In the striking painting, The Raising of the Cross, Rembrandt was not so much creating an illustration of a Bible scene as he was making a very personal confession of sin and a profession of faith.
Rembrandt places himself in the painting twice: the first of his alter egos is the man who cruelly thrusts the cross upwards and into place; the second alter ego, is the overseer, who coolly supervises the crucifixion. Rembrandt even dresses the images of himself in anachronistically contemporary clothing, while the rest of the painting is rendered more historically—just so that his point is not missed.
Rembrandt is confessing, not only that Christ was delivered up for his iniquities; but that he was among those lawless men by whose hands Christ was killed and crucified.
As the renowned art critic Hans Rookmaaker asserted, “Taken as a general rule, the great masters rarely ever illustrated, instead they created visual metaphors or depicted poems.”
Rembrandt grasped the essence of the Gospel. And, in this visual metaphor or depicted poem, he painted his repentance.