“Who Knows Whether It Be So”?

“Who knows whether it be so.” Martin Luther

Johann von Staupiz was the vicar general of the Augustinian Order in Germany during this period of the 16th century. He received information about the intense monk known as Martin Luther and began to take an interest in the young man.

It was Staupiz who recognized Luther’s academic abilities and sent him to Wittenberg to study the Bible and theology. Luther earned his BA in 1509 whereupon he returned to Erfurt and began to teach.

In 1510, the second “crisis” occurred in Martin’s life. Staupiz decided to send Martin on a pilgrimage to Rome so the Augustinian Order and the monasteries in Erfurt could renew their credentials. The pilgrimage to Rome would also give young Martin an opportunity to visit the holy city, see its various religious relics and perhaps even visit the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs), reportedly the very steps Christ ascended at Pilate’s judgment hall in Jerusalem. But Luther’s trip to Rome would become the single most disillusioning experience of his life.

The trip was roughly 800 miles. Travelers would walk by day and then stop and spend the night at monasteries along the way. For Luther, the round trip took close to three months to complete.

When Luther arrived in Rome, he was shocked to witness the immoral behavior of the priests. Masses were spoken with little thought or interest. Priests engaged in heterosexual and homosexual behavior. Martin viewed Rome as having become a harlot. However, it was Luther’s visit to the Scala Sancta where his disillusionment reached its height.

One church historian explains, “These twenty-eight marbled steps are believed to be the very steps that led up to the praetorian of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem – the very steps Jesus walked on the way to His trial. The Emperor Constantine apparently had them removed and relocated to Rome. In 1510, there would be a table set up at the base of the steps where priests collected coins and handed out indulgences. Pilgrims, after they had turned over a few coins, would climb the steps on their knees, praying the rosary as they shuffled up and down. Luther waited his turn and then joined the stream of penitent pilgrims. When Luther reached the top, no spiritual awakening greeted him. No waves of peace rolled gently over his soul. All he could say was, ‘Who knows whether it be so’.”

What sincere act(s) are you pursuing in order to make yourself right with God? What sacrifice are you willing to give in order to assure yourself that your sins are completely forgiven? The Bible says there is but one way to know that you are reconciled to God and forgiven of your sins; faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

If you haven’t already, trust Christ today to be your Savior and Lord and receive the forgiveness you desperately need.

Soli deo Gloria!

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