Many people are familiar with Goethe’s famous play Faust. As the play unfolds, Doctor Faustus makes a pact with the Devil, who agrees to serve him with knowledge, youth, love, wealth, and magical power. At the end of this pact, however, his soul is to be carried off by Satan. While Faust has been performed on stage in plays and operas, the question still remains: did he repent of his sins or face the devil’s deadline by being condemned? Although many writers and composers portray the latter, some Christian artists feel that this was a struggle in which ultimately the Spirit of God overcame evil. Continue reading
As he lived his life and exercised his ministry, it became clear to Jesus that his faith and commitment would bring him into confrontation with the religious and political powers of his day. “The hour has come,” Jesus declares —the hour for the dying and the lifting up that will draw all people to God.
This moment in the life of Jesus compares in significance to his baptism and his transfiguration in glory. At all three events, a voice from the heavens clarifies his identity and purpose. Even though God’s voice is not clearly understood by the crowds gathered in Jerusalem for Passover, there is no lack of clarity in Jesus’ perception of himself.
Although it would represent the most significant moment of his life, Jesus’ hour does not belong to him alone. Through this hour, all people are drawn to God through him: “A clean heart create for me, and a steadfast spirit renew within me,” the Psalmist says.
Yet this fact does not include all its implications. Jesus’ attitude toward his impending death is also worthy of our emulation. Instead of regarding himself as an unfortunate victim of Roman and Jewish intolerance, Jesus accepts his hour and his death as the ultimate sacrifice for gaining eternal life. Only those prepared to lose their lives, to fall to the ground and die, will know the gift of eternal life.
In his Letter to the Romans, Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, declared, “I am the grain of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I many be found the pure bread of Christ. For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?” Ignatius, like Jesus, fell to the ground and died, and by virtue of his witness, many came to believe.