Lent 2 February 18: The raising of Lazarus

The Gospel is Mark 8:31-38. The icon is the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-53).

The reading from Mark follows Peter’s confession. Jesus predicts his death. Peter objects. He and the other disciples only partly see. Jesus talks about losing life to save it. There is no icon to match this passage, so the raising of Lazarus has been chosen for its parallel themes. Lazarus loses his life but saves it. There is talk about death and resurrection. Many come to believe, to see, but others do not. The event triggers the plot to kill Jesus.

The icon touches additional themes for contemplation:

  • Lazarus responds to Jesus’ command “Come out!” Life in Jesus defeats death. Also, coming to life in Christ is an experience of coming out of a personal tomb.
  • The raising is so that the glory of God may be seen. The life of the end-time can be known now.
  • “Jesus wept”. The story may touch our personal grief for loved ones lost.
  • The stronger the evidence of Christ’s life giving power, the more intense is the opposition.

This form of the icon was developed by the Novgorod school in Russia in the fifteenth of sixteenth century. It was re-interpreted by Solrunn Nes in her book “The Mystical Language of Icons” in 2,000, which was then used as a model for the icon you see here.


“Yours is the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the victory, you, o’er death, have won.”
Jesus, I too am confronted by the powers of evil and death,
Strive with me.
I too have deep experiences of grief.
Weep with me.
I too must face death
Give me your life.
Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.



This icon lends itself to the Ignatian method of contemplation. Imagine yourself as part of the scene. Move around, identifying with one person, then another. There is:

  • The worker opening the grave, and another unbinding Lazarus, hand on nose because of the stench,
  • Mary kneels at the feet of Jesus, as if washing them (John 11:2 & 12:3),
  • Martha, whose devotion seems a little more restrained,
  • The disciples gathered behind Jesus, seeing through him to the victory of life over death,
  • The crowd of Jews, looking in different direction. Perhaps the one with the philactory went to the Pharisees,
  • Lazarus, emerging into a new life,
  • Jesus, his red garment indicating humanity (Jesus wept) and the blue, divinity (“Come forth.”)

Come to rest where you find yourself most comfortable. If you were there, where would you be standing?

Reflect at length on where you are in your spiritual journey.