THE WEEK OF TRINITY XI – SATURDAY

LESSON: LUKE 7:36‒50

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16

The tax collector (Luke 18:9‒14) stands there and humbles himself. He mentions no fasting, no good work; he mentions nothing at all. And yet the Lord says that this man’s sins are not as great as the hypocrite’s. A man must really be bold if, in the face of all this, he would feel inclined to exalt himself above the least of sinners. If I draw myself up even a finger’s breadth above my neighbor, or above the worst of sinners, I am thrown down. The tax collector during his whole life did not commit so many and so great sins as this Pharisee here committed when he said, “God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men,” and lied so that heaven might well have thundered in reply. You hear no word here like the tax collector’s plea: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” God’s mercy, tenderheartedness, and love are clean forgotten.

God is nothing but sheer and pure mercy, and he who does not see this does not believe in God at all, as the psalmist also declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). This is where the unbeliever finishes up with his lack of self-knowledge.

I will add just one more remark here. Even if this man had committed the very worst of sins like deflowering virgins, it would not have been as bad as saying, “God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers.” To be sure, Pharisee, do I hear you? Do you have no need of God? Do you despise His goodness, mercy, love, and all that He is? These are real sins. It is not a question here of open sins breaking out. It is a matter of unbelief in the heart, which we cannot see. This is always the real sin.

SL 11:1493 (20)

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, the consequences of unbelief, cutting ourselves off from all grace and mercy, are truly fearsome and must lead to despair. Keep us firm in faith and duly humble by keeping us close to our Savior, in whose name we also ask this. 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.