Tammy and I spent a day in Amsterdam recently. What an incredible place with a remarkable history. With the Rembrandt series starting upon our return, I was particularly struck by the canals and art museums. Things don’t seem to have changed that much since the days the Dutch artists were inspired to capture the beauty of this city. The canals seem to run everywhere and everything is so colorful. Flowers, particularly tulips, are at every street corner and are blanketed by more bicycles than I have ever seen in one place.
While we were there, I was studying the anti-Semitism that Rembrandt faced when he painted Jesus as a Jewish man. Rembrandt not only painted Jesus as Jewish, but he chose to live in the Jewish quarters of Leiden. Imagine how this was received by the upper crust art elitists who thrived on their hatred of the Jews. For years, people had bought the lie that it was the Jewish people who killed Jesus and that God had turned his back on them forever. Unfortunately, they failed to read Scripture before promoting their racial hatred and lies. Those who promoted this view included the Roman Catholic Church and even Martin Luther who wrote a book ironically titled, The Jews and Their Lies written in 1543, about 100 years before Rembrandt’s time. By the time Rembrandt came along, this racial hatred was being promoted by many in the church. Rembrandt was chastised for his portrayal of Jesus as Jewish and by painting himself into the crucifixion scenes- implying that he and thus all of us, not the Jews, were responsible for Jesus going to the cross.
For years, people had bought the lie that it was the Jewish people who killed Jesus and that God had turned his back on them forever. Unfortunately, they failed to read Scripture before promoting their racial hatred and lies
What struck me about our trip to Amsterdam was that when sinful ideals, like racism, are handed down from generation to generation they intensify and develop a sense of validity. In fact, several generations later, Hitler would quote from Luther’s book about the Jews, he claimed to be God’s instrument sent to exterminate the Jews who killed Jesus. Sadly, he found a receptive audience for his lies.
Rembrandt spent 6 months in Amsterdam during his lifetime. That’s about how long another famous person from Amsterdam survived at Auschwitz before dying of illness. The racial hatred that propagated from Rembrandt’s time reached tidal wave proportions by the time Anne Frank called Amsterdam her home and then realized she no longer had one. Tammy and I visited the place where she and her family went into hiding. On the flight home, I read her diary again and was stuck by the stupidity of it all. Anne and millions of others were exterminated not because they were Jewish, but because generations earlier, lies were taught while God’s truth and God’s people remained silent. I was struck by the irony of it all. The first incredible story of hiding in Amsterdam does not belong to Anne Frank, it belongs to the church.
The first incredible story of hiding in Amsterdam does not belong to Anne Frank, it belongs to the church.