What did Jesus say about Marriage and Divorce?

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D

Jesus Teaches about Divorce

What does the Bible say about marriage and divorce?

Matthew 19: 1-12    When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

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Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery by Guercino (1621)

Jesus was in the temple teaching when a group of scribes and Pharisees interrupted his session in an attempt to entrap him as a lawbreaker. They presented to Him a woman, accusing her of committing adultery, claiming she was caught in the very act. They ask Jesus whether the punishment for someone like her should be stoning, as stated in Mosaic Law. But when the woman’s accusers continue their challenge, he states that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. Jesus asks the woman if anyone has condemned her. She answers that no one has condemned her. Jesus says that he, too, does not condemn her, and tells her to go and sin no more.

Divorce

Martin Luther said, “Matthew 19:9 is a blunt, clear, plain text.” The purpose of this blog is to engage the reader in thinking and discussion. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

People and religious institutions have diverse views on marriage, divorce and sexual behavior. Martin Luther regarded marriage and divorce as civil matters but recognized the importance of the blessing of the church and the power of forgiveness and faith within the home.

Most of the church teachers including Augustine, Tertullian, Ambrose, Aquinas, and Gregory the Great considered sexual expression with any passion to be a “sin” and not much different from adultery, while virginity and celibacy were highly honored. The culture before the Reformation understood marriage for the procreation of children.

A contribution of Martin Luther and the Reformation is the emphasis placed on the family, the enjoyment of sexual relations and love, the importance of public engagements and stating the marriage vows before God at the altar. Adultery and fornication were reasons for a divorce. Below are excerpts from Martin Luther’s writing in 1522 on marriage.

“Those who want to be Christians are not to be divorced, but each to retain his or her spouse, and bear and experience good and evil with the same, although he or she may be strange, peculiar and faulty; or, if there be a divorce, that the parties remain unmarried; and that it will not do to make a free thing out of marriage, as if it were in our power to do with it, changing and exchanging, as we please; but it is just as Jesus says: ” What God has joined together let not man put asunder.”

“Is there then no reason for which there may be separation and divorce between man and wife? Answer: Christ states here (Matthew 19:31-32) and in Matthew 19: 9, only this one, which is called adultery, and he quotes it from the law of Moses, which punishes adultery with death. Since now death alone dis­solves marriages and releases from the obligation, an adulterer is already divorced not by man but by God himself, and not only cut loose from his spouse, but from this life. For by adultery he has di­vorced himself from his wife, and has dissolved the marriage, which he has no right to do; and he has thereby made himself worthy of death, in such a way that he is already dead before God, although the judge does not take his life.”

“Because now God here divorces, the other party is fully released, so that he or she is not bound to keep the spouse that has proved unfaithful, however much he or she may desire it.”

“For we do not order or forbid this divorcing, but we ask the gov­ernment to act in this matter, and we submit to what the secular authorities ordain in regard to it. Yet, our advice would be to such as claim to be Christians, that it would be much better to exhort and urge both parties to remain together, and that the innocent party should become reconciled to the guilty (if humbled and re­formed) and exercise forgiveness in Christian love; unless no im­provement could be hoped for, or the guilty person who had been pardoned and restored to favor persisted in abusing this kindness, and still continued in leading a public, loose life, and took it for granted that one must continue to spare and forgive him. . . .”

“Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7 [:4-5], “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,” etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage….”

Excerpts fromThe Estate of Marriage,’ written in 1522 in ‘Luther’s Works,’ Vol. 45, edited by Walter I. Brandt pg. 38-46

 

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022
The Bible in 3-D  (Text, Image, Perspective)

 Jesus Talks with the Woman at the Well in Samaria

 Does God really know everything about us?

 John 4:1-26 and 39-42:  Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Guercino_-_Jesus_and_the_Samaritan_Woman_at_the_Well

Christ and the Woman of Samaria by Guercino (1640, Madrid)

The conversation between Christ and the woman of Samaria at the well is only recorded in the Gospel of Saint John. Christ, travelling to Galilee, reached the Samarian city of Sychar. While the disciples went ahead into the city to buy food, Christ sat down to rest by a fountain. A woman approached the well to draw water and Christ requested water to drink. Surprised, the woman questioned why a Jew was asking her for water, given that Samaritans and Jews had no dealings with each other. The woman, who had had five husbands and lived with a man (as Christ knew), began a conversation with Jesus about “living water.” Guercino’s (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) painting depicts a moment in the conversation between Christ and the Samaritan woman. The story of Jesus and the woman from Samaria is one of the most popular paintings made for individuals in their homes in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Martin Luther makes reference to this story in his Commentary on Galatians.

