Throughout history Christians have had a reputation for producing the best art. One was the Dutch painter Rembrandt who lived between 1609-1669. Whether we are listening or not art is always speaking. In my opinion, Rembrandts art in particular has some important things to say. Hopefully by commenting here on some of his paintings I will allow them to speak all the more.
This is a painting of Jesus’ disciples caught in a storm in the Sea of Galilee. Rembrandt freezes us at the moment when his they have just woken Jesus, astonished that He could sleep when they are in danger. A huge wave has just lifted the front of the boat up, while Jesus is in the shadows in rear of the boat. He is gazing towards the mast is which is turned sideways and bathed in light. Rembrandt is daring us to see a cross the only means by which the storms of our life can finally be put to rest.
What stands out almost immediately in this painting is the man standing in the middle of it. The Gospels make no mention of such a man at Jesus’ crucifixion, still he is standing there staring out at us. Two frequent topics of Rembrandt’s paintings and etching are the cross and self-portraits. Many critics believe that the man is the artist himself. You can well imagine Rembrandt working on this, painting it as his own face stared back at him, supervising the execution of Jesus. By placing himself in a position like Paul approving the execution of Stephen, Rembrandt is acknowledging the role his sin played in Jesus’ death. Our sins are the reason Jesus died, we were his executioners.
Finally we have an Rembrandt etching called The Three Trees. Again I think Rembrandt is hinting at something, instead of explicitly stating it. There are three trees standing side by side on the hill, the middle one out front. It is hard to see in this image, but The Tree Trees is actually one of Rembrandt’s most detailed etchings. It is filled with people going about their daily business, oblivious to the trees in their midst. A fisherman is in the bottom-left corner, a couple in the bottom right, farmers plow their field in the middle ground, and a city is in the distance. We too go about our daily routines, oblivious to the presence of the Tree’s impact in our daily lives.