In this documentary, we examine the life of the great reformer John Huss (Jan Huss), who was born in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, in AD 1352. He was not only an academic but also known as an effective and dynamic preacher. He was appointed as the preacher of Bethlehem, a place dedicated to preaching to the people in their vernacular, the common language of the people. The belief was that people should be able to hear the message clearly and in a way they understood.
Huss was passionate about bringing positive changes to the church, particularly in addressing the issue of corrupt clergy. He boldly called out the corrupt clergy for their sexual immorality, abuse of church resources, laziness, and for obtaining their positions through questionable means.
He ruffle the feathers of the Archbishop who held authority over all the churches in Bohemia. It was widely known that the Archbishop had brought his position.
Many Bohemian preachers, upon receiving tithes from the government, squandered the funds on personal matters rather than church affairs. They were known for their immorality and lack of devotion.
This group of corrupt clergy stands in stark contrast to another group of simple, poor clergy who served out of devotion to Jesus. One group aimed to enrich themselves, while the other group sought to serve both Jesus and the people.
At the request of the Archbishop, the Pope issued an order for Huss to cease preaching. Initially, he complied, but after soul-searching and prayer, he decided he could not obey the order and continued to preach.
When summoned to Rome to answer for his disobedience, Huss refused to go. As a result, he was excommunicated in 1411, essentially being expelled from the church.
Despite the Pope’s actions, Huss remained popular among the people and the king of Bohemia. His popularity remained unaffected by the Pope’s statements.
Huss began to question the authority of church leaders, especially when their actions were clearly self-serving rather than in the best interest of the church.
Huss asserted that the Bible should be the ultimate authority by which the church, including the Pope, should be judged. He believed that a Pope who did not adhere to the teachings of the Bible should not be obeyed by Christians.
Huss also concluded that only God could forgive sins and that paying indulgences was not a valid practice.
The people of Bohemia rallied behind Huss and held public demonstrations against the Pope’s exploitation of the people. In response, the Pope excommunicated Huss a second time, leading to the loss of support from the king of Bohemia.
To protect the poor from harm, Huss chose to leave and spend time in the countryside, writing about the need for reformation.
An invitation from the emperor prompted Huss to defend himself before the church leadership. He believed this council would bring about church reform and thus agreed to attend.
Upon arriving at the council, Huss was arrested and imprisoned by Pope John, who wished to try him for heresy in private.
Huss was denied the opportunity to join the other leaders and was ordered to recant his statements. However, Huss insisted that he would retract his statements if shown, through biblical evidence, that he was wrong.
Despite being accused of heresy, Huss maintained his innocence, as he had not spoken heretically.
Frustrated by the lack of a fair hearing, Huss declared, “I appeal to Jesus Christ, the only Judge who is almighty and completely just. In His hands, I place my cause, for He will judge me not based on false witnesses and erring councils, but on truth and justice.”
A month later, Huss was burned at the stake as a heretic.
For us, John Huss serves as a powerful reminder that authoritative truth does not come from powerful rulers, popes, or pastors. Authoritative truth is derived only from Jesus.
He urged the church to use the Holy Scriptures as the ultimate guide and authority for doctrine and practice.
Huss also reminds us that following Jesus can be challenging and may come with negative consequences, particularly for those who are more focused on worldly pursuits.
He dedicated his life to preaching and living out the gospel of Jesus, even to the point of asking for mercy for his executioners and reciting Psalms as he was burned alive.
Six hundred years after his death, Moravians proclaim Huss as a martyr to the truth, a faithful witness of the gospel and a shining example that truth cannot be destroyed by violence.
Read full article: Jan Hus and the Moravian Church