There was once a great man who managed to upset the religious leaders of his day. They were screaming for his blood because he had both bypassed their own power structure, and had gained a large popular following. He had taught those under his influence that the traditions they had received were wrong, distortions of the Word, and called them to something far older, something far more biblical. And the world was being turned upside down. Those in authority accused the man of heresy, demanding that he cease and desist. And then, the most amazing thing happened. The history tells us that “…while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Do you hear how many things they testify against You?’ But He answered Him not a word, so that the governor marveled greatly” (Matthew 27:12-14.)
Jesus gave no dramatic speech. He did not thrust His chin out, confess that He could not recant because His conscience was captive, turn on His heels and walk off. Instead He went like a lamb to the slaughter. He submitted Himself to the scribes and Pharisees, to the Roman empire, and more important, the Emperor Beyond the Sea.
Luther did the right thing, standing on the Word at Worms. And we, too often, do all the wrong things in his name. We think that the glory of that story is that he stood his ground, that he was courageous, immovable, a rock. And so we go in search of the same opportunities. We boldly stand, and walk out of our churches because this possible inference of that potential trajectory of the other postulation in the pastor’s off-the-cuff remark might impinge on an important doctrine. We boldly defy the American empire, refusing to tell their census taker how many toilets are in our house. We boldly dishonor our parents, because we think them to be not quite as honorable as we are.
Luther is a hero not because he was bold, but because he was meek, not because of his stance, but because of where he stood. I suspect that great speech at Worms was delivered not with bravado, but as a plea, that he whimpered rather than thundered. Luther is a hero because he was willing to be slaughtered for the sake of the Lamb. It was not because he stood, but because he knelt, in submission to the Word.
It is a good thing to want to do great things for the kingdom. It is a better thing to understand that the better thing is almost certainly to submit to those in authority over you. The greatest thing Jesus ever did was not His miracles. It was not the proclamation of His message. It was not even the walking out of the tomb alive. The greatest thing Jesus ever did was to say, at the greatest possible cost, “Yes, Father.” May His grace and power teach me to do the same. May those in authority over me marvel.