This painting of St Peter and St John running to the tomb of the morning of the Resurrection is the work of Swiss artist Eugene Burnand (1850-1921). As a portrait painter, he was renowned for his gift of conveying the inner person.
Here, he shows the faith of Jesus’ closest disciples, and also their humanity. Peter, looking tired and strained, is still clinging to possibility. See the reverent way he holds his hand over his heart, as though he can feel Jesus silently communing with him. Notice the intensity of the younger disciple, desperately clasping his hands in prayer as though imploring, ‘Please, Lord, let it be true!’
The observer feels swept along with the sprinting disciples as if watching a movie rather than looking at a canvas. The voice of Mary Magdalen is almost ringing in our ears, too. Wordlessly, Peter and John speak of a relationship with God that no human imagined possible … amazingly, that relationship may be ours. We are, in this moment, one with Christ’s dearest friends; witnesses with them of his risen life.
At this time of global crisis when tragedy and loss are all about us, we may recognise something of the anxiety of John in ourselves, or the dogged refusal of Peter to give up hope. We, too, may want to hold our hand over our heart …
… What is it saying?