31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave  to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:31-38 (ESV)
“If you abide in my word you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
It’s Reformation Sunday a Sunday in which we celebrate the Lutheran Reformation, when we celebrate the preaching of Christ’s word, the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, his death and resurrection for the salvation of your soul, that you could abide in his word, know the truth and be set free from the burden of the law, set free from our slavery to sin by the Son himself that we would be free indeed. This is what Luther and his friends in the Reformation clung to so dearly when their lives were threatened by the most powerful men known to the 16th century. They clung to the freedom they had in the gospel, freedom from bondage to sin, death and the devil.
So freedom, what is meant by it? I think we are often inclined to scratch our heads with the Jews who had believed in Jesus here, the Jews who are now plotting to kill Jesus, when they say “we… have never been enslaved to anyone, how is that you say “you will become free?” This was one of the biggest problems for the Jews in Jesus day, they tried to frame what Jesus was saying in a political or social context. The Messiah they thought would be a political figure in society, they believed their relationship with God was all good, the idea that the messiah was doing something for them in that realm was beyond their grasp, they had their minds on earthly things and not things above.
Easy to do, it happened enough in the reformation too, even as it happens so often today. In Luther’s day many thought of the reformation as a political movement, it definitely did have political ramifications. But many of the political leaders failed to understand Luther because they failed to understand the spiritual distress of the people he was addressing. Others wanted to use him for their political ends. And even today, we are prone to make Christianity about earthly things, rather than the heavenly salvation of our souls. This is why so much of what passes for Christianity today is nothing more than self-help lessons in anger management or marriage improvement, some seem to be the teachings of Budha, and much of it nothing more than a moral pep-rally. I truly marvel at how many supposedly Christian books will never mention the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ or the forgiveness of sins. Paul would know nothing but Christ and him Crucified among the Corinthians. It was his focus, because it was there that Christ set us free.
It was this Luther came to realize. It is this that to this day makes even rather conservative Bible believing Protestants scratch their heads when investigating Luther, and the Luther doctrine, how much emphasis is put on Jesus Christ and him crucified. Luther couldn’t hardly write a grocery list without making it about Jesus Christ and him crucified. He understood that here was the gospel, here was the salvation of his soul, here was a treasure beyond all compare and he would not let it go. The most famous works of the reformation all had this in common. And this is something I want to do this next year and a half as we build up to the five hundred anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Once a month I’m just going to put together a class on a different aspect of the Reformation, taking a look at different characters in the Reformation like Luther, Cranach, Fredrik the Wise, Phillip of Hesse, Amsdorf and Melanchthon, but also put together the themes of Luther’s most famous works, something like a reformation book club meeting. Maybe do it during the fellowship hour after church. I’m a glutton for punishment, but I really do love this sort of thing and would love to share it with you. The stuff is so much fun. But the most fascinating aspect of it, is how much a history lesson can teach about Jesus Christ and him Crucified. We’ll look at Luther’s Heidleberg Disputation, his book “on the Freedom of a Christian,” his “Galatians Commentary” his theology of the cross as it comes out in his book the “Bondage of the Will”.
This was a book Luther didn’t want burned when he died, this and his small catechism. But it is here that Luther brings about the truth of this passage. We are born into bondage. We who sin are slaves to sin, that is why we sin. It is a bondage much worse than anything we could ever imagine in this world. It was this Luther understood, it was this that he felt as a burden in his soul. But it was this that he came to understand was the meaning of the gospel, that in the forgiveness of sins, in Christ’s death we were ransomed from bondage to sin with his blood, we were set free from our slavery to be children of God, to live in his house, under his grace not just temporarily while we pass through this world, but forever. And to do this, we remain, we abide in his word, as his word abides in us. His word Testelestai, it is finished, You are forgiven.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.