IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 1 (Martin and Katie Luther)

IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 1 by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson, NC


If They Made It, you can make it tooHave you ever looked at those great people in history and wondered what their marriage was like? “How did they do it?” “They couldn’t have problems like we have to deal with.” “They had to be so compatible.” “My marriage could never be like that.” This morning we will take a realistic look at the first such couple in history and our message is titled – “WHEN BOTH ARE HARDHEADED.”

Romans 13:8-10   8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Overall Background: Listen once again to verse 9 and 10 – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Before we start thinking about the family across the street or the people next door or someone at work, listen to what Martin Luther, the German Reformer, said, “The Christian should love his wife. He is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.” And I would add the husband should be the deepest love for the wife.

Sadly in many homes, people are being stripped, robbed, and left for dead emotionally and mentally like the man in the Good Samaritan story. Many spouses are just like the priest and the Levite; they pass by on the other side. How beautiful is that marriage where one or the other spouse becomes the Good Samaritan, who came by and had compassion on that Jewish man. He stopped knowing the robbers could be nearby and rob him and beat him too. He bandaged his wounds, poured oil and wine. He set him on his animal and took him to the inn and took care of him. The next day, he even paid two denarii to the innkeeper to watch over the man and promised to return and pay for anything more that will cost. Sadly, many spouses are more like the robber than even the priest or the Levite. We are the one leaving our nearest neighbor stripped, wounded, and left for dead.

This morning we will look at the marriage of Martin and Katie Luther. Who were they? If it weren’t for Martin Luther, there wouldn’t have been a Protestant Reformation. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, you would not hear – “all you have to do is believe in Jesus and you’re saved.” If it weren’t for Martin Luther, you wouldn’t have that the English translation as it is today. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, there wouldn’t have been a John Wesley because Wesley read Luther’s preface on Romans and got saved. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, we would not have singing in church today.

What many people do not know is that he was married to a woman named Katherine and both of them were hard headed. Let’s look at their life.


1. THEY MET UNDER VERY UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk and Professor of
Bible in the University of Wittenberg, Germany. He had struggled with his salvation for some time. He had been to Rome and seen all the holy relics. He had gone from place to place saying mass at all the holy churches. He even climbed the steps leading to the Chapel of St. Lawrence called the Scala Sancta – 28 steps. Supposedly these steps came from Jerusalem on which Jesus had walked down after he faced Pilate. It was said that if a person were to climb these steps on his knees, for each step, he/she would get 15 years of indulgence. Later he said, “I was no closer to God on the top than I was on the bottom.” He went home and began reading the Book of Romans and it dawned on him that God gives us His righteousness when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. “The just shall live by faith.” So on 31st October 1517, he decided to nail a pamphlet with 95 theses to the Wittenberg Door. Long story short – little did he realize that he had lit the flame of the Protestant Reform

Martin’s writings were creating quite a stir. Monks and priests realized that they didn’t have to be celibate in order to serve God. They began to renounce their vows of celibacy and began to get married. Even Luther thought about it but then said  – “Good heavens, they won’t give me a wife.” He was a hunted man, 41 years of age, condemned to burn at the stake. He didn’t want to marry someone and then jeopardize her life.ation. He was condemned as a heretic. All his writings were to be burned and he was to be captured or killed, whichever was easier. Martin had to go into hiding in the Wartburg Castle.

Herring BarrelOne day he received a letter from 12 nuns who were trying to escape from a nunnery in Nimbschen. This was no easy task. It wasin the territory of Duke George – someone who hated Martin. Duke George had already executed someone for trying to free these nuns. Luther came up with a plan. Through some connections he contacted the man who delivered smoked herrings to the cloister. 12 barrels filled with herring showed up at the nunnery. But when they left, they were not empty. Each barrel under the canvas had a nun. Two days later they arrived at the doorstep of Martin Luther. Three went home and nine were left. Now it was his job to find each of them a husband. These nuns were not very good at housekeeping. All they could do was pray and sing. Thankfully, he was able to marry all of them off, except for one. Her name was Katherine von Bora. She was a little feisty. She had been turned down once already. She even suggested – “Why don’t you marry me?” But after some thought, he agreed.

He admitted – “I am not madly in love.”

On June 10, 1525, Martin and Katie were married, quickly and secretly. There was only one couple there as witnesses. They did that on purpose. Everyone had an opinion and they were tired of it.

