Never Tasting Death

Advent 1 Saturday

Matthew 21:5

“Say to the Daughter Zion: “Look, your King comes to you, gentle, and rides on a donkey and on a foal of a beast of burden.”

See, then, whether he does not keep the law that says, “What you want the people to do for you, do this also for them.” Is it not true that everybody wholeheartedly wants somebody else to step forward for his sins, take them upon himself, and destroy them, so that they would no long bite the conscience, and additionally to help him from death and redeem him from hell? What does anybody desire more deeply than to be free from death and hell? Who would not like to be without sin and have a good and joyful conscience to God? Do we not see how all people strive for this with their prayers, fasts, pilgrimages, donations, monkery, and priestcraft? Who drives them but sin, death, and hell? They would like to be safe from these. And if there were a physician in a remote place, all countries would become deserted and everyone would run to the physician, risking possessions, body, and life on the journey. And if Christ himself were entangled in death, sin, and hell like we, he also would want to be helped out of them by someone who would take his sin from him and made his conscience good. Therefore, since he wanted others to do this for him, he goes ahead and does this also for others, as the law says, and steps forward into our sin, goes into death, and overcomes both of them for us, sin as well as death and hell. Henceforth, all who believe in him and call upon his name shall be righteous and saved, without sin and death, and have an eternally good, cheerful, secure, unflinching, blessed conscience, as he says in John 8:51: “Anyone who keeps my words will never taste death;” and John 11:25: “I am the life and the resurrection; anyone who believes in me will never die in eternity; and even if he die, he will nonetheless live.” See, this is the great joy to which the prophet exhorts and says: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion; rejoice, Daughter Jerusalem.” This is the justification and the salvation for which this Savior and King comes. These are his good works, done for us, whereby he fulfills the law. This is why the dying of the believers in Christ is not a dying but a sleeping. For they neither see nor taste death, as Christ here says and as Psalm 4:8 puts it: “I will lie down and sleep in peace; for you have given me good confidence.” This is also why death is called a sleep in Scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:51…See, now you know what good works are. Think and act accordingly. As far as your sin, death, and hell are concerned, beware of them and do not add to them. For in this respect you cannot accomplish anything. Your good works are worth nothing there. You must someone else do the work here: It properly pertains to Christ to do such works himself. You must leave this verse to him: He is the King of Zion who comes in order to be the only justifying Savior. You must destroy sin and death by him and in him through faith. Therefore, beware of those who teach you to do good works to destroy your sin.

St. Louis ed., 11:22-24.

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