With Cleopas & Luther on the Emmaus Road: Sola Sciptura
|Then Jesus said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. |
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" (Luke24:25-32)
That seemingly insignificant event, say historians, was the start of what came to be known as 'The Protestant Reformation', one of the most important intellectual and spiritual movements in Western civilisation.
The monk was Martin Luther and his actions marked the climax of a long personal struggle during which he journeyed, Emmaus-like, from disillusionment to faith, from deep disappointment with his church to a joyful faith in Christ through a rediscovery of the Good News of Jesus.
For a disillusioned priest like Luther, for whom the church had become an obstacle rather than the nurturer of faith, it was the opening of the Scriptures that unlocked the joy of faith in Christ. It is hardly surprising therefore that the words sola scriptura (scripture alone) came to be one of the important mantras of the Reformation.
Martin Luther's personal circumstances were much different from Cleopas and his friend that resurrection morning when they set out from Jerusalem to Emmaus, their hearts heavy with disillusionment. But both stories involve men grappling with intense disappointment. The Jesus dream had come to naught. The vision had gone. The glory had departed.
Then Jesus drew near. He walked with them. He listened to them. And only then did he speak. He opened the scriptures and slowly they were brought under its magnetic spell and their hearts began to burn within them.
That is scripture at work! Not 'throwing the Book' but 'opening the Book' and allowing its message of hope and wisdom to change peoples' hearts and their way of seeing. Doubtless Cleopas and his friend had read the passages before, the difference on the Emmaus Road was that it was Jesus who 'opened' the scriptures.
Sola scriptura without the quickening Spirit of Christ is dead. It suffocates.
Sola scriptura that quickens the heart and kindles the flame of faith is scripture that points to Jesus and is full of him. It is scripture alive. It is scripture that shapes our thinking. It is scripture that heals and binds people together.
So let's get back to the Bible as the benchmark of our lives, but let's do so, not with hard pharisaical hearts, but with the humble and listening heart of Jesus.
James is the minister of the Hermanus United Church. He is married to Fiona and is of the belief that a day away from Hermanus is a wasted day.
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