Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Luther on John 1:29


Anyone who wishes to be saved must know that all his sins have been placed on the back of this Lamb! Therefore John points this Lamb out to his disciples, saying: “Do you want to know where the sins of the world are placed for forgiveness? Then don’t resort to the Law of Moses or betake yourselves to the devil; there, to be sure, you will find sins, but sins to terrify you and damn you. But if you really want to find a place where the sins of the world are exterminated and deleted, then cast your gaze upon the cross. The Lord placed all our sins on the back of this Lamb. As the prophet Isaiah declares (53:6): “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way,” the one hither, the other yon. One sought God in this manner, another in a different way; there were countless modes of looking for God.”
And as it happens when one loses the right way, and, for instance, turns in the wrong direction at a crossroad, one false decision leads to a hundred others. Thus the one chose the rule of St. Francis for help, the other the order of St. Benedict. And pope and Turk, each according to his own judgment, fabricated his own means of penance for sin. But it is written: “They have all gone astray.” But now, which is the right way, the way that guards against going astray? The farther one strays from the right road, the more confused one grows. Isaiah says that the right way is this: “God placed all our sins upon Him and smote Him for the sins of the people; when we all went astray, God put all our sins on the back of His Lamb, and upon no other. He ordained the Lamb to bear the sins of the entire world.”
Therefore a Christian must cling simply to this verse and let no one rob him of it. For there is no other comfort either in heaven or on earth to fortify us against all attacks and temptations, especially in the agony of death. And whoever believes that this Lamb bears the sins of all the world must regard pope and Turk as the Antichrist. For the pope has taught that the Christian must be concerned with bearing his own sin, atoning for it with alms and the like. This is his shameless lie even to the present day. But if what he teaches is true, then I, not Christ, am yoked and burdened with my sin. And then I would necessarily be lost and damned. But Christ does bear the sin–not only mine and yours or that of any other individual, or only of one kingdom or country, but the sin of the entire world. And you, too, are a part of the world…
This is the basis of all Christian doctrine. Whoever believes it, is a Christian; whoever does not, is no Christian, and will get what he has coming to him. The statement is clear enough: “This is the Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world.” Moreover, this text is the Word of God, not our word. Nor is it our invention that the Lamb was sacrificed by God and that, in obedience to the Father, this Lamb took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. But the world refuses to believe this; it does not want to concede the honor to this dear Lamb that our salvation depends entirely on His bearing our sin. The world insists on playing a role in this too. But the more it aspires to do in atonement for sin, the worse it fares. For there is no atoner but this Lamb; God recognizes no other.

From Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4,” in Luther’s Works, John 1:29, 22:161-170.

Note: Luther, the first 'Evangelical'.