truly understands these first signs of grace, he then should not take for himself some false consolation and think that he is now a good Christian. Amen.