Painted Into the Picture - Thursday, April 4, 2019

Romans 6:5–7 (NIV84)

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

The Raising of the Cross  by  Rembrandt , 1633. Rembrandt painted himself into the depiction (in blue), partly to represent that he was (spiritually) present at the crucifixion.

The Raising of the Cross by Rembrandt, 1633. Rembrandt painted himself into the depiction (in blue), partly to represent that he was (spiritually) present at the crucifixion.

In 1633, the Dutch artist Rembrandt painted “The Raising of the Cross.”  The painting shows many hands pushing and pulling a large wooden cross to raise it into its place.  The body of Jesus is already attached to that cross with spikes through his hands and his feet. Jesus is being raised so that he may undergo his punishment of death by crucifixion.  But as you look at the painting, something stands out very clearly. At the base of the cross is a strange looking man wearing a blue hat and a blue shirt who definitely does not look like anyone else in the painting.  The colors alone stand out in contrast to the rest of the painting. As he was famous for, Rembrandt had painted himself into “The Raising of the Cross.” By placing himself at the base of the cross and the middle of the painting, Rembrandt was obviously saying something very clearly: “I was there too.  I am as responsible as anyone for Jesus going to the cross.”

The Bible tells us the same.  Our sins led Jesus to the cross.  If God has given us that skill, we could all paint ourselves into our own portrait of the crucifixion.  Each one of us would have to say, “I was there too. I put Jesus on the cross.”

But the Apostle Paul makes a different application of that truth in Romans chapter six.  Yes, it was our sins that led to the cross, but also understand what Jesus did to our sins through that cross. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—”  Paul says not only were we there at the cross of Jesus but in his crucifixion, we have undergone a crucifixion too—our sin has been put to death.

And it gets even better!  “If we have been united like this with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”  Not only are united with Jesus in his crucifixion, but we are also united with Jesus in his resurrection! As Jesus died on Calvary’s cross, so did our slavery to sin.  As Jesus was raised on Easter, so we were raised from everlasting death to eternal life.

I don’t know if Rembrandt painted a scene of the resurrection with his figure curiously added, but God tells us here in Romans that is exactly the case.  We are united with Jesus. His death means the death of our sin. His resurrection is our resurrection. We don’t have a painting, but we have the very Word of God which comforts us: “I was there too.  I have been raised with Jesus!”

 

PRAYER:  Lord Jesus Christ, you set us free—Accept our thanks eternally! Forgiven through your precious blood, We now are reconciled to God. For thus the certainty we gain That you will always true remain And not forsake us in our strife But lead us out of death to life. Amen.    (Christian Worship, 123, v. 1,4)