“So then, have we nothing to do to obtain righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only – that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation!

Now God sees no sin in us. For in this heavenly righteousness, sin has no place. So now we may certainly think. “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives – who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine, and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life. For if the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost. On this truth the church is built and has its being.”

Many theologians use this story to explain baptism, inclusion, cultural assimilation, and the conversion of Gentiles to faith in Jesus Christ. My observation for your reflection is that Jesus knew everything about this woman’s personal life. For me, it is a comfort and even a blessing to know that Jesus Christ is a personal Savior who knows, understands, accepts, and forgives all of my imperfections, mistakes, and failures. He also knows my heart and silent thoughts, my greatest fears, and my aches and pain. As Martin Luther explicitly proclaimed above, “but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life.”

Please continue this conversation with another person.

hbitten@reverendluther.org

Jesus Teaches the Children

The 500th Anniversary of the New Testament in the Language of the People 1522 – 2022

The Bible in 3-D 

Jesus Teaches the Children

How do we educate our soul?

 Matthew 19:14: Jesus said, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Luke 18:15-16: 15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.:

George Hinke painted this in 1953, a few weeks before he died. He was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1883 and schooled in a classic style of painting.  Mr. Hinke came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1923, where he worked at a printing shop. People are very familiar with his Norman Rockwell styled paintings of the images of Santa Claus.

Hincke-Jesus Teaches Children

Martin Luther explained his views of children and their relationship to Jesus and parents in his Table Talks as recorded by the young pastors he taught in his home. The home and church are places we gather for the education of our soul.

“From this truth there are two important principles of child-rearing that parents must bear in mind when setting themselves to the task of training their children. 

First, parents must remember that their children are depraved from birth. Children from birth have derived corruption from their original parent by the propagation of a vicious nature. Passed on to them according to their first birth is blindness of mind, horrible darkness, vanity and perverseness of judgment, wickedness, rebellion, stubbornness and impurity. That tiny infant who lies asleep in mother’s arms a picture of contentment and peace, that infant who so often fills mother’s and father’s heart with overwhelming love and emotion, that infant is a depraved sinner. It may be hard to believe. We may not want to believe it. But we as parents have passed along to our children our corruption. We must recognize and deal with the sin that is found in our children from infancy on.

The second truth Christian parents must keep in mind in training their children is their need for the cross of Jesus Christ. This does not mean, of course, that as parents we must attempt to convert our children. It does not mean that our children are without Christ until later in life. We certainly baptize our infant children with this assurance in mind, “… for as they (our children) are without their knowledge partakers of the condemnation in Adam, so are they again received unto grace in Christ.”

Parents, however, are called to instruct their children concerning their daily need for sorrow over sin and forgiveness in the cross of Christ. Children must be trained to bow in humility before God and confess their sins. They must be reminded constantly to seek for their righteousness not in themselves but in the cross of Christ alone. Likewise, children must be taught to walk in daily conversion before God, mortifying the old man of sin and putting on the new man in Christ. From infancy on, a child must be trained to hate sin and to live a life of thankfulness before God.”

That this was Martin Luther’s view of the training of children comes to light in the advice he gives parents concerning the method of training their children. Though Luther spends time on many different aspects of Christian pedagogy, we concentrate on only three of them.

In the first place, Luther presents instruction to parents, which we, who live in an age of prosperity and affluence, do well to heed. Parents must not spoil their children. Parents can do this in various ways. They can, when their children are young, ignore their wrongs (sins) and, instead of reprimanding or disciplining them, pass off what they do as minor or even cute. Luther spoke these appropriate words in a sermon on the fourth commandment.

