Martin Luther was cut to the core when he read the words of the young emperor Charles who wrote, “A single friar who goes counter to all Christianity for a thousand years must be wrong.” Luther couldn’t help but wonder, could the emperor be right?
Now that he was safely ensconced in the Wartburg castle, Luther was free from the day-to-day challenges that consumed his attention as the accidently spark of the Reformation. He could finally stop and deeply consider the words of the emperor. Was Luther the only person in a thousand years who could rightly read the Bible?
As he always did, Luther sought his answers in Scripture, eventually settling on an unexpected reading to evaluate his leadership and ambition, and the leadership and ambition of the pope – the song of Mary, the mother of Christ – the Magnificat. In this episode we discuss both the way that Martin Luther arrived at the Wartburg and how the Magnificat provided a lens through which he could understand his path forward, as a servant of Christ, during a time of discord.
When Luther left the city of Worms with Jerome Schurf and Nicolaus von Amsdorf on April 26, 1521, he only had 21 days of promised safe conduct from the emperor. Once the safe conduct expired, anybody could kill Luther as an outlaw.
As part of the safe conduct, the emperor provided a small troop to travel with Luther to make sure nobody hurt him. Luther released them after a couple days, so they returned to Worms with letters from Luther to the emperor and to Spalatin (supposedly also for Frederick) where he explained his actions at Worms.
Luther was told that the safe conduct was only in effect if he did “not stir up the people either by teaching or writing.” Luther tried to listen, but he was compelled by the people in Hersfeld, Eisenach, and Mohra to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jerome Schurf left the group right after they left Eisenach to continue to Wittenberg, leaving Amsdorf and Luther with the driver of the wagon. Luther and Amsdorf decided to travel south, away from Wittenberg to visit Mohra, the city where Luther’s father had grown up. Shortly after they left Mohra, Luther was kidnapped in the Thuringen forest, not far from the Altenstein castle.
A group of armed men on horses came out of the forest and stopped the small traveling party. The driver was terrified. When the armed men asked if one of them was Luther, the driver pointed to Luther immediately. The armed men were two nobles, the castellan of the Wartburg, Hans von Berlepsch, and the resident lord of Altenstein. The armed men took Luther and rode off into the woods. They took Luther to the Wartburg castle, which was owned by Frederick the Wise.
The way the kidnapping was orchestrated in such a way that even Frederick could honestly say he had no idea where Luther was hiding. Luther’s stay in the Wartburg Castle began in May 1521. (Coincidentally, the Wartburg overlooked the city of Eisenach where Luther spent his teenage years.) Although he left the castle a few times, he mostly stayed in his room for the next 10 months.
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- James Kittelson – Luther the Reformer
- Scott Hendrix – Martin Luther – Visionary Reformer
- Roland Bainton – Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther
- Luther’s Works – volumes 21
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