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“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” That’s the stirring question put to us by the old spiritual and the question on many minds as we head towards Good Friday. Sometimes the question causes us to tremble, tremble, tremble!

It is the question haunting Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn in his masterpiece “Raising the Cross.”  Rembrandt portrays Jesus, front and center, nailed to a cross as soldiers lift him high. Yet something seems strangely out of place as we see a man at the foot of the cross wearing a blue painter’s beret. It is obvious that the man is not dressed like anyone from Bible days, and yet, there he is, standing with the others, crucifying Jesus.

Who is this man? Look at Rembrandt’s many self-portraits and you will recognize this man in a blue painter’s beret as Rembrandt himself. He is wanting to tell the world that he is a sinner, and that it was for his sins God sent His Son to the cross.

But look again, and see another incongruous figure in the scene, a commander on horseback overseeing the crucifixion. What is striking about the commander is that he is not looking at the crucifixion or those conducting it. The commander is looking right at us, awaiting our orders to crucify Jesus. Rembrandt painted, understanding the need of all of us for the Savior. He knew well the heavy burden of sin and yet the power of the cross.  

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  Rembrandt thought so, and Scripture answers with a resounding “Yes!” It was for your sin, and for mine, that Jesus was nailed to the cross; it was our sin that He took away. We gave Him our sin and He gave us His righteousness: “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Just to think of it this Holy Week does cause us to tremble, tremble, tremble!

A fellow traveler,

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