The first destroyers of their own children are those who neglect them and knowingly permit them to grow up without the training and admonition of the Lord. Even if they do not harm them by a bad example, they still destroy them by yielding to them. They love them too much according to the flesh and pamper them saying: They are children, they do not understand what they are doing. And they are speaking the truth. But neither does a dog or a horse or a mule understand what it is doing. However, see how they learn to go, to come, to obey, to do and leave undone what they do not understand. … These parents will, therefore, bear the sins of their children because they make these sins their own.

A parent must never allow his children, no matter what their age, to do wrong and view it as mere ignorance of what is right.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hincke-Santaclaus

George Hinke. Selection from his series on Santa Claus.

 

Decision: The Wide or Narrow Gate?

The Narrow and Wide Gate

Why does the Christian faith describe such a difficult journey through life?

Matthew 7:13-14: 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

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The Narrow Gate – a drawing by Charlotte Reihlen (1862)

Charlotte Reihlen was converted to the Christian faith by the Rev. Ludwig Hofacker of Stuttgart. Her conversion made her husband angry and he left her and took a boat to the United States. While in America, her husband repented of his sin and decided to return home to his wife in Germany. Charlotte founded a Deaconess House and a middle school for girls. She probably educated 500 young girls and women.

The painting is an allegory of passages from Scripture and there are many points that are unexplained, ambiguous, and subject to criticism. For example, the fence between the two paths and the Prodigal son on the narrow path.

Luther: Martin Luther touches on this in Concerning Christian Liberty, when he writes, “Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is.”

Luther understood that faith does not lead to a journey on the easy path. In Concerning Christian Liberty, Luther writes of our obligation to our neighbor and people we may not even have a relationship with. Following the life of Jesus, accepting those who hurt and abuse us, forgiving sins, and resisting temptation are the most difficult things in life. People who have faith in Jesus Christ discover the meaning of life and the joy of living an abundant life in God’s grace!

 Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

Hymn Parade – When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Hymn Parade: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts (1707)

 To what extent is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ the single most important event in world history?

Galatians 6:14     May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQlJm-5_Ll4

  1. When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride.
  2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.
  3. See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
  4. Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748) wrote hymns that reflected the theme of the sermon and in a poetic style that was ideal for congregational singing. Before Isaac Watts, hymns often supplemented the Psalms or based on the strict interpretation of Scripture. Isaac Watts is credited with writing 750 hymns! The hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross is inspired by the most important event in human and personal history!

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Christ on the Cross was painted in 1627 by Peter Paul Rubens

In this painting, Jesus Christ is shown crucified on a cross with three women beneath him weeping with sympathy. Jesus is based in the center of the painting to clearly state the importance of His sacrifice and that the subject of this painting is religious. The use of darker colors makes the sacrifice of Jesus to appear as sympathetic and personal for the viewer. Imagine the impact of the perspective of this painting around the same time as the Pilgrims and Puritans were coming to Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colony.

Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. “God forbid,” says the Apostle, “that I should glory in anything as dangerous as the false apostles glory in because what they glory in is a poison that destroys many souls, and I wish it were buried in hell. Let them glory in the flesh if they wish and let them perish in their glory. As for me I glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He expresses the same sentiment in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, where he (Paul) says: “We glory in tribulations”; and in the twelfth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians: “Most gladly, therefore, will l rather glory in my infirmities.” According to these expressions the glory of a Christian consists in tribulations, reproaches, and infirmities.

But the Cross of Christ is not to be understood here as the two pieces of wood to which He was nailed, because it is all the afflictions of the believers whose sufferings are Christ’s sufferings. Elsewhere Paul writes: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)

It is good for us to know this lest we sink into despair when our opponents persecute us. Let us bear the cross for Christ’s sake. It will ease our sufferings and make them light as Christ says in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. “The world is crucified unto me,” means that I condemn the world. “I am crucified unto the world,” means that the world in turn condemns me. I detest the doctrine, the self-righteousness, and the works of the world. The world in turn detests my doctrine and condemns me as a revolutionary heretic. Thus the world is crucified unto us and we unto the world.

In this verse Paul expresses his hatred of the world. The hatred was mutual. As Paul, so we are to despise the world and the devil. With Christ on our side we can defy him and say: “Satan, the more you hurt me, the more I oppose you.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

 

Jesus Washes the Feet of His Disciples

Why do so many people consider a pedicure to be necessary?

