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Wittenberg, Germany, October 31, 1517

He (Jesus circa AD 30) entered Jericho and was passing through. And look and see, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax farmer and was rich. And he was seeking to see Jesus, who he is, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. (A) And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today it is necessary for me to dwell in your house.” So he hurried and came down and welcomed him joyfully. (B) And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to dwell with a sinful man.” And (C) Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look and see, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19: 1-10
Five hundred years ago – almost to the day – Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Literature and a lecturer in those subjects at Wittenberg, nailed to the door of the castle church there his 95 theses. He intended these to be the basis of debate between him and any others who might wish to join him to search out the truth. 

What is now known as the Reformation started there – in those 95 theses. That Reformation spread across Europe and the world.

What did these theses actually say? As Christianity magazine reports, Luther himself summarised what was bugging him in three main points. 

1. Selling indulgences to finance the building of St. Peter's is wrong. In Luther’s own words, "The revenues of all Christendom are being sucked into this insatiable basilica....  we should rear living temples, not local churches...” An indulgence was a forgiveness of one or more sinful thoughts or deeds – an eternal pardon, effective (purportedly) on earth and in heaven before the Lord God of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indulgences were sold for money by church leaders and the proceeds went to meet the costs of building St Peter’s basilica in Rome. Luther wanted to “rear” (build up) living temples – individual people in whom the living LORD God would dwell. 

‘No man is rich enough to buy back his past.’ (Oscar Wilde, dramatist, 1854-1900)
Please see (A) in bold above. Zacchaeus – a sinful man - welcomed Jesus who called him down in order to dwell with him – to live in his “house”....

2. No man no church has power over purgatory. The word “purgatory” comes from the verb “to purge” meaning to cleanse, in particular from sin. A place where sin could be purged was called a purgatory. In Luther’s own words, "... indulgences do not remove guilt. Beware of those who say that indulgences effect reconciliation with God. ... He who is contrite has plenary (full) remission of guilt and penalty without indulgences. ... If any person does have power to release anyone from purgatory, why in the name of love does he not abolish purgatory by letting everyone out? If for the sake of miserable money he may release unnumbered souls, why should he not for the sake of most holy love empty the place?... " 

Please see (B) in bold above. Zacchaeus needed no purgatory – no place where he could atone for his own sin. Jesus provided that forgiveness to him totally free of charge.

3. Buying indulgences gives people a false sense of security and endangers their salvation. In Luther’s own words, "Indulgences are positively harmful to the recipient because they impede salvation by diverting charity and inducing a false sense of security. Christians should be taught that he who gives to the poor is better than he who receives an indulgence.... God works by contraries so that a man feels himself to be lost in the very moment when he is on the point of being saved. ...Man must first cry out that there is no health in him. He must be consumed with horror... In this disturbance salvation begins. When man believes himself to be utterly lost, light breaks. Peace comes in the word of Christ through faith. He who does not have this is lost ... and he who does have it ... should be encouraged to bear the cross."


‘Christ comes with a blessing in each hand – forgiveness in one and holiness in the other; and never gives either to any who will not take both.’ (Anon.)
Please see (C) in bold above. Zacchaeus desperately wanted to see Jesus – he desperately wanted forgiveness. When he knew that he had obtained it – direct from Jesus – he decided – deep within himself through Jesus – to “bear his cross”. “Half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 

That’s what takes place when true forgiveness – and Jesus - lives within. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Sinner Syvret

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