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Reflecting with Rembrandt

Reflecting with Rembrandt
Reflecting with Rembrandt
Jack Kinyon, Art Teacher

When you enter The Wilberforce School art room, a large picture greets you on the opposite wall. Behind glass, a group of huddled figures silently convey a message of hope so overwhelming it seems like a shout. In light of the busy holiday season approaching, let us pause for a moment to consider this piece of art, Rembrandt van Rijn's The Prodigal Son.

The setting is familiar to us. Here is the Father whose hands gently rest on the son and whose cloak welcomes the tired man into a deep embrace. His eyes drift away from the scene. Perhaps the Father is remembering his son's departure. At long last, his son has finally returned.

Here also is the Prodigal Son, exhausted and dressed in rags. His head rests on his Father's chest, almost begging not to be raised again. The cares of the world have proven too much to bear, too much for his sagging shoulders to carry.

Rembrandt knew about earthly burdens. After living a life of considerable luxury, he lost every single one of his possessions. One of the reasons historians know how many paintings Rembrandt painted is because they were all listed on his creditors' financial records! Just think, your whole life's work summarized on a few receipts.

Till the day he died, Rembrandt never stopped painting. The Prodigal Son is one of the last paintings he ever made. One wonders if the artist, in the twilight years of his life, imagined himself in the position of the Prodigal Son. "I've been such a fool with my life," he might have thought, "how could my heavenly Father ever accept me?"

We ask ourselves similar questions. What will people think of me if they knew I can never get anywhere on time? Or my child is struggling in school? Or the family finances are a mess beyond repair? What keeps you from feeling accepted? Whatever it is, know that you have a friend in Rembrandt. The Dutch Master made a mess of his life and questioned whether anyone could accept him. However, Rembrandt apparently had Luke's gospel on the brain, and it is in this book that he found his answer.

In the last years of his life, the aging painter captured on canvas the heart of the gospel, God's forgiveness of our sins and our adoption as His children. Rembrandt's masterpiece visually pleads with us to run to our Heavenly Father, and find rest and contentment in His embrace. No matter how messy your life was, is, or will be, God the Father's arms are always open. His is the only acceptance that ultimately matters and it is only one we can never lose. May we follow Rembrandt's lead in the midst of the approaching holiday craziness and return once again to the eternal embrace of the Father.