The Greatest Work of Christ

Advent 3 Thursday

Matthew 11:4-6

“Jesus answered and said to them: Go and tell John what you see and hear: The blind see; the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; and the deaf hear, the dead rise up, and the gospel is preached to the poor. And blessed is he who is not offended by me.”

Evidently, among all the works of Christ, there is none greater than preaching the gospel to the poor, since it is tantamount to saying: “The divine promise of all grace and comfort is proclaimed to the poor, offered and presented in and through Christ, so that all sins are to be forgiven, the law is to be fulfilled, the conscience is to be redeemed, and finally, eternal life is to be given to him who believes.” What would be more joyful for a poor, miserable heart and saddened conscience? How could a heart become bolder and more courageous than based on such comforting, rich words and promises? Sin, death, hell, world and devil, and all evil are despised when a poor heart receives such comfort of divine promise and believes it. Making the blind see and raising the dead are, compared to proclaiming the gospel to the poor, rather simple works. This is why he places it last as the greatest and very best among these works. But note that he says: “The gospel is not proclaimed except to the poor.” Without a doubt, he only wants the gospel to be a sermon for the poor, for it is preached to the entire world. And in Mark 16:15, he says: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creatures.” Thus, these poor are certainly not the beggars and bodily poor, but those who are poor in the Spirit, that is, those who do not desire nor love possessions, the crushed poor hearts who, through the torture of their consciences, long and desire so firmly for help and comfort that they desire neither temporal possessions nor honors. Nothing can help them besides having a gracious God. This is true spiritual poverty. These are the ones to whom such a sermon is right and to whom it tastes good in the heart. For them it is as if they had been redeemed from hell and death. Therefore, although the gospel is heard by the whole world, it is received by such spiritually poor people. What is more, the gospel lets itself be preached and proclaimed before the whole world that it is a sermon only for the poor and that no rich
person may grasp it. If you want to grasp it, you must first become poor. Just as Christ says in Matthew 9:13 that he only came to call sinners, although he called the whole world. But his calling was of the kind that it might only be received
by sinners, and all whom he called were to become sinners–but they would not. This is why the gospel was left only to the poor. Likewise, God’s grace was preached before the whole world to the humble so that they would all become humble. But they would not. Thus, you see now who the greatest enemies of the gospel are, namely, the works saints who take pride in their works; for the gospel cannot agree with them at all. They want to be rich in works, while the gospel wants them to be poor. If they do not yield, the gospel also cannot yield since it is God’s imperishable Word.

St. Louis ed., 11:85-86.

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