To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:31-36
Sunday passed, Lutherans all over the world celebrated Reformation Sunday. The Reformation saw the genesis of the Lutheran Church, and subsequently, the many denominations that exists today.
It started with Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, posting his 95 theses, or grievances, on the castle church doors at Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517, All Saints’ Eve.
The Reformation was about Jesus and still is today – not about Martin Luther, not Philip Melanchthon. It was not the name Lutheran, to which we gladly cling as a distinctive and clarifying label. It’s all about Jesus, not merely as example but as savior, the father’s only provision for sin.
In the above text, Jesus tells us that we are slaves to sin, however, we have redemption in him. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, it the son who sets you free, you will be free indeed.
That is most certainly true. We are free in Christ Jesus. Because of that, we are descendants of Abraham.
When Jesus confronted the Jews and told them that faith in him would set them free, they reminded him that they were descendants of Abraham. Because of their affiliation to Abraham, they did not need anyone to set them free. They thought they would inherit God’s gift to Abraham, even though they did not have Abraham’s faith.
Furthermore, unlike Abraham, they showed contempt for God’s messiah.
God did not bless Abraham because of his goodness. Scripture tells us that God blessed Abraham and credited his faith to him as righteousness because Abraham believed God’s promise to him, which, in human terms, seemed impossible.
The people thought Abraham was worthy of his blessing and only inherited what was due him. However, what Abraham got from God was a gift from God.
Jesus was pointing out to the people that salvation is a gift from God. Like the people to whom Jesus was teaching, the people of the Reformation era, and even many today, think that their efforts are responsible for God’s grace and mercy to them.
Paul reminds us in Romans 3:22-23, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Jesus was showing the people that Abraham believed in God’s Messiah, which saved him. If they demonstrated the same faith, believing in the son, they too would receive salvation. But they were too consumed in their own self-righteousness, to see that he was the Messiah.
That is the point Luther was making when he posted his 95 Theses. Salvation comes through Jesus the Christ. Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved. The people of the Reformation era could not embrace this because they were also consumed in their own self-righteousness.
God, in Jesus came to earth, and he being the perfect sacrifice, offered himself up on a cruel cross for our sins. Therefore, the forgiveness that we receive from God is not because of us. It is all because of Jesus. Our faith in him, like Abraham, makes us right. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at the Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.