Sunday, April 20, 2014
Back from the Future
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 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.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!”
I am writing this early on Easter Sunday, just as the darkness is beginning to break into the dawn of another morning. It was perhaps this time of the morning when Mary and the other women went to the tomb to see their dead friend Jesus. The Sabbath had ended and so now they could go see the grave where Jesus had been placed.
But Jesus was not there. Mary Magdalene later returned to the tomb to see again for herself that Jesus was truly not there. And she began to weep. Not only had this man been tortured and crucified, but now someone had apparently stolen his body so they could not even properly take care of his dead body with their spices.
Then she spots a man whom she presumes to be the gardener and she asks where they have taken the body of Jesus.
Then the gardener says her name, "Mary", and immediately she realizes it is Jesus.
I have always imagined the great tenderness and love by which Jesus uttered Mary's name, the way you might say the name of a child who has been hurt or is crying. This is way Jesus says Mary's name and reveals himself as the risen Christ.
And here we have the true beginning of all things. In a sense, Jesus Christ is the ultimate gardner. It was through Jesus that all creation came into existence, that the Garden of Eden was planted and grown. And now we see Jesus in another Garden, taking care of this garden as one of his first acts in his resurrected body.
GK Chesterton writes "On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.
This is the first day of the new creation, the glorious future that has now invaded the present.
Jesus has come back, if you will, from the future, to inaugurate God's kingdom right here and right now. Now death is seen as foreign, not simply a natural part of the circle of life. Eternal life is what we are made for, what we are designed for, and through the resurrection of Jesus death has been defeated. The true circle of life begins with life and ends with life!
We are a resurrection people. Paul desires to know the power of the resurrection, to live life with a different kind of power, one based in the future world God is making through us right here and now.
NT Wright writes “Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.”
On earth as it is in heaven. Now the mission of the church begins, bringing about the glorious shalom of heaven into the broken places of this earth, bringing the future right here into the present. Seeing death swallowed up by the beauty of resurrection. We are now to join God in attending to the garden of new creation, to use our marriages, our jobs (no matter what they are!), our money, our hobbies, our everything and anything to see the garden of new creation bloom in radiant splendor.
Jesus says "Now it has begun!" And so we must get to work, get our hands down into the dirt of the soil of this world with the certain hope that the new world is already here, though we still only see it dimly. The resurrection is no mere metaphor, it is the great reality of the world, the truest thing which has ever happened in history, and to it we must continue to come back again and again.
So into the new world we march, not knowing all that we will experience or encounter, but sure of whom we will meet there, the one whose hands still bear the wounds of the cross, but whose voice calls out to us by our very names and invites us to proclaim that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.
NT Wright sums up what it means to follow the resurrected Jesus this way, "Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world ... That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown open before us.”
The new world awaits! Let us go and discover it together and marvel eternally at all that our God has done for us.