John 13:1-17     It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

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Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples by Jacopo Tintoretto (1547)

This painting is from the wall of the 12th century church, San Marcuola in Venice. In the painting we also see the celebration of the Last Supper. The scene to the right of Jesus washing the feet of Peter and another disciple illustrates the example of humility and service to others. This work was acquired by King Charles I of England and later purchased by Luis de Haro, who gave it to King Felipe IV, who had it hung in the sacristy at El Escorial, where it remained until it entered the Prado Museum in 1936.

The fascinating part of this paining is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is washing the feet of his followers. What may be of even greater interest is that the other disciples in the background are also getting ready to have their feet washed. Their motivation had to be Jesus’ statement in verse 8 to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” For Tintoretto and us, we know Jesus is not just washing feet but cleansing us of all our sins and imperfections of character. Jesus is also pictured as an ordinary person or as one who is also equal to us. A clear reference to Renaissance humanism or more specifically to the teaching of Martin Luther that Jesus Christ is both God and man.

Martin Luther preached in his Maundy Thursday sermon the importance of every Christian washing the feet of others!

“Again, we must understand by the term “feet-washing” a disposition which not only willingly serves others in a humble spirit, but which is also ready to forgive the failings of the brethren, as St. Paul says: “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

We are often inclined to think: If only our neighbor had not this or that failing, we would gladly associate with him; but his many faults seem to us insufferable and repulsive. Let us bear in mind, whenever we observe such shortcomings in our husband, wife, child, servants, neighbors and others, that we have an excellent occasion for feet-washing. Let us do it then; that is, let us bear with mildness such infirmities, and seek to relieve others of them, always aware that this world is really a filthy cesspool, which we cannot pass without soiling our feet. This happens to me and to you, and to everyone. Should we therefore run away into deserts and solitudes, and associate with no one, as formerly the monks did? No, it is a Christian duty to wash the feet of others, we must stay where they are. We must be among the people who wade through unclean, filthy places. We must unbend our proud reserve, and though our feet should be clean and pretty, it behooves us to carry water, rags, soap and brush to cleanse and wash the feet of those who need such ablution.

To do this we must obey the word of the Apostle and “bear one another’s burdens”; we must right willingly assist the weak and needy, exercise patience and compassion, give them our hand for a support, and instruct and guide them to a purer and better life. If we are prudent, wise and learned, we ought therefore not to despise the simple and silly, but should so much the more exercise our skill to help them and to improve their condition. If we are pious, chaste and temperate let us not judge others harshly who have not such virtues, but let us strive to turn them from their evil way and lead them to do what is right. If we have not the faults which we notice in our brother, let us thank God that it is so; but at the same time we must not forget that we may have other failings which need patience and assistance from others. On the other hand, our neighbors have gifts with which they can help us in our infirmities; and even if they should be unable to help us even in the least, they are still our neighbors, whom we should treat with Christian love, as God has commanded us. Let harmony and friendship prevail among us as much as possible, and to this end let us exercise the spirit of humility.

What a pleasant, quiet, Christian life we could lead, if we would only be ready ever to wash each other’s feet! The one would assist and defend the other; we would all exercise patience and mildness and have no other aim but to make each other happy. Then might we be comforted by the assurance that we had, to some extent at least, complied with the command of Christ, and might appropriate the word of our Lord: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” But if we are derelict in the performance of our duty in this regard, we will feel a piercing sting in our hearts and be unhappy people, devoid of grace and joy.

From this we learn what this feet-washing means; it teaches a humble, friendly and Christ-like spirit, which Christians should, under all circumstances, manifest in their intercourse with each other. The Lord desires to direct our thoughts to the necessity of humility and condescension ; therefore He performed this ceremony of feet-washing shortly before His death. No matter what our ability may be, we dare not boast on account of our great endowments, but must reason thus: By giving us greater gifts than others, God meant that we should employ them in the service of others, and that we should cultivate so much the more a spirit of lowliness, and thrust the devil aside with his promptings to pride and arrogance.

