Unconcerned in the Face of the Devil’s Raging. Luther.
But here we should also learn, on the other hand, that this is our Lord Christ’s way of proceeding. Whenever He intends to save and help, He is accustomed first to act and to make Himself appear in just this way. He permits distress to become extreme when things are most dire so that He may thereafter manifest His power and assistance all the more gloriously and powerfully, driving us to cry out and call upon Him in order to exercise and strengthen our faith, and so that we may experience how He is able in time of distress to help marvelously and, as Psalm 9 [:9] says, “at the right time.”
For He wants to teach us here about…the genuine masterstroke by which He ensnares the devil and brings his guile and attacks to nothing. He does it in this way: He permits the devil to assail Himself and His Christians with great and frightful storms, and moreover makes Himself appear so very weak that it seems as if He were unable to fend off [the devil] or to prevent him. Rather, He allows him to advance until the waves cover the little boat and are now about to swamp it altogether, so that the devil now thinks he finally has Him in his power, with the boat and everything else, so that He cannot escape. And the disciples themselves neither see nor feel anything else, but cry out, saying, “O Lord, we are perishing,” etc.
But watch out for this sleeping and snoring Christ, when He makes it seem as if He saw and heard or knew and could do nothing at all. For when He is altogether weak and (as it appears) unknowing and powerless, and the devil presses hard and snaps his jaws at Him, as if about to devour Him along with His Church, just then He shall awaken and make Himself heard and manifest…When it appears as if He has delayed for too long and let the devil extend his grip too far…then at once…with a flick of His finger—He brings the devil, together with the wind and waves, under His control.
This is what the dear Lord would teach us to believe and hold fast, so that we might not be so frightened and despairing in times of distress but might be of good cheer and unconcerned in the face of the devil’s raging, even when he attempts his worst against us when we are at our weakest. This is what He shows with this example: how He is entirely without any concern or fear in the face of His enemy and all his guile and power, to the extent that He even seems to be careless and incautious…
But even though He knows [the devil’s malice and power] very well, so that He needs no reminding or advice about what He should do, still He is not afraid or frightened at the devil’s anger or guile but is of good cheer and undismayed, being certain that the devil shall not be able to injure or drown Him. He will therefore not give up the natural rest and sleep that He needed at the time, for He knows that He has a God and Father who cares for Him and will protect and defend Him from the devil and all enemies.
He does all this as…[an] example for us…so that we, too, will not be too frightened and anxious or worry ourselves to death even when we see danger and distress at hand, when the devil lies in wait and plots against us or suddenly bursts upon us…But because we know that we have Christ with us, and that it is on His account that the devil attacks us, we should not doubt that He can and will defend and deliver us as well, so that we remain safe in the face of the devil and all his might, so long as Christ Himself remains.
That is why He here also rebukes the unbelief of the disciples, which makes them waver and be dismayed. He says, “O You of little faith! Why are you afraid?” –as if to say: “So! Are you My disciples and yet have such little faith? Do you not see that you have Me with you, and the peril affects Me as well as you? Or do you think that I am no more, that I do not know or realize or consider what the devil has in mind against you and Me, or that he has so quickly gained power over Me, as he thinks?”
With these words He still chastises all such doubts, wavering, and dismay in us all, which proceed from unbelief. How quickly, when the devil begins to rage so abominably and horribly and Christ makes Himself appear weak, do we all think that everything is lost and we must perish….
Though we feel ourselves waver and are dismayed because of the weakness of our faith (for by nature we can do nothing else), we should still be wise enough to run to Christ and cry out and wake Him with our petitions and prayers. For He here makes it known that He delights in such calls and cries, even though they proceed from a weak faith, just as St. Paul in Romans 8 calls them the calling and crying of the Spirit, who helps our weakness and takes our part with inexpressible groans, etc. Indeed, He desires this from us when we feel our weakness and wavering, so that we may cry out and call to Him with confidence, and then He at the right time will extend His help and deliverance.
For He knows that we will not experience of learn to believe in His power and help in any other way than when He brings us to such an extremity that we are forced to cry out and call to Him. And even though He could indeed curb and control the devil’s raging and storms without our crying out and waking Him, nonetheless He wants to be awakened and called upon by us so that we may learn how His power is mighty and invincible in our weakness [2 Cor. 12:9].
Luther, Sermon on Matthew 8:23-27, Jan. 31, 1546.
AE vol. 58, p. 426-428. WA 51: 160-163
- Satan has lost everything. Oculi Sermon 2013. St. Luke 11.14-28 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)