According to Phillipp Melanchthon’s account, Martin Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral on October, 31st 1517. There is a lot of misinformation regarding this event in church history. We don’t know for certain that Martin nailed the 95 Theses but we do know that he mailed the 95 Theses to a regional archbishop.
The 95 Theses were written in Latin and meant to spur a kind of internal academic dialogue particularly as it regarded whether there was Biblical support for the selling of indulgences and other moral abuses he saw with the Roman Catholic Church. Regardless of who nailed the theses, someone quickly translated the document into German, revved up the printing press, and distributed them widely. Historians often look to this event as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This is why October 31st is not just All Hallows Eve (Halloween) but is also known as Reformation Day and this is also why we celebrate Reformation Sunday around this time each year.
I know it’s kind of weird, but in the story above the thing that fascinates me most is the unknown person(s) that translated and distributed the 95 Theses. History is full of these anonymous nobodies who had just as much (in some instances more) impact than the guys who get Wikipedia pages.
I think of the nobody Intel computer software engineer I sat next to on a transatlantic flight that started desiringgod.org. I think of the nobody Bedouin goat herder who found the Dead Sea Scrolls in some caves. I think of the two missionaries that John Calvin’s church sent to South America! I think of the nobody(ies) that disciple Paul in Syrian Antioch for the 14 years in between his conversion and his first missionary journey. I think of the nobody at CRU who came up with the idea of the Jesus Film (the most watched and translated movie in human history).
In the grand scheme of things history has been radically changed by a bunch of us nobodies. These things should give each of us hope that we can make Jesus famous from being faithful, intentional, and strategic as we go about mundane life.
(Originally appeared in Orlando Grace Church E-News)