What was he thinking?

I’ve always enjoyed spending time in Philadelphia, and one of the highlights was a trip to the Rodin Museum. On display there is the bronze statue, “The Thinker,” by Sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). (For now, the museum is closed, but you can see and read about the statue here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Thinker-sculpture-by-Rodin.)

The first large-scale bronze casting was finished in 1902, and today, there are some 25 full size bronze replicas of this work around the world, so you also can see it in Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, and Moscow.

What most people don’t know about this world-famous work of art is that originally it was a key figure in a much larger, very different work. The man hunched over in apparent thought was originally part of Rodin’s “The Gates of Hell.”

Standing nearly 20 feet tall, that work was meant to capture a scene in Dante’s Inferno. The Thinker is perched over the action, watching the judgment of men and women who have been judged, and are being cast into hell. It’s a horrific thought cast in bronze.

Rodin was commissioned to create the bronze as a doorway to a proposed museum of decorative arts in Paris. It was so massive and so detailed that Rodin worked on it for 37 years. But “The Gates of Hell” was never finished and the museum itself was never built.

And yet, there is The Thinker. Today people contemplate the statue apart from its context, assuming, perhaps, that it stands for the quest for knowledge. But Rodin created it as a symbol of someone wrestling with one of the greatest questions mankind could ever ask:
What happens to us when we die?

It’s a lot to think about. But if your hope is in Jesus, you need not fear judgment, since He came to die in our place. His sacrifice allows us to escape judgment, taking our punishment upon Himself, and fulfilling God’s perfect love and justice at the same time. He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:16-21). Have you come to Jesus for forgiveness?

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Romans 5:6–10, NIV84

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