Luther meets Satan
By Mike Poole
Martin Luther begins to tell a modern-day congregation of his life, when
he is interrupted by Lucifer, who tries to put down everything he has done.
(Setting: a congregation during a Reformation celebration or similar event,
either on Sunday or another day. This may serve as the sermon for the day.
The person playing Luther may want to give a small introduction. May even
hint that the presentation will be a monologue. Try not to spoil the surprise
of the second character.)
(Luther assumes his place in the pulpit. He pauses a moment, and then
addresses the congregation.)
LUTHER: I greet you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of
the Holy Ghost. (Luther makes the sign of the Cross over the congregation.)
I am Martin Luther. It is good to know that Christians are still keeping
the faith in Christ, building strong churches and sharing God's love throughout
the world. It has been some 500 years since my service to the Gospel. I
hope you continue to be faithful as long.
SATAN: (Sitting in the front row. He turns to the person behind him
and speaks in a voice loud enough for all to hear.) Faithful churches.
Ha! You Christians are too willing to pat yourselves on the back.
LUTHER: (Ignoring) I was a monk of the Augustinian Order, a priest
of Christ's Church, and professor at the University of Wittenberg. I am
honored to be here with you to commemorate this occasion.
SATAN: (Stands and addresses Luther.) You make yourself sound so grand,
almost like royalty. (mockingly bows) But I know you better.
LUTHER: Are you a member of the Church?
SATAN: No, but I am familiar with everyone here, including you, Martin
Luther. You meet me in the troubles, suffering and inhumanity of this world.
You meet me in the fears and doubts you have. You meet me wherever Christians
think they are better than anyone else. I am your tempter, your .........
LUTHER: Who are you?
SATAN: You know me well enough, Brother Martin. We have wrestled and
fought each other on many occasions. I am known by many names. Your Book
sometimes calls me Beelzebub, the tempter, and I am also known as ......Lucifer.
LUTHER: AH, brothers and sisters, we have Satan himself. Oh yes, we
meet again Satan.
SATAN: (laughing) I thought you would recognize me. Indeed, we have
gone toe-to-toe on more than one occasion.
LUTHER: What are you up to this time?
SATAN: I thought I would visit these people today. What a coincidence
we meet again, Martin. You were congratulating them on faithfulness to
their God. Sounds like you are starting to preach another one of your sermons.
LUTHER: The opportunity is here. Maybe you will learn something also.
SATAN: Do not let me stop you.
LUTHER: Brothers and sisters, Christian friends, please ignore this
...crude intruder. Let me continue to tell you a little of my story. I
was born of peasant stock. My father, Hans, was a miner. And my mother,
Margaretha, a hard working haus-frau. We were, of course, devout Catholics.
I remember well my early decision (under his breath) my father's decision...
to pursue the law - an honorable profession. But one night, as I
was traveling near my home, I was caught in a terrible storm. As the lightning
streaked across the skies and the thunder crashed above my head, I was
terribly frightened. Was this God speaking to me? I fell to my knees and
pleaded with St. Anne that if my life were spared, I would become a monk...
SATAN: What motivation, Brother Martin! You should have stuck with
the law. To give your life to God out of fear for a thunderstorm - what
commitment and devotion.
LUTHER: You may question my original motivation, but I followed through
with my promises. I left my law studies and entered the Augustinian Monastery,
giving myself in deep commitment to the Rule of that Order.
SATAN: Deep commitment - what a joke! You were trying to win your own
salvation and we both know it, Luther. All that foolish monkery - the hours
of fasting, lying on the cold stone floor of your room, even whipping yourself.
You thought you were impressing God and winning his favor, didn't you?
LUTHER: I thought so then. I was sure that this was what God expected
of me - obeying the rules, keeping the law meticulously, and even going
beyond it ... (begins to pound his chest) Trying to overcome the temptations
of the flesh.
SATAN: Ah - the temptations of the flesh - you knew them all too well,
didn't you Brother Martin? You could drink your beer with the best of them.
And from the looks of your girth, you ate with the best of them too.
And do not tell me you didn't have an eye for the ladies now and then.
LUTHER: Yes, and I have made confession of all that. But during those
days of studying the Scriptures, I made an amazing discovery. I found that
it is not through our feeble attempts to keep God's law that we win his
favor. In fact, we never win God's favor. We need to live by faith in God's
love for us. The faith that does not rest and relax. Faith in God is a
daily recommitment of our lives back to God. Only then can we know the
love God gives us in life. During my studies, the Scriptures opened to
me the great truth of the Gospel. As St. Paul wrote to the Romans: "For
the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written,
'The just shall live by faith.'"
SATAN: (mockingly repeats) The just shall live by faith. The just shall
live by faith! Words, words, words! These people have heard those words
a thousand times, Martin. Those are merely empty words, spoken long ago
with no meaning for these people. They have busy lives to lead. Things
to do, places to go, people to see. They have more important things to
do with their lives. (Speaking to the congregation) Don't you? See, Martin,
everyone agrees with me. They can't be bothered with commitment and faith.
You are good with words, Martin, but how empty and meaningless they can
LUTHER: Still up to your old tricks. Still sowing doubt and confusion
wherever you go. Human's words may be empty enough. But it was God's
word that brought me up short and changed my life. It opened up to me God's
whole plan of salvation. We are justified by grace, through faith, apart
from the works of the law. These people are here because faith and trust
in God is important to them. Faith, trust and commitment to God takes a
lifetime to learn.
SATAN: Oh come o,n Martin! These men and women are here because it's
something they feel they have to do. When Sunday comes, everybody goes
to church. They're here because they want to impress their neighbors and
earn favor of your so-called God. I suppose you are going to tell
us more of your fanciful life story. It sure puts you in a good light,
doesn't it Martin? Almost makes you appear to be some sort of saint. But
we know better than that, don't we Martin?
LUTHER: You are wrong. I am no saint in that sense of the word. But
I discovered the true meaning of sainthood, and of the priesthood. The
Scriptures reveal that every believer is a saint, and that we are all priests
- called to minister to our brothers and sisters as priests of Christ's
church. Faith in God is their way of life. They are here to grow in that
faith, to deepen their trust in their only Lord, to learn how to serve
as ministers, and to live that faith among their neighbors. They have hope
in God for their salvation. They don't earn it through their ministry.
It is God's gift to them.
SATAN: (with surprise and excitement) Priests! I have heard you attack
priests on many occasions! Nothing comes without a price tag. They have
to work for everything. It is the same for God's love. Even as priests,
they are working to earn God's love. I remember one priest in particular
who really put you to the test. Tetzel! I believe Johann Tetzel was his
LUTHER: (attempting to ignore the name of Tetzel) No. God's saving
love comes freely through Christ. All the good things they do for people
do not make them acceptable to God. They are acceptable because of what
Christ has done for them. It is a gift.
SATAN: If God's love is a gift, given freely, and not earned, then
what is asked of these people?
LUTHER: God asks us to trust in that love.
SATAN: Seems simple enough.
LUTHER: Real trust of God does not come easy. With you lurking around
us, our trust is tested at every turn.
SATAN: (Pridefully spoken) Yes, I know. I do such a good job. And you
people are such pushovers to turn away from God. Now, lets get back to
Tetzel. Surely you haven't forgotten Tetzel?
LUTHER: I remember him well. He was an evil corruptor of the church
- selling his Letters of Indulgence, promising forgiveness and even salvation
to the highest bidder.
SATAN: (proudly) He was one of my finest operatives. And his
ideas have not died out even yet. Look around you, Martin. People are trying
still to win God's favor and earn their way into heaven, by their feeble
efforts and good deeds.
LUTHER: That is only half the truth. While we are weak, our God is
strong. When we call on God's help, God is there. When we own up to our
sinfulness, even the thoughts that we can earn our way to heaven, God forgives
us and we have the chance to start again. God's strength, not our own,
saves us from you.
SATAN: You sound so confident, Martin. But I know better. You even
admitted that you all believe you can earn your way to heaven. Tetzelism
is alive and well!
LUTHER: You are probably right, Satan. But Tetzel's sale of Indulgences
wasn't the only problem in the church of my day. It was only the most obvious,
and I knew I had to do something about it.
SATAN: You people are afraid to stand up against me. When you are tempted,
it's much easier to give in, give up and give yourselves to me. And I remember
your response all too well to those other problems. I can still see you
pompously marching to nail your list of objections to the door at Wittenberg.
Your 95 Theses, you called them. But nobody read them, you fool. The peasants
couldn't even understand what you had written. And it was fitting you did
it on my holiday, when I get to roam the earth for lost souls.
LUTHER: They were not meant for the common people - the humble believers
who had been deceived and misled You don't get to do anything. You
think you know us well, Satan. I intended them for the leaders, the hierarchy
of the church, who had corrupted the Gospel. I couldn't stand to think
of the next day when they would haul off relics and trinkets: candles,
bones, teeth, and any other piece of a saint they can get their hands on.
And if they can't find any, they'll make them up. The brothers will stand
arm in arm, holding the people back.. I couldn't stand it one more day.
But how well do you know God? In the hour of our struggles and in the face
of temptation, back then and now, we are weak. Yet God is there for us.
In God we trust. On that trust we stand. I trusted that the right people
would read what I had to say.
SATAN: And what good did it do for you? It only got you into hotter
water. You were treading on some pretty powerful toes when you took on
the leaders of both the empire and the church.
LUTHER: My conscience would not permit me to do otherwise. Even when
I was summoned to appear before the Emperor, I knew there could be no turning
SATAN: What about the good the Emperor was doing? What about the good
the leaders of the church and state were doing? What about the good things
they (pointing to congregation) do for each other? If doing good does not
gain heaven, then why try doing good?
LUTHER: Like I said, faith in God is a way of life. We thank God for
loving us as we share that love with others. It is God alone! Christ alone!
The Scriptures alone! The Word alone! Faith Alone!! All that we do is a
way of showing thanks to God.
SATAN: Do you expect me to believe that?! I thought that these Christians
only lived their faith on Sunday, and only for a few hours. And how much
love were you showing for God at the Diet of Worms, that meeting with the
LUTHER: We are not perfect, Satan, only forgiven. That forgiving
love moves us to make changes in our living. The greatest change is to
use every moment of every day living as God's people. I was trying to show
them how they had to change to live out a life loving God.
SATAN: (Trying to persuade) How easy it would have been for you to
compromise your beliefs just a little. You could have saved your skin in
the process. I still remember how foolish you looked standing there with
your books and papers before the assembled power of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Trying to explain everyday life. How can everyday life please your God
more than the singing of hymns, being at church, or buying indulgences
- doing good to save others? You stubborn German, you would not give an
LUTHER: Satan, you haven't changed - always urging people to compromise
their principles just a little. Always trying to make wrong appear right.
But God was with me that day, Satan. The Holy Spirit empowered me to resist
your devious temptations. Any way we follow God is pleasing to God. So,
God welcomes even the most menial task as it is done in thanks for God's
forgiving love. My menial task was to inform the Emperor. I told him that
my conscience was captive to the Word of God, and that I would take nothing
back that I had written or said. Here I stand. I can do nothing else. And
may God help me.
SATAN: (with disgust) You Reformers and do-gooders make me sick. You
are so self-righteous, always trying to appear better than you really are.
Is that what you want, Martin?! Is that really what the people want, to
live by that forgiving love. That is risky business! Are you (to the congregation)
and all of you, willing to take the risks? I know the truth, so do not
lie to me with your answers!
LUTHER: I know the truth also, Satan. The truth of the Gospel has freed
me from your power. That is what these people want. That is what every
Christian wants. We want to risk ourselves because we know even in the
risk taking, God is with us and we are not alone. I may be a poor beggar
when it comes to living a pure and sinless life. But God's grace grants
me forgiveness and salvation. The rules and laws that you love so well
do not bind me. Nor these people! They too, are believers in Jesus Christ,
and that frees them from your evil and crafty temptations.
SATAN: (To the congregation) But why not avoid the risks. Play
it safe. Just live behind the masks of being a good Christian. (Whispering)
No one will ever know. No one will find out.
LUTHER: Then our trust in God would be a shame and shallow. We would
never know how great God's love is for us if we don't take the risks of
faithful living. We would never know how to deeply trust in God. Playing
it safe is not the way of the People of God.
SATAN: (With back turned to Luther. Still talking to congregation,
attempting to convince) My way is easier and more appealing, Martin. Think
of yourself. Do for yourself. Live for yourself. Save yourself. Only yourself
to care about. See how wonderful it would be for you.
LUTHER: But that isn't the way of our God.
SATAN: Do not listen to his babble. He'll tell you that you are all
sinners one minute and that you are all saved by God the next.
LUTHER: We are simultaneously sinners and saved. The unconditional
gift of love from God exposes us for who we are. By declaring us just,
it reveals us as sinners. The justifying act does not remove our sin, it
forgives us. Take you, for example. The more light we shine on you, the
more dirty you appear.
SATAN: You are going out on a limb for this God.
LUTHER: Why not?! God went out into this world in Christ to save us
from the likes of you. Christ defeated you. If we are Christ's people then
we share in his victory.
SATAN: He didn't defeat me! I'm still here! I even told him in the
wilderness that I would be back to see him. He eluded me then, but how
do you know Jesus wasn't even a little sinner. I was there as he died on
that cross. He hung there with, and like the criminal that he was.
LUTHER: It is on the cross that God meets us. It is on the cross that
God makes himself present. It is on the cross God enters our darkness and
totally embraces us. It is on the cross that God enters our darkness and
exposes and defeats the powers of this world. On the cross, Jesus did become
a sinner. The greatest sinner of all. He took on the sins of every persecutor,
adulterer, assaulter, blasphemer and murderer. Not that he committed those
sins. Humans committed them. But he took them into himself for us.
By the death of Jesus, God liberates us from any person, thing or system
that would enslave us by demanding absolute loyalty. We are free. Free
to let God be God. We are free to be human. We are free from your power.
Every time we celebrate his feast, we celebrate his victory of sin, death,
SATAN: (agitated) Don't get too cocky Luther! I was there when you
celebrated your first Mass. Your father was so proud of you. You couldn't
even get through it. You nearly crapped yourself. (to congregation) And
I still get the majority of the likes of you.
LUTHER: I'm not cocky. I am confident and assured because of what God
has done for us in Christ. It is not about how we personally handle it.
SATAN: I can almost believe this 'God loves you' thing. But it appears
to me that God has chosen who will be saved and who will not. How many
of these people are in the right crowd and how many are not.
LUTHER: God has chosen. He chose everyone. God's grace is free. There
is nothing we can do to earn it. And God decided this before any creation.
Even before you. Everyone you encounter has the reception of God's gift.
There is nothing you can do about it.
SATAN: What!!! Just watch me. I'll turn the heads of these people to
what really matters - power, prestige, personal gain personal triumph.
You'll see, Martin Luther. You'll see!
LUTHER: Your threats are meaningless. Be gone! Leave us! You have no
power over us. Any time you come here, remember we are in God's care and
in that care we trust. (comes out of pulpit to the floor)
SATAN: FOOLS!!! All of you! What has this grace from Jesus
Christ gotten you? I promise wealth, power, and prestige! I reward those
who serve me handsomely.
LUTHER: But at what price, Satan? Serving you we lose all that matters.
We serve the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is through the power of his grace
that we have life now and for eternity.
SATAN: They threw you out of the body of your precious Lord Jesus Christ.
(mockingly) "Let your light shine before others that they may see your
good works and glorify your Father in heaven." They turned your candle
upside down and snuffed you out of the church. You broke the laws of the
church, the laws that govern how to act as a Christian. They could have
saved you if you had just gone along with them. The Church excommunicated
LUTHER: Those were not God's laws. There are times when the law is
harmful. Scripture tells us we must obey God rather than men. Faith alone
is the saving use of the Word of God. Scripture says if you confess with
your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised
him from the dead, you will be saved. Christ was the end of the law, so
that every one of us who has faith, may be saved.
SATAN: (To the congregation) Do you REALLY believe this God stuff?
(back to Luther) Do you really believe it?
LUTHER: (while reciting this catechism, move to being face-to-face)
I believe that God has created me together with all creatures. God has
given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs
and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and
abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and home,
spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property - along with all
the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me
against all danger and shields me from all evil. God does all this out
of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or
worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and
praise, serve and obey. This is most certainly true.
SATAN: (pointing to congregation) See where he has led you. You are
all heretics to the church. (back to Luther) They said I sent you. They
said your mother was a prostitute in a bathhouse. That she copulated with
one of my demons to give you life. That you were the forerunner of Me to
destroy the Church. That's what they think of you. I want nothing to do
LUTHER: We will not listen to your rantings any further.
SATAN: All right, I'll leave. But remember, I am never far away from
any of you! I speak to you every day. I will never cease trying to draw
you into my power.
LUTHER: We've wasted too much time on you, Satan. Get out. Be gone!
Your threats have no power or claim on us. We belong to God. Our faith
rests assured in God's promise through Christ. On that promise we stand
fast. God help us! Amen.
Copyright Mike Poole, all rights reserved. This script may be performed
free of charge, provided no entrance fee is paid by the audience, and no
copies are distributed without the author's permission. In return for free
performance, the author would like to be notified whenever the play is
used. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
TEXTS USED AS SOURCES
Braaten, Carl E. and Robert W. Jenson. Union with Christ The New Finnish
Interpretation of Luther. Eerdmans Publishing. Grand Rapids,
Ebeling, Gerhard. Luther an Introduction to his Thought.
Fortress Press. Philadelphia. 1970.
Erlander, Daniel. Baptized, We Live Lutheranism as a way of Life.
Holden Village. Chelan, WA. 1981.
Forde, Gerhard O. Justification by Faith A Matter of Death and Life.
Sigler Press. Ramsey, NJ. 1990
Kittelson, James M. Luther the Reformer The Story of the Man and his
Career. Augsburg. Minneapolis. 1986.
Luther, Martin. Christian Liberty. Fortress Press. Philadelphia. 1957.
Luther, Martin. Luther's Works - Career of the Reformer II volume 32
Fortress Press. Minneapolis. 1958
Musser, Donald W. & Joseph L. Price ,editors. A New Handbook of
Theology. Abingdon Press. Nashville. 1992.
Osborne, John. Plays - Luther. Faber and Faber, Ltd. London. 1961.
Rogness, Alvin N. Living in the Kingdom Reflections on Luther's Catechism.
Augsburg Publishing. Minneapolis. 1976
Wengert, Timothy J, translator. A Contemporary Translation of Luther's
Catechism. Augsburg Fortress. Minneapolis. 1994