The WORD

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 14:6–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

 

This is again something extraordinary; but it is the very theme which the evangelist St. John is wont to write about and emphasize, namely, that all our teaching and faith must revolve about Christ and be centered in this one Person. We must discard all other knowledge and wisdom and know absolutely no one else than “Christ crucified,” as St. Paul states, [reftagger title=””]1 Cor. 2:2[/reftagger].

Thus the devil always interferes when he enters heads that are somewhat intelligent and venture to dabble in Scripture to display their smartness. In their conceit they presume to comprehend it all with their mind, to be so profound that no one can fathom them, and to know everything better than they can be told. And yet they never learn that all depends on their knowing the Lord Christ aright.

Here and everywhere the evangelist John wants to warn all who would be Christians and would do what is right how to proceed in divine matters and to know what to seek and learn, namely, that in the eyes of God it is the highest wisdom and knowledge, above all knowledge and wisdom, even if this were angelic, to come to the right knowledge of Christ, to know what one has in Him and that one comes to God only through Him.

For here there are two kinds of sight and of hearing. The one is performed with physical eyes and ears, entirely without the Spirit. This is the way all the Jews looked at Christ—only with their five senses. Thus they ascertained that He hailed from Nazareth and was Mary’s Son. I look at you this way and establish that you were born of a father and a mother, that you are a man or a woman, that you live and act so or so. This is a purely natural and physical sight. But Christ cannot be recognized in this way (nor, for that matter, can His Christians), even if we saw Him every hour before our eyes and heard Him. The second is a spiritual sight, which only Christians have and which takes place by means of faith in the heart. With this—if we are Christians—we must also view and recognize one another. For I do not recognize a Christian by his external appearance and mien, by how he acts and lives, but by the fact that he is baptized and has God’s Word. This makes him a child of God, a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and an heir of eternal life. I do not see this inscribed on his nose or his forehead, nor do I discern it with my physical eye. I see it with the spiritual vision of the heart.

In that manner you must also look at Christ if you want to recognize Him and know who He is, not as your eyes and senses prescribe, but as His Word shows and portrays Him—as born of the Virgin, as the One who died and rose again for you and now sits enthroned as Lord over all things. Then you see not only His form, as your physical eyes do, but also the power and the might of His death and His resurrection. Then you do not call Him a son of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth, as the Jews did, but our only Savior and Lord over all. This position He acquired solely through His ascent into yonder life by way of His suffering and death, by His resurrection and transfiguration. To Him, therefore, everything in heaven and on earth must be subject; and He rules with power in all those who believe in Him, and protects them against all their adversaries.

Therefore we dare go no farther or fix our thoughts on anything but Christ, as though there were any other road or way we should or might travel, as the false saints and reason persistently seek to do. For example, those who are known as Carthusians build themselves a special bridge to heaven by vowing and observing poverty and obedience, by abstaining from meat, from wearing linen garments, from resting at one place longer than a night, ere. In this delusion they suppose that they are on the right road to heaven. But this is a bridge and a stairway made of spider web; the higher they ascend on it, the deeper and the more shamefully they fall into the abyss of hell. For this is not the way; it is sheer delusion, because there is no Christ there to be believed and acknowledged. A barefoot friar with his rope and his wooden shoes belongs in the same category. He fasts much, babbles and gabbles, observes his monastic rules, does not lie down without his cowl, lets the lice devour him, and imagines that he will go straight to heaven—and not he alone; but he presumes that by virtue of his good works and the merits of his order he can draw others up with him.

But this is not traveling the way to heaven. No, it is hastening straight to hell in sheer blindness and in the devil’s deception. This is senseless. Build, make, and seek what you will—when the hour comes for you to leave this life and enter a different one, then you must either take this way alone or be eternally lost. For Christ says: “I am the Way by which one comes to the Father; there is no other way. I and no one else am the Truth and the Life.” You must take this road in order to hold to this Man and to persevere in this faith and confession. You must travel it in suffering and death, saying: “I know no other help or counsel, no salvation or comfort, no way or path, except Christ my Lord alone, who suffered, died, rose, and ascended to heaven for me. I will stay on this road all the way, even though nothing but devil, death, and hell were under and before me. For this is surely the right road and bridge; it is firmer and safer than any stone or iron structure. And heaven and earth would have to collapse before this road would ever deceive me or lead me astray.”

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 24: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 24, p. 36). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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