And what Jesus teaches in John 8, Paul picks up in Romans 3...
This was among Luther's last written words: "We are all beggars this is true." Like the Syro-Phoenician woman, "Yes, Lord; I know I am dog, but even the dogs receive the crumbs from the master's table."
Luther's words still ring true today.
In Luther’s day God was seen as a judge, full of wrath and recompense. And Jesus was no better. A new Moses. A most holy and righteous Law giver. Supreme Judge. If that’s who Jesus is all the sweat and torture all the works and relics in the land make sense. There had to be some way to appease this divine dictator. What joy then, you see, Luther came to know as he read the words of the prophets: "The righteous will live by faith" and in St. Paul, "The righteousness of God made known to us in the Gospel!" What freedom! What life.
In our day, however, God – if he is known at all – is questioned. "Does he/she/it exist? Does it matter? I'm not religious, but I am spiritual. There’s no hell. Love wins!" And the list could go on. Today God the judge has been replaced by self. We have taken the bench and donned the black robes. We even have our own indulgences – Purpose Driven this and that. My vision. My best life now. My program. Mine. Mine. Mine. The church today is still in dire need of the Lutheran Reformation. For we are constantly tempted to throw the chains back on and march ourselves back into Egypt, back into slavery, sin and death.
What Luther once wrote to his brother in Augustinian order, Georg Spenlein, could as easily have been written for Christians today. "Father, my dear brother, learn of Christ, even Christ the Crucified! Learn to sing his praise and despairing of yourself, say to him: 'You Lord Jesus are my righteousness, but I am your sin. You have taken away what was in me and have given to me what I was not. Be careful never to let endeavor to obtain such purity that you no longer find yourself a sinner, much less desire to be one. Christ dwells only among sinners. This is why he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, so also to make his dwelling among sinners. Take note of this his love time and again, and you will experience the sweetest consolation...And so only in him, through having despaired of yourself and your works, will you find peace. Here you will learn from Christ himself, that he, as he has received you unto himself, has made your sins his own, and his righteousness your righteousness'" (LW 48:12-13).
In other words, Christ has bound himself in our captivity and slavery in order to give us, and win for us, his freedom and life. Righteousness - like holiness, grace and everything else in Scripture - is not achieved, but received. As a slave does not free himself but is rescued. As a beggar does not feed himself but is fed and cared for. As a dead man does not resuscitate himself. So too our Lord Christ has won our freedom and our daily bread and our life by giving up his own in our stead. Fast bound in Satan's chains he lay, death brooded darkly over him so that we might be rescued. God cannot be caged. Christ cannot be enslaved. Christ's death is death's undoing. The Pharaoh of hell is defeated. Once again God drowns his enemies with a covering of water as Satan's chariots lay in ruins at the bottom of the font and you walk through the water to life in Christ. There's even a passover meal: Christ himself, the Lamb of God crucified, died, buried and risen for you. Give us this day our daily bread of Life. Christ still sets his table for sinners. And how he loves eating and drinking with sinners. What freedom! What life.