THE WEEK OF TRINITY XI – MONDAY
LESSON: 1 PETER 5:6‒11
“The tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Luke 18:13
It seems that the tax collector must have heard something of God’s Word beforehand, that he believed this Word and became a godly man as a result of this, as Paul says, “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Romans 10:17). When God’s Word takes hold of a man’s heart, it purifies him and makes him truly pious and godly. The evangelist does not expressly say here that the tax collector had heard the Gospel, but he gives certain indications that he had heard it somewhere or other, for he makes the tax collector exclaim, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Such an exclamation is beyond all the powers of human reason. Therefore he must have become acquainted previously with the fact that God is gracious, merciful, and friendly to all who recognize their sins, who call upon Him and desire His grace. He had heard that God in His heart of hearts is gracious to all who humble themselves and who look to Him for comfort and consolation.
The beginning of all true piety must never be sought in ourselves but in the Word of God. God must first let His Word sound forth in our hearts. Through this Word we learn to know God and come to faith in Him. After this, we are equipped for good works. Accordingly, we must also infer here that the tax collector in some way or other heard the Word of God. If this were not so, it would certainly have been quite impossible for him to confess himself to be a sinner as the Gospel reports it. He would not have been humbled and beaten his breast unless there were true faith in his heart beforehand.
SL 11:1487 (5‒6)
PRAYER: Thanks and praise be to You, heavenly Father, for the precious gift of Your Word. Grant that we may always accept Your Word with our whole heart so that it always proves itself a powerful influence in our lives, fully sanctifying us, for Christ the Savior’s sake. Amen.
Editor’s note: No American Edition (AE) equivalent for today’s sermon excerpt exists at the time of this publication. For an alternate English translation of this sermon, see Lenker, Church Postil—Gospels, 4:336-347.