In Eisleben, there is a wonderful monument to Luther. It is a statue that has Luther holding two things: in one hand he is holding a Bible, and in the other hand he is holding a document. At the bottom of that document is the name Leo X. It is the papal bull that declared Luther a heretic, but Luther was going to cling to the Bible. Luther was born in Eisleben, and it was there that he died. He preached his last sermon on February 14, 1546. After that, he fell seriously ill; in fact, he could not leave his lodgings. His sons were with him; they had come with him on the journey from Wittenberg. Justus Jonas, his colleague at Wittenberg and the pastor at Halle, had heard of Luther’s illness, and he came to be with Luther in those final moments. Katie, Luther’s wife, heard about his sickness, and she was very anxious about him. He wrote to her and assured her that he had “a caretaker that is better than all the angels”—a babe lying in a manger who is also seated at the right hand of God the Father. So, in his last days, Luther was comforted in his knowledge of Christ and who He is and his knowledge of what Christ had done for him.
Luther’s famous, final written last words were, “We are beggars; this is true,” reminding us how dependent we are on God. But if you look at the context, what Luther was trying to tell us is that we are actually dependent upon teachers of God’s Word and are dependent upon God’s Word. That’s what he means by “We are beggars.”
Those were his final written words, but his final spoken words were a sermon. It had two texts, and in typical Lutheran fashion, he had a reading from the Psalms and a reading from the Gospels. The reading from the Gospels was John 3:16. So, he read that wonderful verse about God’s love for us being so great that He sent His Son to die for us on the cross. The reading from the Psalms was Psalm 68:19–20, which says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.” On February 17, he had dinner with his sons and Jonas. After dinner, he complained of chest pains. He went to bed, and sometime in the middle of the night on February 18, 1546, Luther died. He died in the comfort of the gospel and he died in the comfort that our God is a God of salvation.