Can we ever make sense of the world in which we live? As we approach Easter 2022, we are absorbing and therefore contending with the atrocities in Ukraine, the lack of trust engendered by our leaders and the significant rise in our cost of living. Add to those the particular and personal challenges we all face from time-to-time, and we may well be asking where is God in all this? Can we be rooted in the reality of what is going on around us and still find hope and joy this Easter time?
Let me take you to John chapter 20. Mary has gone to the tomb where Jesus’ body has been laid and finds the stone at the entrance has been rolled away. She runs to tell Peter and John and they come to see for themselves, then they leave. Mary stays by the tomb.
They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’
‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.
He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’
She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).
Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 20:11-22 (NIrV)
In her grief Mary is not even startled by the appearance of angels in the tomb. She is more concerned about where the body has been laid. She turns and asks the same question to a man whom she assumes is the gardener. But when He calls her by name – ‘Mary’, she immediately recognises him. He is Jesus. Her questions focussed on ‘where?’ but she encountered a ‘who’ – the risen Jesus.
As John writes his Gospel, he is constantly inviting us to dig deeper and see connections with other parts of the Bible. Here we are reading of a man and a woman in a garden. That takes our minds back to Genesis chapter 3 and a man and a woman in another garden. They were sent out from that garden to enmity, pain, hard labour, and death. Mary is being sent by Jesus out of this garden to life and a new community.
The Genesis garden helps us understand why we live in a broken world. The encounter Mary has with the risen Lord Jesus in this garden helps us understand how we can live in a broken world with hope and joy. We too need regular encounters with Jesus so that we can ‘Go’ as Mary was instructed and tell others that he is alive and that brokenness, death and destruction do not have the last word.
Jesus really is ‘the way, the truth and the life’. May he be our source of hope and joy this Easter time.