On this day many years ago God did something very big. Actually it was very small. By His providence a little baby boy was born to a miner and his wife, and he was to change the world in so many ways even history professors (not known for conciseness) have trouble enumerating the benefits of his legacy. I am not a history prof. Our child’s most important gift to us is theology, which as the eternal queen of sciences influences every other area of life. Let us be transported to a land long ago and observe our man before we label or name him.
First we see our boy, after some growing up, enter law school at age 13 and earn his bachelor’s and master’s degree at the fastest pace allowed. His skills in debate become legend.
Then fear descends. Our boy, now a man, is caught in danger and dedicates his life to God. Radical change follows. Our man’s father is unhappy with his son’s about-face; he was supposed to be a lawyer after all. Nevertheless, our man is resolute. He enters the cloister.
Our man throws himself wholeheartedly into his new life. But something is missing. “I should love the Lord,” he reflects, “but sometimes I hate him.” Despite these internal ravings, our man is compelled to pursue a doctorate in theology.
Now a theologian, our man’s struggles have not passed away. “How can I love a righteous God who judges me?” Our man reads Romans; chapter 1, verse 17 confuses him. “If the righteous will live by faith, how can the unrighteous live?”
Epiphany; post tenebras, lux. Romans 1:17 really means that “the one who by faith is righteous shall live.” The gates of heaven have opened for our theologian, and he enters in. He knows that all is changed. In all of Scripture once-known-but-never-understood he now sees the glorious gospel of Christ. The condemnation is gone.
Our man becomes a true preacher.
Another preacher comes around. He is teaching that God’s pardon can be bought with money; the merits of Christ go to those with coin to spare.
Our preacher is furious. Christ gives grace to the humble and poor, not to the rich consumer. He writes a treatise, hoping to spark a formal debate on the matter. Our preacher wishes to be a renewer. With hammer and nails our preacher unwittingly sets in motion an avalanche God planned long ago. The time has come.
Our man is a pebble in the Lord’s hands. His ripples our still in our pond.
Years have come and gone. Our preacher is in trouble, external this time. He stands accuse of heresy and stands before his emperor to answer for his ripples. “Do you repent?” Our man wavers. God strengthens him; he refuses to buckle. “I cannot deny what the Bible clearly says. Its strong hold is over me. It must correct me.”
Our preacher is now an outlaw. He hides; really he is hidden. A work is begun. “I want everyone to read God’s Word.”
It is finished. Our outlaw reveals himself. No one can stop him because no one can stop God. The outlaw becomes our Reformer.
He is Martin Luther, our Martin Luther. Our man, our theologian, our preacher, and our reformer because God has given him to us as a gift, a gift that points to the ultimate Gift who is Christ. Luther is proof that God’s righteousness and steadfast love endure forever. He is God’s big and small thing. O the gracious love of God in such paradoxes! Glory be to God for all things, even big/small ones.
Glory be to God for our Luther.