Today's Gospel in Art - Jesus sympathises with Martha and Mary over Lazarus

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Johannes Vermeer 1655 © Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Johannes Vermeer 1655 © Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

Gospel of 29th July 2020 - John 11:19-27

Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother. 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.'

Reflection on the Painting

Today we are looking at the largest painting by Vermeer and one of the very few of his paintings with an overtly religious subject matter. Vermeer produced few works, of which fewer than forty paintings survive. We see Jesus sitting down with Martha at his feet and Mary standing up. Whilst this painting refers probably more to Luke 10: 38-42, it is also very applicable to today's reading where Jesus is at the house of Mary and Martha visiting, just after the loss of their brother. In our painting we see Martha looking very closely at Jesus. Her faith in Jesus is absolute. She believes that her brother Lazarus will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. She therefore acknowledges Jesus as 'I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God'. Faith in the resurrection helps us as well to live our lives in hope and joy. It is because of the resurrection that we know Christ is with us on our life's journey.

In our painting, Martha is holding a basket of bread - Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus is pointing towards Mary, telling the viewer that she is an example of faith we should follow. The oriental carpet which is lying on the table serves to draw attention to the importance of the event depicted. Carpets were rare and very expensive in the 17th century. The carpet is behind Mary. She has a spiritual richness inside her. Mary is seen with plain white sleeves and standing over a plain white table cloth. Her simplicity is also to be followed. Whilst Jesus is pointing to Martha, He is actually looking at Mary… both are equally important in Jesus' heart…


Today's story -

Christian Art -

Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Vermeer

We Need Your Support

ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.

Please support our journalism by donating today.