Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2017
Texts: Jeremiah 23:14-15; Jeremiah 20:1-18; Acts 2:37; Job 3:1-26; Jeremiah 18:1-10, 18-23.
On this date in history—October 31, 1517—Martin Luther set off a chain of events that shook established society and still reverberates today. The reformer didn’t intend to start a revolution. He just wanted to relieve his poor church members from the financial burden of paying for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. He knew that Jesus didn’t require them to pay for their salvation, and that buying indulgences was an even bigger waste of money than buying a lottery ticket. (At least a lottery ticket has an infinitesimal chance of winning.)
We think it odd today to picture Martin Luther nailing his paper entitled, “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences"— otherwise known as his “Ninety-Five Theses"—on the door of the Wittenberg church. It would bring an onslaught of woes today upon anyone who drove nails into one of our church doors. But that was the common practice of his day. The church door served the same purpose as our foyer bulletin board does today.1
What did bring an onslaught of woes upon Martin Luther were the contents of those Ninety-Five Theses: His protest against clerical abuses, especially nepotism, simony, usury, and the sale of indulgences—basically the working policy of the mainstream church in 1517. That challenge brought a backlash of death threats, assassination attempts, public trials, exile, and religious wars to Martin Luther and his supporters.2
At least Martin Luther had visible support from Phillip Melanchthon and Prince Frederick III. Jeremiah couldn’t always see his support staff. As his woes continually increased, it was easy for him to forget the companionship of men like Baruch and Ebed-Melech. He cried out to God in Jeremiah 20 verses 7 and 10: “Everyone mocks me!” and “All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling.” As his troubles mounted, Jeremiah even cursed the day he was born (Jeremiah 20:14). He probably felt a great connection with Job as someone who could relate to his trials.
Jeremiah’s sufferings illustrate the life of the typical prophet of God. It’s not a position to covet or even attain to. When Jeremiah faithfully presented God’s message, he was punched in the mouth and locked up in stocks by Pashhur, the head deacon. And when Jeremiah finally had enough and decided to quit prophesying, he confessed in Jeremiah 20:9 that, “His word was in my heart like a burning fire… I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”
Jeremiah’s troubles should make us sympathetic to the anxiety of those who deliver God’s messages today. A true messenger of God never starts out to light the fires of revolution. The personal cost is just too high. But the true message that God’s servant delivers may do just that.
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