Jesus Heals

 

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,
“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”
But they kept silent; so he took the man and,
after he had healed him, dismissed him.
Then he said to them
“Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern,
would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”
But they were unable to answer his question.

Luke 14:1-6

 

Jesus Healing the Sick, Rembrandt, etching, 1647, British Museum, London

Jesus Healing the Sick, Rembrandt, etching, 1647, British Museum, London

Though this image shows a different Healing episode than the one in today’s lectionary reading, it really caught my eye.

From the British Museum website:

This was the most famous of Rembrandt’s prints throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century. Its traditional title can be traced back to within a few years of its creation, and a later story holds that Rembrandt himself paid this very high price at auction in order to buy back an impression.

The etching illustrates various incidents from chapter 19 of St Matthew’s Gospel: ‘And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there’ (v. 2). The group on the far left are presumably Pharisees asking Christ about divorce (v. 3-9). A young mother steps up to Christ so that he may lay his hands on her child. Peter thrusts her back, looking to Christ for approval. ‘But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ (v. 14). The variety of poses, facial expressions and gestures give us clues to the character and inner life of over thirty-five individuals in this print. Rembrandt perfected them in a number of preparatory drawings.

The great mass of dark tone above Christ, an effect very difficult to achieve in etching without breaking up the surface of the copper plate, is unprecedented in the history of the medium. The result is one of Rembrandt’s most remarkable and highly finished works.

 

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The Bent Over Woman

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Luke 13:10-17

Jesus Heals the Bent Over Woman, detail from the Two Brothers Sarcophagus, mid-4th century, Vatican Collections, Rome

Jesus Heals the Bent Over Woman, detail from the Two Brothers Sarcophagus, mid-4th century, Vatican Collections, Rome

 

Two Brothers Sarcophagus

Two Brothers Sarcophagus

 

 

 

 

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. 
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. 
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” 
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” 
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” 
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:46-52

Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco (Domeniko1570s Theotokopoulos), 47 x 57 1/2 in. (119.4 x 146.1 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco (Domeniko Theotokopoulos), 1570,  47 x 57 1/2 in. (119.4 x 146.1 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Jesus healing

 

Jesus Healing a Deaf Mute, Bartholomeus Breenbergh 1635, Louvre Museum, Paris

Jesus Healing a Deaf Mute, Bartholomeus Breenbergh 1635, Louvre Museum, Paris

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Matthew 7:31-37

Bartholomeus BREENBERGH, Jesus Healing a Deaf Mute, 1635, Louvre, Paris

From the Louvre website:

The healing of the deaf and dumb man (not the blind man as has sometimes been suggested) refers to the story in St. Mark’s Gospel, but here it is situated in a wider context and set against a background of ancient Roman ruins-references that were “de rigueur” for art lovers of the time.

A miraculous healing

Attracted by the supernatural scene, a group of people has gathered before the ancient ruins. Jesus is performing one of his miracles, probably the healing of the deaf and dumb man. Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1599-1657) depicts the scene at the very moment of the miracle, as recounted in St. Mark’s Gospel: “They brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, with the request that he would lay his hand on him. He took the man aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into his ears, spat, and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, ‘Ephphatha,’ which means ‘Be opened.’ With that his ears were opened, and at the same time the impediment was removed and he spoke plainly” (7:32-35).

Italianate ruins

Like many contemporary artists, Breenbergh went to Italy, and particularly to Rome, the city where classical antiquity was best represented. He brought back numerous drawings, which would form a range of backgrounds for most of his works. In this picture, the distant ruins overrun with vegetation combine various motifs derived from his Italian studies. The collection of buildings is a slightly modified reprise of the ruins of the Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, which he had drawn in 1627, while the detail of the coffered vault seen under the main archway is thought to have been inspired by the Basilica of Constantine, one of the most important monuments in the Roman Forum. Breenbergh has thus set this scene from Christian antiquity against a picturesque background which accords very well with the taste for things Italian of his own day.

The taste for narrative rediscovered

Although the principal scene is smaller in scale than the family and beggar in the foreground, Breenbergh guides the gaze of the onlooker by the interplay of light. The alternation of light and dark areas hollows out the space and gives prominence to the healing of the deaf and dumb man by literally putting him under the spotlight. The bright gap in the stormy sky, which explains these various effects of light, is rendered with great sensitivity to atmosphere. In his previous compositions, Breenbergh had displayed a marked preference for landscape over figure painting, characterized by a pre-classical style close to that of Paul Bril (1554-1626). But here there is a fullness to the figures, and exotic touches (the little page with a feather in his headdress walking a dog) are combined with great expressiveness (the very Mannerist, contorted attitude of the beggar on crutches). This renewed taste for pictorial narrative was part of a general movement in Dutch art toward painting historical scenes, also evident in the work of Pieter Lastman (1583-1633) and Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Bibliography

Le Siècle de Rembrandt : tableaux hollandais des collections publiques françaises, catalogue d’exposition, Musée du Petit-Palais, Édition de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1970, p. 29.