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Monday, March 29, 2010

Passion of Christ and Our Suffering

In the House Postils preached in 1534, Martin Luther divides the Passion of Christ into five parts (Monday through Friday). On Monday Luther treated Jesus in Gethesemane. In this section Luther treated the difference between the suffering of the saints and the suffering of Christ. In light of the recent events, Haiti, Chile, etc., it is good to recognize that as great as the suffering is in this world, it is not the same as the suffering of Christ.

Luther writes:

"That is why we must be very careful to distinguish well between the Lord's suffering and that of others. For the devil and his cohorts suffer too; so also the pious and godly. The beloved saints, prophets, apostles, and martyrs suffered in their time, as do pious Christians in our day wherever they have been driven by persecution. The devil -- along with his angels, apostles, disciples, and pupils -- endures the fire of hell, but without becoming better thereby or holier. The beloved saints have suffered, and to some extend they still endure persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the devil and also the hostile world. But none of this suffering has the ultimate meaning and purpose of our Lord Christ's passion... We, however, preach the Lord's suffering in the way Holy Scripture does, emphasizing every aspect of Christ's suffering in the way the Scriptures do. That means that we show that Christ's suffering pertaining to his obedience under the will of his heavenly Father, as St. Paul says (Phil. 2:8), 'He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.' He exalted and praised God by his suffering, as other saints praise and thank God through theirs. However, beyond this there was specific purpose for which Christ suffered, a purpose which distinguishes it from all suffering of the saints, namely, that through his suffering the whole world was to be redeemed, heaven opened, hell closed up, and eternal life won. This underlying significance cannot be ascribed to any other suffering than to Christ's alone. Christ suffered to the praise and glory of God, rendering a well-pleasing service, but it was for you and me, all of us, for the sake of our redemption and salvation that he suffered, in order to free us of our redemption and salvation that he suffered in order to free us from the power of sin and death, and open heaven for us."

-- Martin Luther, House Postils, 1534. Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume 1, 374-375.

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