Rembrandt – at the Crucifixion

Mar 31, 2021

Fr. Michael Schleupner shared this on Palm Sunday, but it’s a poignant message to carry throughout Holy Week.  Our last post painted the picture of Palm Sunday and today we can visualize more details of the crucifixion, analyzing our own personal role as we journey to “The Raising of the Cross”.

Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16
Jesus enters Jerusalem as the crowds shout, “Hosanna!”

Isaiah 50:4-7
The Lord’s servant will stand firm, even when persecuted.crucifixion

Psalm 22:8-9,17-18,19-20,23-24
A cry for help to the Lord in the face of evildoers

Philippians 2:6-11
Christ was obedient even to death, but God has exalted him.

Mark 14:1—15:47
Jesus is sentenced to death and crucified. The centurion who witnessed his death declared, “This man was the Son of God.”

Rembrandt – at the Crucifixion

When I was back in high school, I remember learning a little bit about the great Dutch artist Rembrandt. I imagine all of us have learned something about him and his painting. Rembrandt lived in the 1600s and did a beautiful painting that is entitled The Raising of the Cross. (You can view the painting by clicking here.)

The painting portrays the final moments before the cross is raised with Jesus on it. Everyone is dressed as they would have been in Jesus’ time except one person. The man raising the cross is dressed in the clothing of Rembrandt’s own time, the 1600s. Rembrandt never explained this, but those who knew him realized that this man in the painting is Rembrandt himself.

Our Role

Now Rembrandt did not put himself in the painting as part of an ego trip. Instead, he was making an important point. He was conveying that each of us – including himself – plays a role in the crucifixion of Jesus.

This is why the characters in the story that we just heard are so memorable. We identify with them.

We see ourselves in those who were present for the crucifixion of Jesus. Some of these persons are noble and some are not so noble, but either way, we see ourselves in them and realize that we play a role in the crucifixion – just as Rembrandt was conveying.

Who Are We?

For example, do I identify with Peter? Am I enthused about my faith one minute, when things in my life are going well? But then am I giving up on God the next minute, when a job loss or relationship troubles happen?

Or, do I identify with Caiaphas and the high priests? Am I at peace when my experience of faith is black and white and pretty comfortable? But then do I quickly resist and shut down to any gray area or anything different that faith may be calling me to consider?

On the flip side, do I identify with the women who followed Jesus all the way to the crucifixion? Am I patient in dealing with the growing pains of a teenage son or daughter? Do I persevere in caring for a parent who is aging and needing more and more care?

Or do I identify with Joseph of Arimathea? Do I do the right thing, not in a showy way, but without too much concern about what others will think? Do I realize that at the end of the day, inner peace and being true to myself are what count?


So, the key point, the key theme in Rembrandt’s painting is that in our everyday lives, we play a role in Jesus’ final hours.

Either we participate in crucifying and putting Jesus to death. Or we are doing what we can to make him alive and present right now.

~ Fr. Michael Schleupner

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