January 24, 2013
... But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:26b
In Switzerland, Konrad Mueller killed a man by the name of Heinrich Stucki.
As part of his punishment and as an act of penance, Mueller agreed to pay for an eternal lamp at the local Roman Catholic Church. The ruling also said that if Mueller ever stopped paying for the lamp his family properties would be given to the church.
That agreement was made in the year 1357.
In the year 2009, Mueller's descendents said they were no longer going to lay out the 70 Swiss Francs ($75) needed to keep the lamp lit. The church said, "652 years is a lot of time, but it's far short of eternity. I wonder if your property has been forfeited to us."
The case ended up in court where the judge said the family of Konrad Mueller didn't have to keep the lamp lit, and they didn't have to turn over their lands.
Now I'm glad Mueller was sorry for killing Stucki.
And I'm impressed by the commitment of his family for making good on that 655-year-old agreement.
But I'm disappointed with the theology.
What seems to have been lost here is the fact that God's people, that is, the folks who have been washed of their sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, are forgiven.
Yes, it is right and proper we repent of our wrongdoing, and it is equally correct we should try to avoid sinning in the future. But it is quite unnecessary for us to do penance for our transgressions.
The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus, our High Priest, entered the holy place and paid the price our sins demanded. This He did by sacrificing Himself on Calvary's cross and not by the offering of animals, as had been the law under the old covenant.
Jesus' sacrifice was once and for all. Period. End of reading.
This is why, as the Savior said shortly before His ascension, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations" (see Luke 24:46-47).
Repentance and forgiveness by Jesus' blood: His is a sacrifice which covers all sins, even ones which are 655 years old.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, each day I sin. For all that I have done wrong; I am humbly and heartily repentant. As I rejoice in the forgiveness Jesus has won, may I be given the ability to avoid my old sins as well as the new. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries