FAITH OF OUR FATHERS (FOURTH of four)
Lucas Cranach (The Elder)
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” (Romans 12:4-6a NIV)
Lucas Cranach was not a theological scholar like Justus Jonas. He could not summarize Scriptural truth brilliantly as Philip Melanchthon could. He was not a trained pastor as John Bugenhagen was, but he stands as a reminder that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Church, so often uses the gifts of Christian laymen when He carries out His kingdom work. And Cranach certainly had talents and abilities which He put to very good use in the service of his Savior.
He (Cranach) took his spiritual stand with those who taught that eternal life was a free gift, not earned or deserved by our own works, but bought and paid for by the death of our Lord.
He was born in Germany in 1472 in a region known as Franconia. He was the son of a professional artist and followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a painter himself. So good was his work that in 1504 he came to Wittenberg and became the court artist for Duke Frederick, ruler of Saxony, whose fair-minded policies later helped Martin Luther and the cause of the Reformation greatly.
In 1508 he painted altar pieces for Wittenberg’s Castle Church (where Luther would later preach), and his paintings of Biblical scenes became well known. Cranach became a famous artist and very wealthy. His painting of Martin Luther stands to this day as one of the most recognizable portraits in all the history of art. God used Cranach’s talents to add beauty to His world and to teach Bible lessons to many thousands through pictures. Cranach provided the woodcuts for the first German translation of the New Testament in 1522.
Lucas Cranach became a good friend of Martin Luther and was moved by the gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He took his spiritual stand with those who taught that eternal life was a free gift, not earned or deserved by our own works, but bought and paid for by the death of our Lord. His allegiance was with the reformers. It was Cranach and his wife Barbara who, in fact, served as witnesses at Luther’s wedding.
Along with his painting, Cranach was in the printing business. And if you were to suspect that his presses were busy turning out copy after copy of Luther’s writings, you would be right. His artwork, his printing company, his fame, his service as Wittenberg’s mayor (many times) and as a highly respected town council member placed him in a unique position which God then used to bless those who were contending for the faith during those tumultuous years.
Lucas Cranach died in 1553 at Weimar, Germany. The calendar of the Lutheran Church remembers him on April 6.