The Resurrection of Lazarus,
Painted by Giovanni di Paolo (active ca.1420-1482)
Painted in 1426,
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
© The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Jesus cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’
Mary and Martha sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:
‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’
Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:
‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’
When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.
Reflection on the painting
Our painting was originally part of a praedella (smaller paintings on the base of a large altarpiece) in the chapel of the Malavolti family in the church of San Domenico in Siena. Our painter, Giovanni di Paolo paints our theme of today’s Gospel reading, the resurrection of Lazarus, as a model for the Resurrection of Christ. The panel demonstrates the artist's mastery of a multi-figured, dramatic narrative scene executed in the late-Gothic style. The figures are positioned on one line, a frieze, all pushing to see up close what is happening. The agitated figures reveal extreme emotional states - from one onlooker in a blue cloak overwhelmed by the stench from Lazarus's tomb to the desperate sorrow of Mary and Martha who are begging Jesus to do something.
In the Gospels, when Christ heals, the healing is not for the sole sake of the one healed, but for the sake of others and the entire community. Today's reading is a perfect example of this. Jesus raised Lazarus not just for his friend, but also for Mary and Martha. When we pray and ask to be healed, this healing is never just for me, so that I feel better, and my sufferings go away. Jesus gives us healing for the sake of others too. The healing would have directly affected all the people depicted in our painting.
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Readings related to John 11:3-7,17,20-27,33-45
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I’ve been out this morning raising money for Mary’s Meals from the good people of London E1. A lovely parish with a warm welcome and where we were treated to some Philipino delicacies after Mass! I find that mixing with people like this often a quite superficial level is an insight into how good most people are. Poles, Mexicans, Africans and everywhere inbetween. All united in a love of God!
My parish is like this too, and we’re far from London. One of the strengths of the truly Catholic faith.
Universal…But we are talking Christianity in all its variations on this website,
Curiously, this passage in John precedes the return to raise Lazarus:
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
It is night behind Jesus.
One of the things that I noticed in the Gospel reading is Martha’s strong faith. Her words about Jesus being the Christ are almost the same as Peter’s words in Matthew’s Gospel.
Beautiful painting today, and very vividly coloured for tempera.
I started singing that wonderful hymn (in my head ) with these gospel words and then the refrain “..and I will raise him up on the last day”
I will keep that going today.
Blessings to all.
I thought we’d have this hymn at Mass this morning too- but not so.
One of the most astonishing stories in the Gospels. On a human level so fraught with emotion and on the divine, so incredible. Of course, Lazarus pre-figures the Resurrection. How his followers mourned Jesus’ death, and so knowing he had brought Lazarus (and others) back to life, why would they doubt the same would happen to Him? Such comfort to the bereaved He brings.
The painting is interesting for me too, not just because of the artistry of the figues, but the rather baffling landscape behind? It takes up almost half of the frieze and yet looks half finished, with some odd features?
Greetings. I had the same thought about the landscape, which has hints of a cave, but then the well fabricated door and frame to the tomb does not conform with that. Is that a bridge in the background? This may sound like criticism; I simply want to grasp every message, however subtle. Blessings.
Yes, it’s a bridge over a very narrow stream. I thought the same about the tomb- just distractions from the message I suspect but this is a site that encourages to look at the art. Nothing wrong with that, I think.
Strange – maybe he wasn’t good at landscapes?
I’ve often thought about how Lazarus felt to be returned to this world. Did he view things differently? How did people now view him? For me, today’s reflection answers this in part. “Healing is never just for me….Jesus gives us healing for the sake of others too.” I’m sure Lazarus being Jesus’s dear friend would have been given the grace to know this. How wonderful! I love being given a new way to look at such things. Thank you Patrick for the thought provoking insight!