When his friend and patron Fredrick the Wise became seriously ill Martin Luther wrote for him a treatise called “Fourteen Consolations”. In these he consoles a sick and sorrowing and probably frightened man with meditations on suffering that is quite interesting. The meditations are fascinating in themselves, but the reason he wrote them is instructive. He says………….
OUR Lord and Savior Jesus hath left us a commandment, which concerns all Christians alike,— that we should render the, duties of humanity, or (as the Scriptures call them) the works of mercy, to such as are afflicted and under calamity; that we should visit, the sick, endeavor to set free the prisoners, and perform other like acts of kindness to our neighbor, whereby the evils of this present time may in some measure be lightened. ( Luke 6:36; Matthew 25:34 ff.) And of this command our Lord Jesus Christ hath Himself given us the brightest example, in that, out of infinite love to the race of men, He descended out of the bosom of the Father into our misery and prison-cell, that is, our flesh and life so full of ills, and took upon Him the penalty of our sins, in order that we might be saved; as He saith in Isaiah 43:24, “Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins, and wearied Me with thine iniquities.”
Whoever is not moved by so bright an example, and driven by the authority of the divine command, to show forth such works of mercy, he will deservedly hear, in the last judgement, the voice of the angry Judge saying: “Depart from me, thou cursed, into everlasting fire! For I was sick, and thou didst not visit Me; but, basely ungrateful for the many blessings I bestowed on thee and on all the world, thou wouldest not so much as lift a finger to succor thy brethren, nay Me, Christ, thy God and Savior, in thy brethren.” ( Matthew 25:41)