Life and Death,
Painted by an anonymous hand,
Painted in the 18th century,
Oil on canvas
© Wellcome Collection

Life and Death,
Painted by an anonymous hand,
Painted in the 18th century,
Oil on canvas
© Wellcome Collection

Gospel of 7 June 2023

For when they rise from the dead...

Mark 12:18-27

Some Sadducees – who deny that there is a resurrection – came to him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married a wife and then died leaving no children. The second married the widow, and he too died leaving no children; with the third it was the same, and none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman herself died. Now at the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?’

Jesus said to them, ‘Is not the reason why you go wrong, that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken.’

Reflection on the painting

In the time of Jesus, not all faithful Jews agreed on what happened to believers when they died. There were different views on life after death. Sadducees, some of whom confront Jesus in today’s Gospel reading, did not believe in any resurrection of the dead. So they challenged Jesus. They put to Jesus a scenario that they thought reduced the teaching on resurrected life to absurdity. If a woman had seven husbands in this life, all of whom died one after the other, whose wife will she be in the next life? A clever scenario. In response to the Sadducees, Jesus declares that resurrected life is not just an extension of this worldly life into the heavenly world. It is a different kind of life that is brought into being by God. The God who gave us life at birth will give us a new, different life beyond death.

Our 18th century painting, by an anonymous hand, depicts a woman, standing, divided vertically into two. The right side shows life, the left side showing her after her death, as a skeleton. The right side depicts the pleasures of life: red ribbons in her powdered hair, jewellery, a bouquet of flowers in her hand, the skirt hem decorated with a lace trim, a bed of flowers behind her. The left side shows death: she is holding a reaper's scythe, next to her are a used Bible and a broken candle, and in the background are barren mountains.

Whilst the painting is composed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the shortness and fragility of earthly life, Jesus tells us that this present life is an anticipation of what awaits us in the next life...

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Silvia Courreges
Member
Silvia Courreges
10 months ago

Ni ojo vio ni oído escucho lo que Dios nos tiene reservado… dice San Pablo. Creo que la Vida Nueva en el cielo, serán ojos nuevos, sentimientos nuevos, perdón sincero, etc, de tal manera que allí, por la gracia infinita de Dios, no encontraremos más que amigos sinceros, vínculos sanados y gratitud infinita.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago

I’m attending a course on Art and Society in 16 century Netherlands. The first one was about Art and Religion, focussing on iconoclasm and the reformation. It seemed disastrous to me, not just from my religious perspective, but simply the gleeful destruction of so much beautiful art, sculpture and stained glass. I was a bit of a lone voice. Most of the others thought it was right, these things being symbols of the church’s oppression, not to mention the ‘idolatry’ angle.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

People taking that angle would annoy me. Most art lovers view the Reformation as an absolute disaster on the art front. Theologically there is a discussion.
The church was not oppressive, it was very popular in most of Europe. There’s more to be said….

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
10 months ago

This sounds like an amazing course. I am in the US. Does it happen to be an online course? Thank you for your time.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

If you search City Lit (London) under the History, Art section, there are online courses, though not this one. Best wishes Mark.

Graham B.
Member
Graham B.
10 months ago

For the woman in the parable it must have been exhausting.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Graham B.

😆

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago

It just goes to show how our limited human minds are really. Like these Sadducees, we bring things down to current life scenarios…but then ‘seats’ at God’s right hand is also something that seems a bit earthly to me…

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
10 months ago

Patricia, we cannot think otherwise. In the terms in which we think and talk about God and Jesus as human… they are not!!! As long as we are on earth, we cannot imaging how it will be when we are dead and (hopefully) in the House of Light and Love of our Lord.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
10 months ago

I recently got into a debate about whether marriage goes on after death- there were some, quoting Aquinas, who said it did. For me, it is difficult to imagine an after life that bears any relation to life in this world. Yet, we are promised it.
The painting conveys a powerful message we don’t like to admit- that none of what we think matters, matters much at all. How bleak a prospect that is.
Only in Him and for Him does life have any real meaning at all.
Sorry, feeling gloomy this morning!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

I suppose you would feel gloomy if you have a horrible spouse and have to continue with him/her after death! Lol!
I think the afterlife is not going to be about details but the glory of being in God’s presence?

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I hope there are no horrible people in heaven! Then that’s for God to decide… it is a bit pointless trying to figure these things out I think and I have too many earthly things to do today!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

When you reach the age of 70 you think about death every day!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Being 74 myself, even more so! The sands in my timer don’t have a lot left…

Last edited 10 months ago by Patricia O'Brien
Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago

But you have the next life to look forward to…..It puts such a different perspective on things. People spend so much time and effort discussing healthy living options and extending their lives into the distant future. Quality not quantity I say!
Davis Hockney said a wise thing. ‘Cause of death, birth!’

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

David Hockney

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
10 months ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Long live David Hockney! He was a wise man!

Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
10 months ago

Maybe, Patricia, you may reach 90 years or older… then there is sand enough in your timer…! I do love this picture. BTW , I am 82,5 years old and I am alive and kicking, specially kicking, I do with enthousiasm!!

ouder worden Goethe.jpg
Rya Lucas
Member
Rya Lucas
10 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Sorry, Patricia, the text is in Dutch. I’ll translate: It is no point to get older; the point is to enjoy it!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
10 months ago
Reply to  Rya Lucas

Wonderful. Thank you so much Rya. Blessings to you.

Readings related to Mark 12:18-27

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Mark 12:1-12

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

7 November 2021

Mark 12:38-44

This poor widow has put more in than all

6 June 2020

Mark 12:38-44

This poor widow has put in more than all

5 June 2023

Mark 12:1-12

This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him.

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