Steve Magnino

Take Away the Stone

John 11:1-46  Common English Bible (CEB)

Lazarus is ill 11 A certain man, Lazarus, was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (2 This was the Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was ill.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This illness isn’t fatal. It’s for the glory of God so that God’s Son can be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was. After two days, 7 he said to his disciples, “Let’s return to Judea again.”

8 The disciples replied, “Rabbi, the Jewish opposition wants to stone you, but you want to go back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in the day? Whoever walks in the day doesn’t stumble because they see the light of the world. 10 But whoever walks in the night does stumble because the light isn’t in them.”

11 He continued, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going in order to wake him up.”

12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he’s sleeping, he will get well.” 13 They thought Jesus meant that Lazarus was in a deep sleep, but Jesus had spoken about Lazarus’ death.

14 Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe. Let’s go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (the one called Didymus) said to the other disciples, “Let us go too so that we may die with Jesus.”

Jesus with Martha and Mary

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. 19 Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.22 Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Jesus. 30 He hadn’t entered the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were comforting Mary in the house saw her get up quickly and leave, they followed her. They assumed she was going to mourn at the tomb.

32 When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. 34 He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus began to cry. 36 The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!”37 But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb

38 Jesus was deeply disturbed again when he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone covered the entrance. 39 Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said, “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.”

40 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” 41 So they removed the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me.” 43 Having said this, Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came with Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.


I had it wrong. Oh sure, I knew the story of Lazarus. Or thought I did, until I saw the serigraph Take Away the Stone. It invited me to see the story completely differently.

In my mind’s eye, the raising of Lazarus had always been a bleak scene, like something from an Ingmar Bergman movie. You know: black and white, monochromatic; leafless trees; barren ground. Somber. Mary and Martha are irritated Jesus has taken four days to show up. When he orders the stone removed, they warn him about the stench. That to me was the setting – complete desolation.

But the serigraph doesn’t look anything like that. The vibrant colors and intense, rich hues convey a mesmerizing energy. I thought maybe I had failed to make the transition from “before” to “after” – from a sepia-colored world to a Technicolor one – like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door of the Gale family farm house after landing in Oz. Everything changes instantly from black and white to color, signifying to Dorothy and the audience that she is in a whole new world, one of wonder and new possibilities. So, I wondered, if rendered in sepia tones, would the serigraph match my initial conception? I recolored the image in Power Point. Yes, it looks different, but the difference in perspective wasn’t due to my missing a transition, it was something more fundamental -- a difference in how the artist and I viewed what the scene really all about. The artist seems to be commenting on the nature of life and death, about death as part of life, and how life continues even in the face of death. When viewed that way, there is no lifeless “before” image, just the rich colorful image the artist has provided.

Reflection Questions

  • In the image, note the people to the right and to the left of Jesus and Lazarus. The people on the left look frightened or anxious while the people on the right seem to be more engaged with what is happening. What do you think accounts for the difference in their reactions?
  • Other than Lazarus, what other signs of life are evident in the image as depicted by what the people are carrying? Why do you think the artist chose to depict the items he did?

Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for your gift of life. Help us to remember that, even in the face of death, you are present with us, and that death is not the end of the story you call us to co-create with you.


Steve Magnino is a long-term resident of Arlington Heights and member of FUMCAH. He lives with his wife, Marsha. Their two grown sons, Bennett and John, learned about Lazarus in Sunday school at FUMCAH.

Last Published: February 28, 2018 10:42 AM