You may have noticed by now that a common thread running through God's story is the garden - it all begins in the Garden of Eden, when creation was very good and God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. It all ends in a renewed garden, and if you read the book of Revelation carefully, you can actually see where the cherubim set to guard Eden all the way back in Genesis are finally relieved of duty. We know that on Holy Week (this week, as we set our sights toward Easter), Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples; this is, perhaps, His most famous prayer. But did you know that the Easter story itself is also a garden story?
That's right - the resurrection also takes place in a garden.
This is something that's never been taught to me. It's something I've never seen on a flannelgram. It's something that, to be honest with you, I read right by in the Bible myself for, well, more than two decades. And then, two days ago, I was sitting in a waiting room and all of a sudden, I realized - Jesus was buried in a garden.
Most of us, when we see the tomb, we see a cave cut-out in a cliff. We see a rock rolled in front of a stone wall, in front of the side of a mountain or hill. We see rocks and stone and hard surfaces everywhere that we look. And in fact, the visual images that we've been given of the tomb confirm this for us (actually, they created this for us) - the tomb of Jesus was a very rocky place.
But when the women come to the tomb on that first Easter morning, that image ought to be shattered. Remember what happened? The women come running to the tomb, talking amongst themselves about how they're going to move that big stone that covers that tomb. Then, they get there and the stone is rolled away. The Roman Centurions, we can assume, are already long gone because the women don't ask them what happened here. Rather, they ask a man they find sitting on the rolled away stone.
They call him..."the gardener."
When the women disciples come to the tomb of Jesus and find a man sitting there that they do not recognize as Jesus (at least, not immediately), we are told that they thought he was the gardener.
Now, ask yourself - why would there be a gardener in a barren, rocky place? Why would there be a gardener on a desolate hillside? Why would there be a gardener if there, in that place, there was simply a cave that was being used as a tomb?
No, my friends. If there is a gardener, there must be a garden. There is no other explanation for this.
And so, we see that this thread of God's story runs through even here. Not just in the passionate prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where His distress was so great that His sweat became blood, but even here - in the burial and resurrection of Jesus Himself. And when He walks out of that tomb, He becomes...the gardener. Sorry, the Gardener.
Eden restored. God walking with man and woman in the cool of the day, tending to His creation that finally, finally can breathe a sigh of relief. Things are on their way to 'very good' again. God has come to dwell among His people once more, and He will do so for eternity. Death is defeated; the Lord is here. The Gardener walks among us. And it is...Jesus.
Or, as the women would say when they finally recognized Him, a gasp in their breath...