There is no image of the risen Jesus, but there is such energy and dynamism as we see the two disciples Peter and John running to the empty tomb. The Swiss Artist Eugene Bertrand has created a scene of dynamic energy. No static scene, no standing stone, or gloomy faces pointing to an empty tomb. They run against a pastoral backdrop of a dawning sky. This sky reinforces the idea of their growing faith, the hope that the Resurrection has indeed truly happened.
As we contemplate this image of two men rushing to an empty tomb, we of course have no idea what is going through their minds. The brilliance of the painting lies in the emotional state of the disciples. Running home after a long trip or to discover a present they never imagined anyone would give them. John wearing a white, the symbol of purity and reminding us of the purity of new life offered to us through the death and Resurrection of Christ through the font of Baptism.
John is clasping his hands like a football fan hoping his team will stay ahead to the end. Peter somewhat older, his face lined with years of exposure to the winds and foam of the sea of Galilee, shows a more complex picture of the man who experienced the Passion: we observe the shock and anxiety, the fear and desperation, the guilt and heartbreak. His exhausted face has lived this experience. His spirit is in conflict. We can almost hear his feverish questioning: “What if the body has been taken- when will the torture of these events stop? But what if he is risen? And what will happen now?”
The genius of the painting lies as much in what we don’t see as in what we do see. Though John and Peter are gazing ahead, we must imagine what they see through their eyes. Is this not the essence of faith? We know it is true, we know Jesus rose, but we have not actually seen him yet.
The viewer feels the rush as their hair and cloaks fly back with the wind. They are sprinting towards the discovery of the moment that forever altered heaven and earth. As they run along, their dawning faith allows them to begin to understand, to begin to hope and to begin to feel the joy of the Resurrection.
This is a distillation of reflections:
Daniella Zsupan -Jerome, assistant professor of liturgy, catechesis, and evangelisation at Loyola University New Orleans
Ellis Ehrhard The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made. Crisis Magazine 2014
Come Hurry Run William Edgar www.artway