He is like a serpent. He can both enthral and repel with his unusual, piercing eyes. They seem penetrate deep into a person’s heart with its hidden secrets. I can’t stand him yet I’m attracted to him. I’ve tried so hard to resist him but I can’t. Sometimes, I wish I’d never met him.
This was written for the Weekend Writing Prompt by Sammi Cox. For instructions, click Here.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8
Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase. Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step. It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.” It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.
At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate. Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!” This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in Him should not perish buthave eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15). By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith. Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.
It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther. It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works. One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:‘The just shall live by faith.’ Romans 1:17. He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror. The text never lost its power upon his soul. From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ. His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy. When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.”
Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.” However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity. His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation. He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.
In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God. Today, where are you placing your faith? In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?
And to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it,’
Cursed is the ground on account of you; in hard labor you will eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it will bring forth for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, because out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return” – Genesis 3:17-19
I’m sure many of us have listened to someone against our better judgment and regretted it. Adam listened to Eve who encouraged him to eat the fruit which both of them were forbidden to eat. God had told them that if they ate it they would surely die. There were no ifs, ands or buts. The consequences for disobeying Him would cost them their lives and more.
Adam knew where Eve got the fruit from. She had taken a bit and was giving it to him. She must have told him what the serpent had said. And the fact that she was still alive may have persuaded Adam that eating the fruit was not a bad thing to do. God had said that they would die if they ate it but Eve wasn’t dead. She was there before him, her eyes sparkling and her face flushed. She looked more beautiful than he had ever seen her. The serpent must be right. There was no harm in eating the fruit. So, he took it from her and ate it. The moment he tasted the fruit, things changed.
Why do we tend to listen to other people instead of God? His Word is there to guide us, to keep us safe yet we tend to listen to and follow bad advice. And we place our love for our spouses and children above our love to God. The Bible says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” We show God we love Him when we obey Him even when we are pressured or tempted to do otherwise. Our loved ones may try to get us to do something that is contrary to God’s will but we have a choice to make. We can choose to listen to God or listen to them. No one can force us to do anything. Eve didn’t force Adam to disobey God. He chose to do so. And the consequences of that choice were far-reaching and as a result sin, suffering, death came into the world and their relationship with God and each other changed. The family dynamics changed. The husband became the head of the home and the wife was to be subject to him. Childbirth was not meant to be a painful experience but it is and working for a living was not supposed to be hard but it is. And we were not supposed to experience death but we all will. Our choices can affect not only us but others too. God knew what tragedies disobedience would bring to Adam and Eve and the world if they didn’t listen to Him.
Today, choose to listen to God. Don’t let anyone persuade you to do anything that would draw you away from God. Let your spiritual walk be such that when God comes looking for you and calls out, “Where are you?” you can show yourself and say, “Here I am, Lord.”