While studying Greek, Zwingli read a poem written by the great Erasmus that impressed him with the thought that everything good comes from Christ. EVERYTHING. To Zwingli that meant that he didn’t need the wisdom of the fathers telling him what the Bible meant, he didn’t need the help of the saints to take his prayers before God, his greatest need was just to be connected to Jesus. That simple thought was to have a great influence on this young priest’s future work.
Zwingli bought every book that Erasmus wrote and when God opened the way for them to meet, young Zwingli was delighted. Many of the young scholars and priests in Switzerland were drawn to this brilliant, pious, gentle man and eagerly listened as he taught. Zwingli saw more clearly the beauty of the Scriptures and the need to bring its teachings into the everyday life.
Zwingli’s influence continued to grow. Because of his sound judgement and clear common sense, he was often consulted about important matters affecting the country. His church members hoped that he would be used to bring about a revival of true godliness in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, Switzerland was again pulled into war. Although Zwingli spoke out strongly against the fighting, he went with the pope’s troops to fight the French army led by Francis I. His worst fears came true as he saw the strongest and brightest of the Swiss youth left dead on the battlefield. The battle of Marignano was so horrific that for most of the next five hundred years Switzerland refused to fight in any war.
Need for Reform
But something good did come from that disaster. While Zwingli was in Rome he had an opportunity to see how the pope and the priests lived. Their lavish palaces, their tables groaning with every delicacy imaginable while poor people often suffered from hunger, their drunkenness and immorality all shocked Zwingli. These evils were making their way into Switzerland and he knew that there needed to be some big changes brought into the Roman church.
Zwingli returned to his church determined to present the Bible more clearly to his flock. Knowing that if the people understood truth they would be able to recognize error, Zwingli did not spend his time exposing the faults of the Church but rather taught “line upon line”, comparing Scripture with Scripture in his sermons. Week after week he opened the Bible to his hungry church members and spiritual life again flooded into the valleys.
But God had larger plans for Zwingli than merely preaching to a few villages and towns sprinkled through the valleys of his childhood. God knew that Zwingli’s education needed to take a different direction. Moses was given forty years in the wilderness to undo his training in the courts of the pharaohs and Zwingli needed a quiet abbey to undo some of his wrong learning. He needed time to learn of God. When that instruction was completed, the world would again hear his strong, clear, fearless voice.