The gist of preaching is “Behold your God.”

Say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God! He mentions the doctrine that should be preached. This is the gist of your preaching: Behold your God! “Promote God alone, His mercy and grace. Preach Me alone.” The rest, the ungodly, preach the doctrines and works of men, their own rules and righteousnesses. This herald must avoid that kind of teaching and speak of Christ alone. In Him alone rests all our salvation.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66


Luther on Isaiah 40:2

2. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

So here, the heart, groaning and sighing, is comforted by the Spirit, for the Spirit speaks to the heart as He wills. Do you want a gracious God? He answers: “You have a gracious God.” Do you want to be comforted? He answers: “You are comforted.” Here, then, you observe God’s people, afflicted and sad. To them the Gospel is spoken, to their heart and feeling. For Gospel preachers are commanded to say joyful things, more than the heart can grasp, as Paul says (Rom. 8:26), “with sighs too deep for words.” So these groans are comforted with consolations too deep for words. Let the preacher say, then: “I not only preach Christ to you as the One who forgives, but I also give you His righteousness, so that, clothed with Him, you may have all that is His. The comfort is therefore far more excellent than all groanings. Do you want to be holy? I will make you holy, yes, most holy through Christ.”

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

Nagel on Matthew 4:1-11

        The names put on Jesus at His baptism were Son of God and Suffering Servant. With those names came what was His to do. The voice from heaven spoke words from Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42. “Son of God” was used to describe the people of Israel; the people of Israel are gathered up in their king. The Davidic title, Son of God, is put on Jesus at His baptism, which is His anointing to kingship. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). “Beloved” and “with whom I am well pleased” were said in Isaiah of that Son of God, that Servant of God. We will hear the names “Son” and “Servant” again at Jesus’ transfiguration as He stands with Moses and Elijah, speaking of the death that He would accomplish.
Then we are told Christ would make Himself a sacrifice for sin. He will make many to be accounted righteous, for He will bear their iniquities. Such is the Son, Servant of God, the King who stands for His people, the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The next thing that Matthew tells us is that
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted
by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and
                                               afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to
                                               him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to
become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man
shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that proceed
from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4 RSV)
The last words from the mouth of God to Jesus were “This is My beloved Son, in whom I well pleased (Matthew 3:17). The tempter cast doubt on these words: “If You are the Son of God.” This is similar to the first temptation that involved us all: “Hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1). The devil is saying, “Doesn’t God want you to have food? Doesn’t He want you to have what is good for you? Doesn’t God love you? So take the fruit.” Eve did take the fruit. And with her sin, her taking, her unbelief, she brought all her children into bondage, one from which, try as they may, they can never get free. All their efforts bring them deeper into slavery, no matter how many styles of fig leaves they try.
In Jesus’ temptation, when everything that is wrong with us hangs on Jesus, He did not sin. The words of God come first and are sure: “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus’ victory is not with some magical blast but in the strength of the words of the Lord. The same words have been give to you too. Jesus was tempted to slip away from the words of God, away from the cross, into the bondage and slaveries of power. For Him to grasp power as the way of being a Servant/Son/King would make bad news out of the Good News. It would mean that is indeed the way everything goes. Everybody wants power, even God. Those who look for a big power god get that kind of god. The ways of power and coercion and necessity. God does not want to deal with us with coercion. That is not His saving way with us in Jesus. Jesus came to set us free—no whip, no rope, no slaves. (p. 86-87)

        Religion comes in the next temptation. And what could be more religious than the temple and its pinnacle? The devil knows how to behave himself in church. A telling word of Scripture would be just the thing that is called for. He has one, but one fixed to fit his purpose. No captive is more delicious to the devil’s taste than one he captures by using the words and the name of God. Verbal inspiration is not his primary problem. The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, says Shakespeare. And every heretic can too, says Tertullian. So Satan tempts: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone'” (Matthew 4:6 RSV). You can trust God’s promises, can’t you? Satan certainly sometimes sounds like s reasonably good Lutheran, doesn’t he?
Jesus sees it straight because He says God’s word straight. There won’t be any tempting of God, calling Him up for a miracle, or all those more subtle ways in which we try to get in on God’s power and use it to our purpose–even good purposes, perhaps. But with us, getting control of God, binding Him, is the native meaning of the word religion. Thant can be a dirty word.
Jesus, who refused to do a spectacular miracle in the temple, could not be taken captive there. A few years ago it was quite the thing to say, “You won’t find Jesus here in church. He is out there in the world doing what people need to have done for them there. That is the real Jesus.” Satan seems to follow something of the same line of thought. The devil took Jesus to a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdom of the world and their glory, and said to Him, “All these I will give You if You will fall down and worship Me. You can be king of the lot, Jesus. All the power that is mine I will put at Your disposal. The two of us together can hardly fail, if You will only do things a bit more my way.” (p. 88)

