“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27)
Darkness, Light. Doubt, Faith. Death, Life. Our faith is full of paradoxes, and where there is a lack, we often see the birth of the opposite.
In this painting called “The Resurrection of Lazarus” by Leon Bonnat, we see faith in an utterly hopeless situation. This faith is exemplified most especially by two women whose feasts we just celebrated. In this image, Mary and Martha are at the feet of Christ, witnessing a miracle before their eyes. Instead of terror and fear, we see serenity in their face. We see a gentleness and awe in their appearance. These women are beholding in physical form the invisible reality of their faith.
In the midst of the two sisters, Jesus stands, firm and unwavering. His power, though not physically seen, is shown by his posture. With outstretched arms, it seems as though the life is coming out from Him. And Lazarus, whose lifeless body was in the darkness of a cave for four days, emerges in hints of light, still covered in his burial cloths. A life which was lost has been found again…All due to the faith of simple women who reached out to Christ in a time of need.
We often hear of Martha as the woman who was filled with worry (Luke 10::38-42). Yet, in this passage of Scripture, we see a woman with her weaknesses placing her entire self at the disposal of the Lord. Her sensitive heart, overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her brother, shows its true strength amidst one of the darkest moments of her life.
While this image doesn’t show us the darkness surrounding Lazarus’ death, we can probably imagine what Martha experienced. For four days, she probably went through the stages of grief and wondered how her life would move on after the loss of a loved one.
But, in this, she had the strength to run to the Lord and to proclaim her faith in Him. In John’s Gospel, we read that when Jesus was approaching the village, Martha did not wait for Jesus to come…She ran up to him. Her act of faith was persistent, as she claimed, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died." and later said, “even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22). In this moment, Martha not only believed that Jesus was a healer, but she also proclaimed who He is…She saw with the eyes of faith. She knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and so, would have power to raise her brother from the dead if He willed. She got to the core of Christ’s identity by her faith.
Faith. It is something so powerful that it can bring someone back to life. Often, certain passages of Scripture can be so common to us that we often forget their significance. But, meditate on this image and Scripture passage again…A man, who was dead for four days, and as Scripture mentions, was stinking (John 11:39) was brought back to life! Something utterly impossible happened right before the eyes of numerous witnesses…All due to the faith of two women.
As you ponder this image, place yourself in the position of Martha or Mary. What is your Lazarus, dead in the tomb? What is that one thing which is dead in your heart? Is it a certain decision you made that you regret? A feeling of helplessness as you struggle with spiritual desolation? Or that one sin that you committed which you feel you can never let go of? Like Lazarus, Jesus wants to raise this from the dead. He comes into your life, as he came to the house of Martha and Mary, asking you for a reply.
Like in the situation of Lazarus, Jesus tells you, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it" (John 11:4). He awaits your faith; such an act of faith will bring an even greater glory out of something which seems like an evil to us.
Like Martha and Mary, let us give Jesus those areas of our hearts which seem dead and hopeless. Let us see with the eyes of faith, and place our hope in Him who is more powerful than us. Let us surrender ourselves to Him, knowing that as He raised Lazarus, He will bring glory out of all things.
The image of "The Resurrection of Lazarus" by Leon Bonnat can be found at https://www.wikiart.org/en/leon-bonnat/the-resurrection-of-lazarus