The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself was created by Kevin Lindholm and is called “Take Off the Grave Clothes.”
John 11:32-46 [ESV]
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
Dear God, I’ve heard this story many, many times before, but in the spirit of what I’ve been doing with Martha and Mary recently I wanted to spend a little time with it. I went to my new favorite book this morning to see if any of the Martha and Mary stories were in it, and I found Lazarus’s resurrection.
In the spirit of using this book, I want to see what the artist put in here that I might not have thought about before. Let’s see what I can see in the image:
- He made what the Bible describes as a cave with a stone into more of a tomb in the ground made out of bricks. Hmm. I wonder why.
- I don’t know if it is Mary or Martha, who has her hand over her mouth, but she is there. Her hair is shorter than I would have expected it to be. Her hand is over her mouth. She is looking at Lazarus.
- The man helping Mary/Martha isn’t looking at Lazarus, but is looking at her to see her reaction. I never thought much about whether or not the mourners there were mourning because they missed Lazarus or if they were weeping to comfort the sisters. This man seems really interested in Mary’s/Martha’s reaction.
- Lazarus is partially unbound and exposed. He has one eye open and his left hand and are are free.
- Radiance is coming from Jesus. Is that the sun behind him? Is the radiance from him? But all of the shadows are falling away from Jesus so it was an intentional choice by the artist to have the source of light be from Jesus’ direction.
- I think there are a couple of people over Jesus’s left shoulder. Were these mourners? Was one of them the other sister? Disciples?
I guess the thing that I notice in this story is the last phrase: “…but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” What was their motivation? Were they snitches? Were they trying to believers of the Pharisees?
Another thing I’ve learned over the last week as I’ve looked at this story a little more carefully is that there is a lot more to this story than the verses Bustard chose to include here. The first part of this story is really quite interesting in terms of Jesus’s delay, Martha’s approaching of Jesus without Mary, and then Martha’s retrieval of Mary, bringing her to Jesus. In fact, for the woman in the image above to be showing the emotion that she is, and for the man to be so concerned about her, I’ll bet that the artist was thinking about Mary when he drew her.
Father, there are obviously a lot of moving parts to this story, but I think the lessons for me are to be at peace, have faith, and worship you regardless of the answer you give to my prayers. It also tells me that it’s okay to mourn and feel anguish. It’s okay to weep. It is okay for tragedy to upset me. It’s what I do with that angst and frustration that I need to submit to you.
In Jesus’ name I pray,