Monday, September 14, 2020

A Halo Around the Hand?

By Gerald Cowan

Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Among the works of Rembrandt there is an etching which pictures Jesus driving money changers out of the temple (see John 2:14-17). The curious thing about this work is that there is no halo around the head of Jesus, as was customary in the art of that time. You’ve no doubt seen art works depicting Jesus or some member of the “holy family,” or a painting of angels or martyrs  or a supposed representation of God with a nimbus of light, a halo, around the head. But in this picture by Rembrandt instead of a halo around the head of Jesus there was a halo around the hand holding the whip. What is the explanation?  Some art experts argue that since Rembrandt was a Protestant  he probably did not understand the proper use of halos. That may be. But I wonder if anybody in Rembrandt’s time thought to ask him what he meant by this particular painting.
A halo around the hand! That circle of light called a halo was an artistic convention  used at times to identify deity or divine purpose, or to call attention to some divine act. It could be used to indicate dedication to the will and purposes of God – pictures of apostles and other ministers and special servants of God  are often haloed. Perhaps what Rembrandt was trying to show is the hand of Jesus Christ dedicated to God and doing the work of God. “Zeal for Your house consumes me” (John 2:17). One could just as properly encase the whole body of Jesus in a halo.
Suppose that a picture could be drawn of you, one that attempted to symbolize your dedication to God. What part or parts of you would be haloed? Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength” (Mark 12:30). The apostle Paul urges that you “Present your body – your self and your all – as a living sacrifice” to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). Perhaps this kind of obvious dedication of oneself and one’s possessions and resources is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Let your light – your haloed self – so shine before men that they may see....and glorify God.”
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

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