Death and Life,
Painting by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918),
Painted in 1910,
Oil on Canvas
© Leopold Museum, Vienna

 

Death and Life,
Painting by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918),
Painted in 1910,
Oil on Canvas
© Leopold Museum, Vienna

 

Gospel of 28 March 2022

The court official whose son was at the point of death

John 4:43-54

Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. He himself had declared that there is no respect for a prophet in his own country, but on his arrival the Galileans received him well, having seen all that he had done at Jerusalem during the festival which they too had attended.

He went again to Cana in Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a court official there whose son was ill at Capernaum and, hearing that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judaea, he went and asked him to come and cure his son as he was at the point of death. Jesus said, ‘So you will not believe unless you see signs and portents!’ ‘Sir,’ answered the official ‘come down before my child dies.’ ‘Go home,’ said Jesus ‘your son will live.’ The man believed what Jesus had said and started on his way; and while he was still on the journey back his servants met him with the news that his boy was alive. He asked them when the boy had begun to recover. ‘The fever left him yesterday’ they said ‘at the seventh hour.’ The father realised that this was exactly the time when Jesus had said, ‘Your son will live’; and he and all his household believed.

This was the second sign given by Jesus, on his return from Judaea to Galilee.

Reflection on the Painting

One of the joys of reading the Gospels is that we hear of so many different people approaching Jesus, with different needs, different worries, different asks. Today we hear of a court official whose son was close to death. This royal court official may have been part of the court of Herod Antipas who was ruling Galilee at the time. People in his role would not normally have approached Jesus. But the official was desperate and at his wits’ end. He shows us how all of us, irrespective of our positions in society, come before Jesus. 

What brought the official to the point of approaching Jesus was the fact that his son was dying. In moments being close to losing a loved one, we do ask ourselves the big questions of life. The imminence of death can put us in the Lord’s presence in a unique way. We realise that we are not self-sufficient and that we are not in control of our lives ultimately. The court official asked Jesus’ help, affirming Jesus as a source of life in the face of death. 

Our painting by Gustav Klimt shows Death gazing at some sleeping, living people with a malicious grin. The group representing ‘life’ on the right comprises all generations: a baby, grandmother, mother, father, etc…  ‘Life’ is painted in full colours, brightness and vibrant tonalities; death is rendered in greys, blacks and dark blues. This painting actually won the first prize at the 1911 International Art Exhibition in Rome. The painting is a modern dance of death taking place on the edge of life, but the living people are seemingly unaware...

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Guy Van Holsbeke
Member
Guy Van Holsbeke(@guy)
8 months ago

Patrick, je site werkt nu OK op mijn MacBook. Bedankt, we zijn weer mee.

Patrick van der Vorst
Admin
Patrick van der Vorst(@patrick)
8 months ago

Great, thank you Pam

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
8 months ago

I am so fortunate to have actually seen this painting (it’s big!) only last week when we were in Vienna!
It certainly makes a lasting impression on you – as any Last Judgement painting does. Patrick is so right, no matter who we are old, young – faith or none – we will all come before Jesus Our Lord.

Patrick van der Vorst
Admin
Patrick van der Vorst(@patrick)
8 months ago

Thank you Patricia. Great you saw the painting…. I haven’t seen it for some 15 years but it did leave a lasting impression…

Charles Marriott
Member
Charles Marriott(@chazbo)
8 months ago

Beautiful and a very popular painting. I would think Klimt the most popular artist of the 20th century? The painting can be interpreted as being anti-religious in that life is everything and Death annihilating. But we can read it differently as Patrick has.

Patrick van der Vorst
Admin
Patrick van der Vorst(@patrick)
8 months ago

Thanks Charles.
Yes it is rather open to interpretation. Not sure what Klimt’s own views on religion were…

Pam Carpenter
Member
Pam Carpenter(@pam)
8 months ago

Thank you Patrick the issue with the picture appears to be fixed and today all is well.

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