Images for Lent
Our churches’ Lent course looks at pictures and images for meditation during the weeks of Lent.
Revd Michelle introduces the third in this series with Rembrandt’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’.
Once described as ‘the greatest picture ever painted’ this oil painting by Rembrandt was one of his last works, possibly completed shortly before his death in 1669. It captures a moment from the famous parable which is only found in Luke’s Gospel (15:11-32) as the third in a series of parables of ‘lostness’ after the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. Rembrandt’s painting captures the moment of the younger son’s return and is a moving portrayal of reunion:
But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
The full title of the parable is actually The Parable of the Prodigal and his Brother and of course both sons are ‘lost’ in different ways. The story demonstrates the unconditional love of their father, who does not judge either son for their actions, selfish and self-seeking as they are, but simply, yet profoundly offers his love, compassion and forgiveness to them both. Forgiveness is, of course, one of the key themes here, but so too is the joy of relationships and love restored which calls for jubilant celebration to which all are invited ‘for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ (Luke 15:24)
The parable itself asks questions of us:
Who do we identify with in this story? The younger wayward son? The angry older brother? The father?
What do we learn about the nature of love and forgiveness?
What does this story show us about God?
Rembrandt’s painting adds other particular questions:
Who are the other, shadowy figures in the background?
What does Rembrandt’s use of colour and the arrangement of the scene say to us about the key characters?
Look closely at the figure of the father as he holds his younger son – what do you notice, or what especially strikes you about this?
You are invited to join our Lent discussion group at 7.30pm on Thursdays via Zoom when we can share our thoughts with each other.
Zoom Link is:
Meeting ID: 826 9966 8454