Saturday, October 20, 2012

Visiting Dr. Martin Luther

It was just starting to rain from a threatening sky as Heinrich headed out to where Luther was staying in what used to be a monastery. As Heinrich approached the property, he had a flashback to the surreptitious mission that had brought him near Luther’s domain a year ago. As he knocked on the door, a real flash - of lightning struck nearby with a crack that jolted his sensibilities. As the door opened, Martin looked disturbed; his surprise at seeing Heinrich was preceded by the impact of the storm; both were rattled by its fury. “Heinrich - come in, before it starts to pour.” Heinrich followed Luther’s hand gestures to a chair and noticed that a nearby table was strewn with layers of open books, causing him to say, “Is this a good time to talk? I don’t want to take you away from something important.”  Luther replied, “Oh, I always have time for my friends.” As thunder rumbled through the cloister, Luther said wistfully, “it was a storm like this that caused me to enter the church many years ago. I was traveling to the University of Erfurt when a fiery bolt hit very close to me. I was thrown to the ground in a blaze of light and stumbled in shock - amazed at how close to death I had just come. I felt God was calling me, so I joined the Augustinian monks a month later, much to the consternation of my father.” Heinrich had heard this story before,  but it was never done in the context of a reenactment.
As the rain came down harder, Martin looked at Heinrich and said, “What brings you here on this fine morning?” 
Heinrich tried to compose himself as he prepared to speak, “First of all, I want to thank you for being here, for providing leadership and guidance to our town and church.” With a pause that barely concealed his fear, he continued, “This is a rather odd question, but I recently had a conversation with a customer about his faith. He is Jewish and was forced to leave Germany many years ago because of it. He knows how the Roman church has treated his faith in the past; he was wondering how the faith you are proposing will treat Jews. I told him that I would ask you and if he came back I’d let him know.” Heinrich hoped the little white lie would not come back to bite him.
This caused Luther to stroke his chin as he went to a desk and pulled out some papers. “It just so happens that I’ve been working on a pamphlet on this very subject. I call it ‘That Jesus was born a Jew’ Here is how the rough draft begins...
“I will cite from Scripture the reasons that move me to believe that Christ was a Jew born of a virgin, that I might perhaps also win some Jews to the Christian faith. Our fools, the popes, bishops, sophists, and monks-the crude asses' heads-have hitherto so treated the Jews that anyone who wished to be a good Christian would almost have had to become a Jew. If I had been a Jew and had seen such dolts and blockheads govern and teach the Christian faith, I would sooner have become a hog than a Christian.
They have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property. When they baptize them they show them nothing of Christian doctrine or life, but only subject them to popishness and monkery. When the Jews then see that Judaism has such strong support in Scripture, and that Christianity has become a mere babble without reliance on Scripture, how can they possibly compose themselves and become right good Christians? I have myself heard from pious baptized Jews that if they had not in our day heard the gospel they would have remained Jews under the cloak of Christianity for the rest of their days. For they acknowledge that they have never yet heard anything about Christ from those who baptized and taught them.
I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians and turn again to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs. They will only be frightened further away from it if their Judaism is so utterly rejected that nothing is allowed to remain, and they are treated only with arrogance and scorn. If the apostles, who also were Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the Gentiles. Since they dealt with us Gentiles in such brotherly fashion, we in our turn ought to treat the Jews in a brotherly manner in order that we might convert some of them. For even we ourselves are not yet all very far along, not to speak of having arrived.
When we are inclined to boast of our position we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord. Therefore, if one is to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews are actually nearer to Christ than we are, as St. Paul says in Romans 9:5. God has also demonstrated this by his acts, for to no nation among the Gentiles has he granted so high an honor as he has to the Jews. For from among the Gentiles there have been raised up no patriarchs, no apostles, no prophets, indeed, very few genuine Christians either. And although the gospel has been proclaimed to all the world, yet He committed the Holy Scriptures, that is, the law and the prophets, to no nation except the Jews, as Paul says in Romans 3 and Psalm 147. "He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; nor revealed his ordinances to them."
to be continued...

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