A year before he actually died Martin Luther received a handwritten copy of a letter from an Ambassador to a King “Regarding a Horrible Sign Which Occurred in the Shameful Death of Martin Luther”. It was full of frightening images and scenes that would make the horror writers in Hollywood jealous. The idea was to convince folks into coming back to the Roman church because Luther had obviously gone to hell. The problem was he was not dead.
Luther wrote with his usual aplomb –
“And I, Martinus Luther, D., do by these indentures acknowledge and testify that I have received this angry fiction concerning my death on the twenty-first day of March, and that I have read it with considerable pleasure and joy, except the blasphemous portion of the document in which this lie is attributed to the exalted majesty of God. Otherwise I felt quite tickled on my knee-cap and under my left heel at this evidence how cordially the devil and his minions, the Pope and the papists, hate me. May God turn them from the devil!” (Dr. W. H. T. Dau, “Luther Examined and Re-examined.” Found in CTM February 1946 No 2.)
I don’t know what being “tickled on my knee-cap and under my left heel” means. Maybe Chris Matthews can explain that to us. The point is Luther knew his enemies and he knew his God and he knew whom he had believed and was confident that God would keep him and bring him to life everlasting.
Just before he did die Luther repeated Psalm 31:6 four times times and said “Into your hands, I command my spirit. You have saved me, Father, you faithful God” then was silent. He answered no questions until a couple of friends asked him if he was dying in the name of Christ and accepted all of Christ’s teachings. Luther spoke a clear “Ja” and fell asleep. Luther’s last breath was taken at 2:45 am February 18, 1546. All witnesses say he died in peace.
I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord. I have hated those who regard useless idols;
But I trust in the Lord. Into your hands, I command my spirit. You have saved me, Father, you faithful God.”I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord. I have hated those who regard useless idols; But I trust in the Lord.
A whole life of struggle against the idolatry of human effort in salvation had to be bolstered by a strong trust in God the Mighty Fortress and Jesus the mighty Savior. Luther spoke his five fold confession in a house a short walk from the church in which he was baptized 63 years before. He always fortified himself with the words, “I am baptized”.
His influence cannot be measured. You ought to hear “A Mighty Fortress” sung in Kswahili or find his seal over a doorway in a village at the edge of the world to start to get it. If you know nothing about him except what is written here, remember this piece of advice – “When the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”