        Satan’s sort of king is not the one who hangs on the cross, the one who resists temptation on His way to the cross. Along that way we follow again with Jesus this Lent, deeply rejoicing in what He does for us, in what is only His to do, in what He does that counts for us, in what He does on the cross by which we come to be forgiven and righteous. “By one man’s obedience. . . shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Only God (who doesn’t have to prove He is God) does it. So hidden, so human, so weak, so hungry, so declining to make it big in the church or in the world. Here is the way of the cross. That is the way Jesus does it.
One expectation of the Messiah would be that He would be invulnerable. Nothing could hurt Him, not even a fall from the pinnacle of the temple. Now there is a sensible sort of Christ. And Satan rides along on our natural way of projecting God and getting maximum mileage with our “religion,” No wonder they had no use for a man who got Himself crucified! There was never such a way of being a king before, of being God’s Son, the Suffering Servant, of being Christ, of being Savior, of being Jesus for you, even to His body broken and His bleed shed—for you. Amen. (p. 89)

Select Sermons of Norman Nagel
First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11
Concordia Seminary (1995)

Preaching is always to the dead and raises them.

Preaching to bound wills means that the dream of being a potentialist, an optimist or pessimist, a delayer and denier is over. God died by a homicide that was religious, state sponsored, and irrevocable, and this historical accident changed everything. God has an accusation to bring, that the sin against the Holy Spirit has been committed with universal complicity. Humans are not right; in fact, they are irredeemable and unforgivable by any measure of justice or any leniency of mercy. The wages of sin is death, so the sinner must die. Categorical preaching concedes no neutrality to the will nor does it concede that the will has any time remaining to change itself once the preacher arrives. That means preaching is always preaching to the dead.

There is no other rhetoric in the world that assumes bound wills who cannot hear because they will not to hear and so willing cannot hear. Preaching is therefore utterly unique as categorical speech, not as some supernatural form of communication called “revelation,” but precisely because it does the impossible in the most down-to-earth way– it gives something that cannot be heard unless God creates a new person to hear it. Preaching also raises the dead.

“Categorical Preaching” by Steven D. Paulson
Justification is For Preaching edited by Virgil Thompson
p. 142

Preaching both the law and gospel is a unique and unsettling occupation

Preaching is the DNA structure of the gospel that selects who shall inherit eternal life, and so if you are determined to preach, you will do so in the face of the world’s worst nightmare: that eternal life hangs upon an historical contingency of an alien person’s choice that excludes self-selection and is absolutely lawless. What are we left with, but only the whims of this particular person, Jesus of Nazareth? If that is not bad enough this person, Jesus, believes himself to have been universally wronged, and may well be correct in that assumption, from what we know about his cross; he is therefore primed for revenge according to the simplest laws of nature or by the law of Israel into which he was born. What hope is there in that?

To get a sense of what is meant in preaching in this way; consider that the Apostle Paul spent little or no time thinking according to the strange category Christians called “conversion,” which begins with a false premise about Jews and is usually confused about what makes a sinner sinful. The Apostle Paul did not so much convert as have his vocation changed from a scribe to a preacher. Moreover, that change was violent to his person, such a change in vocation also meant a total death to the old man. A scribe deals with the law alone and that in terms of what is written. Writing’s conservation of being, of what originally was and will so remain, or even writing’s cohort that tries to make what is written “live” by translation into new contexts, was Paul’s prior occupation as defender of God. Paul, however, was called out of this work to become a preacher for whom the living word beyond the law was set to be the falling and rising of many––his vocation radically changed and so the old Paul was dead leaving only the Christian.

Preaching both the law and gospel is a unique and unsettling occupation. It is the work of withdrawing another person’s freedom in relation to the law in order to give a freedom apart from the law in faith itself. The withdrawal of freedom is a terrible thing to behold, and is naturally opposed with every animal instinct for survival. This requires preachers to recognize how their work systematically emerges out of the doctrine of election, and election is the worst human spectacle imaginable. To take up this vocation is to enter this fearful spectacle of preaching, and to ask, if God indeed does us this means to withdraw freedom according to the law…

“Categorical Preaching” by Steven D. Paulson
Justification is For Preaching edited by Virgil Thompson
p. 125-126

Ministers of the Law

Paul has good reason for calling the minister of the Law the minister of sin, for the Law reveals our sinfulness. The realization of sin in turn frightens the heart and drives it to despair. Therefore all exponents of the Law and of works deserve to be called tyrants and oppressors.

