In “The Three Crosses,” Rembrandt famously painted himself as a face in the crowd at Jesus’ crucifixion. See the attachment of the full piece, and then the ‘close-up’ where in the center of this bottom left section you’ll find a bald, bearded, European-looking man staring straight ahead, with almost a glazed look on him. Apathy? Stupor? Penitence? He seems to be looking the other way. Or… maybe that’s his point.
Mel Gibson makes the slightest ‘cameo’ appearance in his movie “The Passion of the Christ”… his left hand is seen holding one of the nails that is hammered into Jesus’ hand. According to Gibson, he did this to symbolize (and remind himself) that he too crucified Christ.
Love for Jesus, blended with an understanding of their own sinfulness and culpability for his execution, motivated these men to ‘not leave themselves out’ when portraying the hostile or apathetic crowd gathered at the crucifixion. While admirable and even touching artistic gestures, these were deeply personal acts, and to be honest, some of their power is lost on me as simply the viewer. I’m only an uncomfortable bystander at their confession…. until I draw my own face in the same picture.
The power comes when I see the invitation in their actions. Then the question, for each of us, becomes: If I were making this drawing, where would I put myself and what would I be doing? Or perhaps, What kind of artwork would I create in its place?
Being just another face in the crowd can be a powerful act, after all. May we all find ourselves as just another face in the throng eternally singing praise before the Throne of Grace. Because, in words I heard at church last night, infused with theology of the meaning of Good Friday, “Jesus decided he would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.”