In the Garden
John 20:1–18 (ESV) Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
Without the literal, physical death and resurrection of God’s Son in human flesh, we would have no hope of forgiveness and justification from God. Therefore, the historical account of Christ’s resurrection is our starting point for Easter.
If we visualize the account of Easter morning recorded in John 20:1–18, parts of the passage strongly suggest eyewitness testimony. God certainly did author some parts of the Bible by narrating them directly to a human author; for example, the details of Genesis 1–2 were not witnessed by any humans until they were created, so Moses had to have been told the story directly from God. Yet in much of Scripture, God uses eyewitness testimony to reveal His work to us, and there are vivid details in this account of the resurrection that either John observed himself (such as the linen clothes lying in the tomb, with the face cloth folded neatly) or others witnessed (the interaction between Jesus and Mary Magdalene).
Given the unprecedented nature of the resurrection, it also seems that the confusion and hectic hurrying of Mary, Simon, and John is certainly “true to life.” The account has an air of excitement and uncertainty, which would have accompanied such a momentous event.
In addition to John’s truthfulness in narrating this account, there is also irony and allusion in it. When Mary says to Jesus, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him”?, the double irony of Mary’s statement is that He is the one who took His own body out of the tomb, and He is not lying dead anywhere but standing right in front of her!
In the biblical context, it also is hard not to think of the Garden of Eden when there is a reference to a garden. As Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden for their sin and could not eat of the tree of life, now by the tree of Jesus’ cross He has reopened the gates to Paradise and is both buried and raised in a garden. Now, to those who believe and are baptized, He “will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7). Also consider His words to the thief on the cross: “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).
While there is no direct reference to Baptism in John 20:1–18, there are some interesting parallels between these events and what Baptism does. In John 20:16, Mary does not recognize Jesus until He calls her by name! Likewise, we do not know our Lord until He seeks us out and calls us by name and claims us as our own in Holy Baptism. In John 20:17, Jesus refers to His brothers and “to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Baptism creates the family of God, in which we are incorporated into our Big Brother Jesus so that His Father is our Father, His God is our God. And He has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us there!
Prayer: Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Prayer requests: for the family of Jeri Gruetzner, who was laid to rest on April 13; for Bessie Mahaffey and Alma Gause, under hospice care.