500 years ago a monk by the name of Martin Luther embarked on what would become one of the greatest blessings outside of Scripture to ever come to the world. It was an event that was so important that on pretty much every “most important events that changed the world” websites, you’ll frequently find it in the top 5, and in some cases, the top 2 most important. Many would say that it all began with a door and a piece of paper. But those of us who know the history of Luther would say that it began long before that. In 1505 while on his way home from school Luther was caught in a terrible storm which terrified him so much that he asked St. Anne, the patron saint of travelers, to save him- and if that happened, he would become a monk. 2 weeks later he kept him promise and became an Augustinian- what some would argue as the most aesthetic and disciplined of the orders. In 1510 Luther traveled to Rome and found it to be a rotting cesspool of immorality, greed, and lack of complete piety for God- and then Luther got into the Word when he was appointed head priest and a professor of Theology in Wittenberg. And then it happened. Little slips of paper were sold to give people the forgiveness of sins- no Jesus needed- called indulgences. And Luther had something to say about that. On October 31st, 1517 a day we just celebrated together this last week, Luther most certainly spoke. Specifically, he said:
The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God. Thesis 62
Those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences. Thesis 21
Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters. Theses 36-37
Thanks to the blessing of the newly created printing press, and a few scholars willing to translate Latin into German, within 10 days the 95 Thesis made it all the way to Spain. And a Reformation began- a reforming of God’s entire Church away from man and back into the Word. Back into the Gospel message that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. That Jesus’ perfect life, his innocent death, his glorious resurrection, his eternal reign, and his triumphant return are all we need, and all that God gives to you as a free gift of grace as the Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of God’s newborn children! Praise God we are saved by grace, through faith, through God’s rediscovered Scripture- grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone! That is what we celebrate this Sunday dear friends! And the devil hates it! The world hates it! Your flesh hates it! Just like they all hated Luther! Just like they all hated Matthew! Just like they all hated Jesus!
So today we hear from Jesus in Matthew, and we let the haters hate, and hear God tell you- let the believer stand firm to the end- in Christ we can do no other! God help us, amen!
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:16-23)
Jesus was beginning his ministry and people were following him. Not only because he said follow me as he did Peter and Andrew, James and John, like we read earlier in Matthew, but because Jesus was preaching and teaching and healing and loving ALL who followed him! But there were a special 12, right? Right before our text Jesus named every one of them and said, “It’s time for you to go out now” and out they went. But before he sent them he warned them. Now my question to you friends is simple, would you go out if this is what you knew was coming? “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. SIGN ME UP JESUS!! Man, I have a hard enough time going into Silverdale because I know what that ridiculous construction traffic is going to be like! But Jesus wasn’t talking about hopping on a donkey and riding over rough roads, was he? Jesus was talking about telling others about God’s promise fulfilled! Which makes it even harder, right?! That’s the rub of this text, and most certainly the rub of today.
Jesus asked his disciples, and God’s Word asked Luther in faith to speak out knowing what would most likely happen more than anything else. And he has asked the same of you. So have you seen the hate? If you haven’t, my follow up to that is this- is it because you’ve been afraid to speak up and stand firm?
I know it’s hard. What makes it harder is that it’s not always God’s Word that guides us. It’s not always the call of Christ that we hear ringing in the pages of Holy Scripture. As loudly as is the call of Scripture is the call of our humanity- our hearts, our minds, our reason, our emotions, our reputation, our selves all scream- “Don’t do it! You’re not ready for this! You don’t want to lose that friendship! You don’t want to hear the words ‘I hate you!’” This all happens brothers and sisters because we are sinners who deserve to be hated not by man, but by God for falling short of his glory! But Jesus warned his disciples for a reason- because he knew what they would battle, and he knew the only way they would make it through the hate. When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Did you ever think that there is a reason why Christians are becoming (if not ARE) public enemy number one to so many in this world? It’s because the world hated Jesus first! But Jesus didn’t hate the world. No the reason he came into the world was to save the world. For God SO LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. More than anyone could ever love you, Jesus loved you. More than anyone could possibly sacrifice, Jesus sacrificed for you. He set aside heaven itself, for you.
For almost 30 years Luther didn’t know his Savior loved him enough to die on the cross to take away all of his sins. Then God showed him that the righteous will live by faith in the Son of God. God showed him in His Word that Jesus is all you will and have ever needed. Jesus showed Luther that he has a place in heaven waiting for him, and it completely changed his world. So to the point where he didn’t care about even death when princes, rulers, government stood against him and threatened him with death, Jesus simply declared,
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
And the haters hated. But God stood firm. Now Luther does too- along with every other Christian who believes in Jesus as their Savior- he stands firm before the throne of God in heaven, he sits firmly, at the banquet table of the Lamb.
Do not fear friends, do not change who you have been made to be. Stand on grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone- all gifts freely given by the Spirit of God, all gifts given to you. Hear the words of Christ- not just the world will hate you because of me but the words that ring in our hearts of faith every day- stand firm to the end, and you will be saved. God help us. Amen.