Can you imagine a worse way to start a marriage? A 41-year-old monk condemned as a heretic and a 26-year-old runaway nun. Your marriage might not have started well but it can finish well. It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters.

Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach

2. THEY DIDN’T SEEM VERY COMPATIBLE: Martin had grown up with a father who was hard to please. He was unhappy because Martin had joined the ministry. Throughout his life Martin struggled against those who were overbearing and unreasonable. Now he was a 41-year-old monk who had not made up his bed for over a year. His straw bed was rotting with sweat. He had a short fuse.

Katie was shipped off to the nunnery at 9 or 10 yeas of age because she was rude to her step mom. She had a quick tongue.

He loved the spotlight and she was somewhat shy. He was moody and she was very task oriented. But, neither of them hesitated to speak their mind. That’s a volatile combination!

They had one thing in common – they loved Jesus. If Jesus is at the center of your marriage, you can make it too. Martin once said – “To have peace and love in a marriage is a gift which is next to the knowledge of the Gospel.”

Katherine von Bora - Lucas Cranach3. THEY HAD TO LEARN TO MANAGE MONEY: Martin had taken a vow of celibacy, obedience, and poverty. Martin’s philosophy was “God has divided the hand into fingers so that money would slip through.” Very noble isn’t it? No wonder Luther was in debt!

Katie had better sense. The Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz had given Martin 20 guilders as a wedding present. That was about two months salary. Luther said – absolutely not! He was the man who authorized the purchase of the indulgences and he will not take his money. Katie stepped in and said – we’re taking it. You are 100 guilders in debt.

She had to hide money from Martin, so he wouldn’t give it away. Because of Katie, they were able to acquire some land and even a farm. Later Luther admitted, “The greatest blessing is to have a wife to whom you may trust your affairs.”

By the way, according to a survey done recently by the American Institute of CPAs, money is the top cause of conflict in marriages. Unless couples have a mature, biblical understanding of money, they will have problems.

Martin and Katherine4. THEY LEARNED TO APPRECIATE EACH OTHER: Katie had to work all day, taking care of their 6 children and animals and servants and farm. At times there were as many 25-30 people at the house. When the day was done, she just wanted to sit with her husband and have some adult conversation. Martin Luther was a scholar and a preacher. He preached 4 times and lectured and taught the students all day. All he wanted to do was just relax into a chair and read a good book. One time he even locked himself in his study for three days until Katie had his door removed. All Martin could say was – “Why did you do that? I wasn’t hurting anybody.”

In time they learned to appreciate and understand one another. Martin suffered with gout, insomnia, gallstones, kidney stones, constipation, dizziness, and ringing in his ears. Katie was a doctor to him. She used herbs, proper diet, and massages to help him feel better. Martin confessed – “I trust more in Katie and I expect more from Katie than I do Christ.” He would jokingly call her – “my rib,” “my master,” or even pick on her and call her Kethe (German) = “my chain.” Katie would call him “Doctor.” She knew how to cheer him up. One day he was all depressed and Katie showed up in a black dress. He asked  – “Who died?” Her answer – “God, the way you’re acting.” That cured him up.

Martin once said that marriage is a school for character. Did you know that your marriage is God’s workshop in making you more like Jesus?

Magdalena Luther Lucas Cranach

5. THEY FACED DIFFICULT TRIALS TOGETHER: Just two years into their marriage, Luther became terribly sick and suffered for about 8 months. Many of their friends died. Even their own son was ill and Katie was pregnant. Their house was like a hospital. During this time he wrote the song “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” from Psalm 46.

Later, the Luthers lost 2 of their children. The first one was their second child Elizabeth, who died when she was a year old. The second was their child Magdalena, who died when she was fourteen. This was a very tough time in their lives. Martin was facing some other problems and this just made matters worse. His health was also falling apart.

Yet, they made it because they had each other and they had the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Martin and Katie became a model couple for generations to come. It was not love at first sight. It did not have any fireworks. But it was real love. Once Martin remarked – “The first love is drunken. When the intoxication wears off, then comes the real married love.” They were married for 21 years.

If they can make it, you can too. Here are some important points:

–       It’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters

–       It’s about learning to understand and appreciate the other person.

Martin loved to say, “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let him make her sorry to see him leave.”

–       Each marriage requires 3 people – husband, wife, and Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 1 (Martin and Katie Luther)

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