Artist Sara Tuttle’s layered work explores the theme of healing and John 11:40.
40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
“Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
Context: Jesus has arrived in Bethany after Lazarus died, and the first thing that Martha says when she sees him is: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21-22) She continues her affirmation in his power a few passages later by professing her belief that he is the Messiah (John 11:27). Yet, when they come to the tomb and Jesus says “take away the stone”, Martha protests, saying “But Lord…by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (John 11:39).
Martha is simply stating the reality of the present situation; one of death and decay. Yet, Jesus replies with a reproof for her to exercise the faith that she professed earlier:
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
In this passage, Jesus’ is reminding her of her own faith and he makes an ‘if’ statement; directly linking her belief to her witness of the glory of God.
I chose this passage because it is an exhortation for me to exercise what little faith I have in the Lord’s ability to resurrect the present realities of death and decay – not just within myself – but specifically for the neighborhood that I inhabit. The same message that Jesus gives Martha, he speaks to me (and to my local church) when the realities of injustice, violence, imprisonment, racial tension and poverty cloud our vision of the Shalom that God desires, and the glory that He contains. When all that we see is an already-dead man, sealed in a tomb, Jesus asks us to trust that he is at work and that he is a God of healing, redemption and resurrection.
I made this painting while reflecting upon the ways in which I am called to continue in the work of generations of people before me who had a vision of healing and wholeness for this neighborhood that did not yet exist. In Hebrews 11:1 Paul tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and I believe that I am seeing the substance of the faith of believers that came before me just now coming to fruition in the neighborhood. Reflection upon the faithfulness of those who have professed Christ’s Lordship and gospel over this place in both prayers and action gives me assurance for the ways in which the Lord wants to honor my prayers and seeds of faith.
In this piece, I represent how generations of human activity on the land intersect with the vision that God wants us to take hold of for both the present and future. In order to create the multiple layers of this piece I used the process of building up the surface, sealing it, partially removing layers through sanding and other means of scraping and then repeating the cycle. This process mirrors how I see history, unfolding on a city; the healing and damaging marks of generations, layered on the social and physical environment of my neighborhood.
Both worn and dingy, this piece is also a pastel palette; conveying a sense of hope. The gold suggests moments of transfiguration of the old into new or ‘glory’ breaking through. The bulbs are Narcissus flowers (also known as Daffodils), which have long been associated with the season of Lent, symbolizing that Winter is still here while joyfully announcing transition into the coming season of Spring. Thus, they are signposts of resurrection; the new life that we see breaking forth today, as well as a promise of the greater, more full life that is to come. The bulbs, too, are worn and black and white; as if an old vision from the past that is being dusted off.
This piece is a reminder and exhortation to myself that I am to live in the reality of the promises of God; to inhabit the Messiah’s vision in the present, if I am to see the Glory of God.
Sara Tuttle is a visual artist, residing in the neighborhood of Church Hill in Richmond, VA with her husband Sam. She grew up in Connecticut and studied Art and Art History at the University of Richmond. She taught high school at Church Hill Academy and worked for Church Hill Activities and Tutoring for three years, has since returned to making visual art and is currently applying to MFA programs. She has had two solo shows in Richmond and is excited about the future of her art-making practice as one of the avenues by which she continues to engage in the life of her community, neighborhood and city.