On Maundy Thursday I spoke about a Tale of 2 Gardens in relation to the Bible. They were the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane. These 2 Gardens held within them the message of human disobedience and of human obedience. These 2 Gardens continue to speak to us of the choices we make to either follow our own will or to follow God’s Will. The first Adam choosing to disobey and to follow the path of self-interest .. the second Adam , that is Jesus, choosing to obey and to follow the path of self-sacrifice. A path which lead to death and to being laid in a Tomb!
I want to take you to a 3rd Garden for Easter. It is the garden in which that Tomb had been hewn into the rock by a man from Arimathea!
It is very early morning in this garden and a woman, once more accustomed to the night than the morning, has staggered in her grief and in the darkness before dawn to look at where her friend and Saviour had been laid. The man who had saved Mary from all her shame and rejection. So she wanders into the garden to find the stone to the tomb rolled away! Perhaps angered that this might be an act of sacrilege by the Romans, perhaps confused that this might be an act of subversion from the Jewish leaders to ensure the Man of Nazareth was dead. Mary runs and finds the disciples who return with her to the garden.
The disciples go into the tomb and confirm the body is gone. But what is this Mary hears … words of praise that Jesus has been raised from the dead. A fulfilment of a promise that seemed to good to be true. And the disciples run off to tell others of this miracle.
But Mary stays in the garden. What on earth should she believe? What on should she feel? And indeed what should she possibly do next? There is nothing to do … but weep. Weep and weep and weep. To weep tears of confusion .. and possibly anger .. tears of grief .. or could it possibly be that these tears also contained hope and relief?? She did not know what these tears meant even though it was she who was crying them.
It is this garden which we ourselves visit each Easter Sunday. A 3rd Garden. A garden where we stand outside an empty tomb not knowing what we should really believe. A garden where the emptiness of the tomb leaves us with more questions than answers. There is no comfort here .. it is a garden of confusion .. until the darkness of that dawn breaks and the first rays of light appear on our horizon with words … and the words we hear in this garden are .. our names.
So Mary hears her name .. Mary!!
And as she turns looking through the tears of this world which we all know .. she cannot see clearly .. as we struggle to see clearly .. but the voice is somehow familiar … speaking your name is the One whom you have been looking for.
In this 3rd Garden is the Easter message for us all … the message that God knows the confusion we experience … God knows the reason for our tears even when we don’t know why we are crying ourselves! For God has returned to the Garden in which His children are living .. a Garden of falleness and shame and separation … and God has spoken our name in Love. God speaks your name in Love at Easter.
And it is a different voice to that God spoke in Eden .. when God called for the man and the woman but they hid because of their shame. This time the voice does not bring with it shame or reproach or judgement. In the Easter Garden the Voice is one of comfort. A Voice which will wipe away your tears.
The Tale of the Gardens has come full circle. From a Garden where, when our names were called, we felt ashamed, to a Garden where, when our names are spoken, we find relief. And this relief comes from what was achieved in the middle Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus of Nazareth showed us the way of self-sacrifice.
This Easter we are called to live in a garden in which we are known and loved. As the Apostle Paul writes ‘then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known’. In the first Garden we became aware of who we knew we could be and were ashamed. In the second Garden we were invited to become more than we thought we could be and were redeemed. In the third Garden, the Easter Garden, we have been received in the embrace of God for who we now are. This is true hope … this is true Love!