3.28.2013

Good Friday Meditation: THE POPE KILLS CHRIST by Martin Luther


Luther on why the Pope continues to kill Christ, 

"We should learn here that no one should place his trust in men, even if he is in an estate ordained by God. But if we are not to believe nor put our trust in Annas and Caiaphas, how are we to believe or trust the devil, the pope in Rome, the monks in monasteries, or the godless bishops? God so thoroughly forbids putting trust in any man that one should not even trust in those who are in the highest, best, and most secure estates. For no estate on earth has been so gloriously confirmed as was the estate of Annas and Caiaphas.  If Annas and Caiaphas became scoundrels in their order and estate, even though it was the most exalted on earth, then you should learn from this not to esteem any man on the basis of his estate or see.  The papal jurists exalted their pope and said, "non est praesumendum, quod tantae altitudinis apex possit errare"--"It is not to be presumed that the pope in such a lofty station can err."  Against this claim I set the following: Annas and Caiaphas occupy a loftier position and sit on a greater throne than do the pope and the emperor. Yet they not only err but also are scoundrels and knaves--the worst of scoundrels and knaves ever to have lived on earth, for they crucified the Son of God... 
 But if you now say, "Whom, then, are we to trust and believe? read the First Commandment: "I the Lord your God am a jealous God" [Exodus 20:5]. There it is clearly written whom you are to trust: namely, the Lord God alone. So now if the pope brings something, I am not obligated to hold it unless, to be sure, he brings God's Word. For God says that we are to fear and trust Him only, even if he speaks to us through a donkey [cf. Num. 22:28-30]. For this reason you should say: "Dear pope, you are high, holy, learned. But that you cannot err on that account--I don't believe." If, indeed, they say, "Do you think the councils can err?" answer them this: "Haven't you read about two men, Annas and Caiaphas by name, who were scoundrels?  Now if such eminent people, in such a high, holy estate, ordained and instituted by God, have fallen away even to the point of crucifying God's Son, it follows that other men can also fall and err."  Annas and Caiaphas were much more learned and wise, and the obedience due them was much greater that that due to the pope. This is evident in that though everyone else among the Jews heard Christ's preaching and saw his miracles, no one dared acknowledge or follow him publicly [John 12:42]; and when Christ was taken captive, no one dared to make himself known, so great were the respect and obedience accorded the high priest of the whole people.
 
So note well John's words: "Caiaphas was high priest for the year". And yes that same high priest may be such a scoundrel and knave that he crucifies the Son of God.  The office of high priest was, indeed, the highest office and the most glorious title, and yet the worst of scoundrels held this office and title.  Now since the high priests have done such things, we should not henceforth believe any man unless he brings God's clear, pure Word...Our bishops today are constantly crying that the Christian Church cannot err. Against this you should say: "It is true: the Christian Church indeed cannot err. But listen, dear friend, let's give heed to which is the true Christian Church." They say, of course, "The pope is the head of the Church," and yet they cannot deny but must confess (no thanks to them!) that the pope has erred abominably. Now if the head errs, the body readily follows.  Whatever the popes dream up they must regard as the holy Christian Church.  But against this, you must hold fast to this text and say, "Whoever clings to Christ cannot err; whoever does not cling to Christ must err, even if he were greater than a pope".  Is it possible for the pope not to err when these two, Annas and Caiaphas, who were instituted in the office by God much more gloriously than any pope, not only erred but lapsed so shamefully that they condemned the Son of God to death?...
 
Bishops, cardinals, and the entire papal clergy rest on this foundation: "The Christian Church cannot err; therefore, the pope likewise cannot err since he is the head of the Church." But you, forearm yourself against this and say: Pope this, pope that! If Caiaphas could err, so also can the pope." And he proves this with his deeds as well.  For the pope denies Christ and kills Him, just as those high priests denied Christ and sentenced Him to death."  Martin Luther, The Works: Sermons on the Gospel of John, 178-80.
 
The one who held the highest position in the OT of High Priest, Caiaphas, crucified God's Son.  So I guess we're supposed to accept Rome's claim that the Pope and the Holy Roman Church now exercises Christ's mediatorial work on our behalf and, therefore, can never error.  If that's so, you can kind of understand why Luther would equate Caiaphas with the Pope who still maintains the office of killing Christ. 
 

1 comment:

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