Our devotional reading for the feast of St. Thomas, Apostle is taken from Luther’s Works, Volume 69 (Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters
It may be easy to see ourselves in the place of St. Thomas when he doubted Jesus’ resurrection. As you read this excerpt from one of Luther’s sermons, take comfort in knowing that through the Holy Spirit’s work in the water and the Word, God gives you the faith in Christ to trust in His salvation.
St. John writes how Thomas was absent on Easter evening, which was the Lord’s will, not without purpose, for He could very well have come at an hour when He would have found Thomas with the other apostles. But [He did this] for our edification and consolation, so that the resurrection might be all the more strongly attested and proven. . . .
We see what a wretched thing the human heart is when it begins to waver so that it cannot be lifted up. The apostles and Thomas had seen not only that the Lord had risen but also that He had raised three others: Lazarus, and before that the daughter of Jairus and the widow’s son. Among all of them, Thomas was the boldest and bravest and said, “Let us also go with Him and die” [John 11:16]. They were such fine folk . . . and yet they could not believe that the Lord Himself had risen. And so we see in the apostles what things of nothing we are when we are left to ourselves and [God] withdraws His hand. . . . The dear apostle chooses to be damned, because there is no forgiveness of sins or salvation when there is no faith in the resurrection of Christ. . . . So Thomas insists; he refuses to be saved, because he refuses to believe that Christ is risen.
In the example of Thomas, the Holy Spirit shows that without faith we are altogether blind, hardened, and nothing at all. Accordingly we read throughout the Scripture that the human heart is the hardest of all things, above steel and diamond [Zech. 7:12], and also, on the contrary, how it becomes soft, [so that] there is no water or oil so weak and yielding as a despairing human heart. . . . Accordingly, there is no moderation in the human heart: it is either hard, so that it has no interest in God, or altogether despairing, etc.
Thus the apostles were made exceedingly fearful and frightened by the scandal of seeing the Lord die the most shameful death and be buried. . . . Therefore, when the Lord enters, they think it is a ghost. When the human heart is terrified, it cannot be restored. . . . The Lord shows this in the disciples, who are so weak and need so much patching up that though He applies every remedy, He scarcely heals them until He gives them the true strong drink, the Holy Spirit, so that they are entirely drunken with the love of God and fear the world no longer.
Accordingly, it is not the wicked and hardened sinners who are to be comforted, but those who feel sin, death, and hell, so that they may have consolation. . . . Whoever is not poor and afflicted understands nothing of the Gospel.
Devotional reading is taken from Luther’s Works, Volume 69 (Sermons on the Gospel of St. John Chapters 17–20), pages 425–28 © 2009 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.
On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.
Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed is taken from Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986, 1991 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.