From “Sermon for Easter 2,” Church Postils (1544)
Those who are in the office of the church – that is, preachers and pastors – especially should learn here how they should act toward the weak and inform. They are to learn to know them as Christ knows us, that is, not to be bitter and harsh toward them with carrying on and blustering or condemning if everything is not always rigorously correct, but gentles and cautious and they deal with them and bear with their weakness until they become stronger. Therefore, the prophet Ezekiel also harshly rebukes the priests and those to how God committed the office of shepherd because they domineered strictly and harshly over the sheep and did not tend of the weak, did not heal the sick, did not bind up the wounded, did not bring back the straying and did not seek the lost (Ezek. 34:4). He says, “I myself will feed my sheep. I will again seek the lost, bring back the straying, bind up the wounded, and tend to the week” (Ezek. 34:15-16).
This shows that even among his little flock, God also has those who are weak, wounded, straying, and even lost, whom he nevertheless recognizes as his sheep. He does not want them to be rejected, but rather tended, bound up, healed, and brought back. Because they did not do this, but only wanted to rule harshly and strictly according to Moses’ government and by the compulsion of the Law, God makes the promise about the kingdom of Christ, in which through the Gospel, he will himself rule and feed his sheep through the true shepherd, Christ.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German priest and theologian, a seminal figure of the Protestant Reformation. His teaching about justification by faith, revealed in his study of the Pauline Epistles, became the core of Protestant teaching about salvation, and inspired a wide-reaching series of reform in Christian ministry, worship, and spiritual practice. His Church Postils were a series of exegetical sermons on the Sunday pericopes that he wrote as models for pastors. Martin Luther is commemorated on February 18 on the calendars of several Lutheran and Anglican Churches. This translation of the text is from Luther’s Works Vol. 77, Benjamin Mayes and James Langebartels, eds (St. Louis: Concordia, 2014).