The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin. That this is the purpose of the Law can be seen from the account of the giving of the Law as reported in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus. Moses brought the people out of their tents to have God speak to them personally from a cloud. But the people trembled with fear, fled, and standing aloof they begged Moses: “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” The proper office of the Law is to lead us out of our tents, in other words, out of the security of our self-trust, into the presence of God, that we may perceive His anger at our sinfulness.

All who say that faith alone in Christ does not justify a person, convert Christ into a minister of sin, a teacher of the Law, and a cruel tyrant who requires the impossible. All merit-seekers take Christ for a new lawgiver.

In conclusion, if the Law is the minister of sin, it is at the same time the minister of wrath and death. As the Law reveals sin it fills a person with the fear of death and condemnation. Eventually the conscience wakes up to the fact that God is angry. If God is angry with you, He will destroy and condemn you forever. Unable to stand the thought of the wrath and judgment of God, many a person commits suicide.

Martin Luther: Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535)
Trans. Theodore Graebner

Sasse “Liturgy and Lutheranism” (1948)

Is it really necessary as a final point to emphasize that renew of genuine liturgy implies neither a depreciation nor a crowding out of preaching? That is the usual objection whenever liturgical renewal is discussed. It is a perfectly valid objection; of course, if the liturgical renewal involves merely an artificial ceremonial and an aesthetic ritualism, in which blase congregations, whose jaded taste no longer appreciates the simple Gospel and the homely Sacraments, try to find a substitute for that which is the very essence of Christian worship. Preaching––without which there is no worship in the church militant––will indubitably perish in such circles. Possibly preaching has already perished, where preachers can no longer preach, and congregations can no longer bear to listen to, real sermons.
The authentic liturgy of the church, however, and authentic preaching of the Gospel have always belonged together, with the sermon constituting a basic and indispensable component of the liturgy. “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the Breaking of Bread, and in prayers,” we read of the first Christian congregation. Synaxis and Eucharist, the of the Word and the service of the Sacrament were, it is true, separately conducted, but in the earliest period the latter followed the former immediately as the famed letter of Pliny the Younger shows when properly understood. The proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of Holy Communion belong together. It is not without significance that the chiefest liturgy of the Eastern church bears the name of St. John, the fourth century Doctor and patriarch who as Orthodoxy”s greatest preacher was called “Chrysostom“––the Golden Mouthed.
The ancient church was a preaching church. So was the church of the Reformation; and the great renovator of the liturgy, Blessed Martin Luther, who gave Germany and in a sense all Christendom the purified mass, was Germany’s and possibly the whole Western church’s greatest preacher. It was he who also restored to the sermon its real function and content, the obscuring of which had been the basic occasion for the medieval pagan invasion of the Christian liturgy. Actually no movement looking toward liturgical renovation cannot function without being at the same time a renewal of preaching. This kind of service that we seek, in which the Sacrament of the Altar again receives the proper place that it had in the ancient church and in the church of the Reformation and that it lost only through the ravages of Pietism and the age of Enlightenment, will take away from the sermon nothing which properly belongs to it. Of course, the sermon will have to be less emotion and better disciplined than the average modern Protestant pulpit discourse. The preacher will have to speak more to the point at issue and less about himself and his opinions. The subjectivism and emotionalism of the modern sermon, like its poverty of doctrinal substance, is tolerable only in a service that lacks authentic liturgical character. Yet if a revival of preaching in this sense were to offer less time and occasion for napping in church, alleged to have been not infrequent in the past, so much the better for the whole service!
How are we to explain this indissoluble connection between the sermon and the liturgy? Underlying it is the deeper nexus of the means of grace, the connection between the Gospel and the Sacraments, which probably no one understood as profoundly as did Martin Luther. Without the Word there is no Sacrament. Without the Word contained in the baptismal formula which Christ prescribed there is not Baptism; without the Words of Institution there is not Sacrament of the Altar. Contrariwise, without Holy Baptism and Holy Communion the church could preach as much a she wanted to, but her preaching would cease to be a proclamation of the Gospel; and the organizations which that preaching would create would be at most societies for the propagation of a world-view, but not Christian congregations. Without the Sacraments there would be no church at all.
We do not know why it pleased our Lord Jesus Christ to bind his presence among us to the simple Word and Sacred Scriptures, to the preaching of the Word, and to the homely Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. For us it must be enough to know that He has done so; and thus all our liturgical effort becomes at bottom simply our praying and our striving that of his mercy God would––”Preserve to us till life is spent / his Holy Word AND Sacrament.”

Scripture and the Church: Selected Essays of Hermann Sasse
edited by Jeffrey J. Kloha and Ronald R. Feuerhahn
p. 45-46