Martin Luther in his Church Postils sermonized about the 10 Lepers in Luke 17:11-19. It seems to be a pretty straightforward text dealing with the Lepers faith and Christ’s love. IN the midst of the Reformation however nothing was simple. Roman doctrine had used the story of the 10 Lepers to be a “sedes doctrinae” meaning a base or seat of doctrine. That is where clear passages of Scripture that treat individual doctrines are proof passages for that doctrine. In this case and in this story, when Jesus tells the lepers to “go and show the priests”, that became the proof for private confession. It is a sad state of affairs that a good thing, private confession with a Pastor, was ruined by the Roman concept of confession and works etc. Luther was emphatic that private confession was important and he practiced it himself to the end of his life. John Bugenhagen was his confessor. At the same time it was obvious that private confession for most folks had become a magic talisman and that the proper balance had to be sought between the salutary of confession and the superstitious. Luther tried to explain that confession was good right and salutary but the forced and coerced confession that was taking place was wrong. It is from the mercy of God that we get the chance to confess and be forgiven and it should not be a source of revenue for the church or the priest.
At any rate there are many Pastors that want to reintroduce private confession and find it hard slog for many reasons. In the meantime the exposition of Luther on Luke 17: 11-19, contains this gem.
Tell me, who had given these lepers a letter and seal that Christ would hear them? Where is there any experience and feeling of his grace? Where is the information, knowledge or certainty of his goodness? Nothing of the kind is here. What then is here? A free resignation and joyful venture on his imperceptible, untried and unknown goodness. Here there is no trace in which they might discover what he would do, but his mere goodness alone is kept in view, which fills them with such courage and venture to believe he would not forsake them. Whence, however, did they receive such knowledge of his goodness, for they must have known of it before, be they ever so inexperienced and insensible of it? Without doubt from the good reports and words they had heard about him, which they had never yet experienced. For God’s goodness must be proclaimed through his Word, and thus we must build upon it untried and inexperienced.