Rembrandt’s La Petite Tombe:
Jesus stands at the center, preaching with an expression of compassion and tenderness. A focused shaft of light descends upon Him which is immediately refracted outward in five directions. His rhetorical gesture emphasizes his willingness to save all present—young and old, women and men, rich and poor, residents or travelers. No one is foreign to Him.
Close observation suggests that there are fourteen distinctive, individualistic souls depicted to the left of Christ, and another
seventeen on the right including the visitor who is only indicated by his shoes in the lower right corner. The comfortably seated young man at Jesus’ feet is surely John the Beloved. An unidentified aspect peers between Jesus and John underscoring the pressing earnestness to see and hear a great preacher who will later be acknowledged as the prefigured Mortal Messiah. He blesses them all, the supplicant and the cynic, the keen and the distracted. Jesus’ raised hands prefigure the crucifixion wounds that He would retain even after his resurrection.
Christ’s sermon has drawn a considerable audience that responds with thoughtfulness – it is difficult to see a cynical reaction to the Lord’s declarations. Rembrandt’s inclusion of so many diverse seekers allow the viewer to experience the blessings caught up in Jesus’ gesture of grace that reaches out to all the world.