we begin our saddest stories.
Once bitten. Once burned.
Once in a blue moon. Once more
unto the breach. We die a while
into each other’s arms and are
reborn like Lazarus, like Jesus.”— Dorianne Laux, “Error's Refuge,” published as part of “Two Poems,” Oxford American, Fall 2015
George Stevens’ The Greatest Story Ever Told will undoubtedly be broadcast countless times this Easter Sunday. Though that is not my favorite film about the life of Christ (that honor goes to Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth), it does have one scene of such striking visual power that it throws the rest of the movie (dominated by distracting cameos by the likes of John Wayne and Shelley Winters) into sharp relief. It is the moment caught here, where Jesus commands his dear friend Lazarus (who had died a few days before) to come out of his tomb.
The appearance of Lazarus, it can be seen in this Renaissance-like tableau, has social as well as obvious individual implications. Those on the spot are stunned by what they have just seen, and their witnessing to the event will make them all the more receptive, not too long later, to the idea that Jesus himself could perform a similar miracle with Himself rising from the dead.