The Lord, however, wishes to teach us, just here, another and more important lesson in regard to His person. When Peter refuses to be washed, Jesus answers him: “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” In these words Christ refers not to the external washing of the feet, but to the washing from sin by His blood shed upon the cross, which washing still is efficacious among the believers in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Such washing is no example; for we can cleanse neither ourselves nor others from sin. The Son of God, the Lamb of God, who bore the sins of the world, can do it, and He alone. They who are washed of Christ confess that God in mercy, through His Son, pardoned and forgave their sins, and therefore they are ready to forgive the wrong which others may have done unto them, as Christ teaches in Matthew 18 and as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

It is therefore evident that we should practice this feet-washing during our whole life. Amen.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

Joseph Resists the Advances of Potiphar’s Wife

Joseph Resists the Advances of Potiphar’s Wife

Why did God allow Joseph to go to prison after resisting adultery?

Genesis 39:7-23 Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

300px-Guido_Reni_(Italian_-_Joseph_and_Potiphar's_Wife_-_Google_Art_Project

Joseph likely came to Egypt around the time of the Hyksos invasion around 1900-1850 B.C.E. or 400 years before the Exodus. He was purchased by Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. He was recognized for his ability and promoted to manager of the household.

Although Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him on several occasions, Joseph resisted her temptations. Rembrandt captures this moment of moral strength by raising his left hand to shield himself from her and attempts to leave the room. During a physical struggle, Potiphar’s wife grabs Joseph’s robe and accuses him of rape. Unfortunately for Joseph, his robe was sufficient evidence to convict him or rape and he is sent to prison.

Luther respected Joseph’s resistance to the temptations of seduction and encouraged chaste living in his sermons and lectures. Although he was sent to prison, his trust and faith in God became stronger instead of weaker. Luther understands this as an example of trust.

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Temptation of Christ

Do temptations always test our faith?

Matthew 4: 1-11: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

temptations-of-christ

The Temptations of Christ Fresco in Sistine Chapel 1480-1482 by Sandro Botticello

The Temptations of Christ depicts three scenes from the gospels. The story takes place in the midst of people rather than in the isolation of the desert. This application about sin and temptation in our daily lives would speak directly to the hearts of the people and to the clergy in the Sistine Chapel as it calls for repentance.

On the left, Jesus who has been fasting, is confronted by Satan who is disguised as a hermit, to turn the stones in the desert to bread. The second scene in the close-up below, Satan tempts Jesus to challenge God’s promise that the angels will protect Him. He tempts Jesus to jump from the cliff. In the third scene, Satan promises Jesus all the beauties and wealth of the world if He will deny God.

Temptation in Detail-Sandro_Botticelli

Close-up view of the upper right section of the painting

Luther, in his sermon in 1525 during the Peasants’ Revolt said: “But in spiritual matters this temptation is powerful when one has to do with the nourishment not of the body but of the soul. Here God has held before us the person and way, by which the soul can be forever nourished in the richest manner possible without any want, namely Christ, our Savior. But this way, this treasure, this provision no one desires. Everybody seeks another way, other provisions to help their souls.

The real guilty ones are those who would be saved through their own work; these the devil sets conspicuously on the top of the temple. They follow him and go down where there is no stairway; they believe and trust in their own work where there is no faith nor trust, no way nor bridge, and break their necks. But Satan makes use of and persuades them through the Scriptures to believe that the angels will protect them, and that their way, works and faith are pleasing to God, and who called them through the Scriptures to do good works; but they do not care how falsely they explain the Scriptures.

Who these are, we have identified often enough and very fully, namely, work righteous persons and unbelieving hypocrites under the name of being Christians and among the congregation of Christian people. For the temptation must take place in the holy city and one temptation is seldom against another.

In the first temptation want and hunger are the reasons that we should not believe; and by which we become anxious to have a full sufficiency, so that there is no chance for us to believe.

In the second temptation, however, the abundance and the full sufficiency are the reasons that we do not believe, by which we become tired of the common treasure, and every one tries to do something through his own powers to provide for his soul. So we do; if we have nothing, then we doubt God and believe not; if we have abundance, then we become tired of it and wish to have something different, and again we fail to believe. There we flee and turn against want and seek abundance: here we seek want and flee from the abundance we have. No, whatever God does for us, is never right. Such is the bottomless, wickedness of our unbelief.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

 

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

How are wages, wealth, and inheritance understood in this story?

