Luther longed for freedom. Before the Reformation, Luther saw Jesus not as a gracious liberator, but a fearful judge; Jesus was not a merciful Redeemer, but a merciless example to follow. Luther was held captive by his accusatory conscience, and prisoner to an endless merry-go-round of indulgences, relics, and man-made traditions—each one promising freedom from sin, but only further tightening the chains of slavery. Where would Luther find freedom? Not through monasticism or mysticism, gold or silver, or gazing inward. True freedom, Luther discovered, is found in Jesus crucified Who sets us free. True freedom is not found in what we say, do, think, or feel, but in what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection. True freedom is not found in our righteousness, but in Jesus’ redemption that declares you righteous. The cross is Luther’s freedom and yours.

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:5).

Narnia longed for freedom. The whole country was enslaved in snow and cold. The White Witch’s curse covered the land in perpetual frozen despair. It was always winter, and never Christmas. And those Narnians who weren’t held captive by the wintry curse, were imprisoned in stone. They longed for Spring, for freedom, and most of all, for Aslan’s return.

Where would Narnia find freedom? Not in the Witch’s lies, her seductive temptations, nor in the deep magic, but in the deeper magic from before the dawn of time, in the cracking of the stone table, and in death’s undoing. Aslan returned. Aslan rose. Aslan rescued Narnia from the Witch’s curse and slavery.

Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.[1]

Middle-Earth longed for freedom. From the Lost Realm of Arnor to the mouth of the Great River Anduin, and from the borders of the Shire to the Land of Mordor where the shadow lies, Sauron’s restless evil crept over Middle-earth. Gondor had forgotten her royal heritage, Rohan’s King Théoden was captive to the dark lord, and the Nazgûl prowled the land in search of the Ring of Power. And the hope of Middle-earth hung around the neck of a hobbit named Frodo, the ring-bearer, and with his fellowship of rebels.

Where would men, dwarves, elves, and hobbits find freedom? Not in Saruman’s delusional machinations, not in the desires of man’s heart, nor in the folly of compromise with evil, but in the quiet, hidden courage of two hobbits from the Shire, in the strength of Sauron defeated by the seemingly weak and small, and by mercy that triumphed over might. Frodo and Samwise journeyed through the Mines of Moriah; across the Dead Marshes, and finally up the stairs of Cirith Ungol into the heart of darkness where the Ring of Power was destroyed. The Black Gate crumbled like Jericho. And Middle-earth was free.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard, For your watch hath not been in vain, And the Black Gate is broken, And your King hath passed through, And he is victorious.[2]

We Long For Freedom!

There’s familiar theme throughout these stories. We, like Luther, Frodo, and Narnia, long for freedom. And yet we are incapable of freeing ourselves from bondage to sin, death, and the devil. We need deliverance. And that’s exactly what Luther rediscovered in 1517.

To be sure, the Reformation was no fairy tale, and neither is the freedom won for us by Jesus Crucified. Yet, in many ways, some of the greatest stories of fiction illustrate the real freedom Jesus accomplished for us by His dying and rising. Aslan, King Aragorn, Frodo’s sacrifice, Samwise’s loyalty, Gandalf’s submersion and death and resurrection are all glimpses of a greater freedom won for us on the cross.

The freedom we read in good stories such as Narnia and The Lord of the Rings is a shadow of the true freedom won by Christ for us in the pages of history. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate.

As we celebrate the Reformation this year, and the 500th anniversary next year, rejoice! In Jesus you are forgiven, rescued, and you are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! (Romans 3:24)