Sunday, April 9, 2017

Luke for Lent - Part 6 of 7

Title: The Three Crosses
Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 60.5 x 96 cm
Date: ca. 1620
Location: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The faith of the thief on the cross is often dismissed, for he has the equivalent of a deathbed conversion. But the testimony he gives in his last moments is a most eloquent evidence of faith. He addresses his colleague first, expresses the injustice of the entire crucifixion by exclaiming, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then, anticipating the restoration and resurrection, the thief turns to Jesus with words full of faith, and asks to be included. This man, despite a life full of sin, comes to Jesus, and seeks forgiveness in his last mortal moments. He confesses his guilt and casts himself on Jesus' mercy and saving power. Ironically, though dying amidst mocking, Jesus has saved while on the cross. The request of the taunts has been granted to one who learned to believe. Luke could not have painted a clearer portrait of God's grace…

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) was a Flemish/Netherlandish draughtsman and painter, widely considered as the most notable artist of Flemish Baroque art school. A proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality, Rubens is well known for his Counter-Reformation altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. Art experts have pointed out that Rubens did not intend the three towering crosses in this painting to have such a dramatic impact. It was only later that his original panel was mounted in a larger one. However, the work was reproduced in its present form during his lifetime, so the idea of portraying Christ’s death so bleakly is certainly authentic and came from Rubens’s circle.

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