 Matthew 20:1-16  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

This Gospel reading is traditionally read in churches on the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday, which is also the ninth Sunday before Easter. (Septuagesima Sunday) It tells us that we are all sinners and in need of the Grace of Jesus Christ!

Rembrandt_-_Parable_of_the_Laborers_in_the_Vineyard

The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard by Rembrandt (1637)

Rembrandt uses darkness to engage the viewer in this scene of two laborers arguing with the landlord about their pay as the workers to the right talk among themselves. The wife of the landlord is the accountant and sits at the table with the open ledger book. This parable is only found in the Gospel of Matthew (a former tax collector) a landowner is paying his workers at the end of the day. The controversy developed when the workers who labored all day received the same wages as part time workers who worked for only a few hours. The perspective Rembrandt creates is for the viewer to look at the scene from the outside, perhaps through a window. This painting is at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The excerpt below is from a sermon Martin Luther preached on Septuagesima Sunday in 1528, the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the ninth Sunday before Easter.

“Hence the substance of the parable in today’s Gospel consists not in the penny, what it is, nor in the different hours; but in earning and acquiring, or how one can earn the penny; that as here the first presumed to obtain the penny and even more by their own merit, and yet the last received the same amount because of the goodness of the householder. Thus God will show it is nothing but mercy that He gives and no one is to arrogate to himself more than another. Therefore He says I do thee no wrong, is not the money Mine and not thine; if I had given away thy property, then thou wouldst have reason to murmur; is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ?

Now in this way Christ strikes a blow first against the presumption of those who would storm their way into heaven by their good works; as the Jews did and wished to be next to God; as hitherto our own clergy have also done. These all labor for definite wages, that is, they take the law of God in no other sense than that they should fulfill it by certain defined works for a specified reward, and they never understand it correctly, and know not that before God all is pure grace. This signifies that they hire themselves out for wages, and agree with the householder for a penny a day; consequently their lives are bitter and they lead a career that is indeed hard.

Now when the Gospel comes and makes all alike, as Paul teaches in Romans 3:23, so that they who have done great works are no more than public sinners, and must also become sinners and tolerate the saying: “All have sinned”, Romans 3:23, and that no one is justified before God by his works; then they look around and despise those who have done nothing at all, while their great worry and labor avail no more than such idleness and reckless living. Then they murmur against the householder, they imagine it is not right; they blaspheme the Gospel, and become hardened in their ways; then they lose the favor and grace of God, and are obliged to take their temporal reward and trot from him with their penny and be condemned; for they served not for the sake of mercy but for the sake of reward, and they will receive that and nothing more, the others however must confess that they have merited neither the penny nor the grace, but more is given to them than they had ever thought was promised to them. These remained in grace and besides were saved, and besides this, here in time they had enough; for all depended upon the good pleasure of the householder.”

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org

The Calling of Matthew (Levi)

Why did Matthew (and others) immediately decide to follow Jesus?

Matthew: 9:9-12:   As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 5:27: 27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Caravaggio_calling_Matthew

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Caravaggio (1600)

The Calling of Saint Matthew is one of the first works of Michelangelo Caravaggio and is located in the chapel of the French congregation’s church in Rome, San Luigi dei Francesi. Matthew was a Jewish tax collector in Capernaum, and is also known as Levi. Matthew was considered greedy and rich and Jesus asked him to give up his worldly possessions and take to the straight and narrow path.

In this painting, Caravaggio depicts the very moment when Matthew first realizes he is being called. Although it is difficult to see, Jesus appears outside of the room through a window. This is the artist’s way of respecting the literal interpretation of what is written in the Bible that “Jesus saw Matthew sitting at his booth.”

Martin Luther interpreted the calling of the Matthew, Andrew and others as examples of ministers of God’s Word who are called to proclaim the message of forgiveness and salvation. Jesus called common and ordinary people (day laborers, fishermen, and sinful tax collectors) to preach that Jesus came to save and to announce the forgiveness of sins. He did this because forgiveness brings life and salvation and creates the environment for how the Holy Spirit leads people to trust God, grow in faith, and respond with praise, prayer, love, and service for others! (Robert Kolb. Luther and the Stories of God, 135)

Comments: hbitten@reverendluther.org