In the garden

21 April 2019
Easter Sunday
Easter Principal Service C (RCL)

Isaiah 65:17-25
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
John 20:1-18

In the final section of the book of Isaiah, the prophet imagines life in the restored land. This is the vision of justice that was distorted in Isaiah 5, the song of the vineyard. Those who plant vineyards will eat the fruit. Those who build houses will live in them. Not only does this vision reverse the calamity of exile, it also reverses the rapacity of profit seeking landlords. Indeed, a vision for our time.

John’s account of the resurrection differs significantly from that of the other Gospel writers. Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb early, and finds it empty. John repeats the word tomb a number of times in this passage. The only other place he uses that word is in the raising of Lazarus. Clearly, he wants us to connect this passage with that. When the other two disciples arrive, Peter enters the tomb, and finds the grave clothes neatly folded. Clearly Jesus’ resurrection differs from Lazarus’.

Mary stays at the tomb, weeping. She enters and sees two angels seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and one at the feet. These are the cherubim of the inner sanctum, above the mercy seat. Mary has entered the holy of holies, like the high priest on the great day of atonement. When she comes out of the tomb, she encounters someone she takes to be the gardener. John is referring us back to the creation story, in which the human beings used to walk with God in the garden in the cool of the evening. This is the cool of the morning, with a new creation about to unfold. When she holds on to him, he tells her not to, but to go and tell his brothers and sisters that he is embarking on a journey to his Father and our Father, his God and our God.

For John, the resurrected life is a life journeying to God. In the resurrected Jesus, we have the tabernacle in our midst, the ark of the covenant with the cherubim surrounding the empty space left by Jesus resurrection. The Christian community, on its journey, becomes the point of contact between created and divine, just as the community journeying through the wilderness encamped around the tabernacle. We are to go where the spirit would have us go, taking the tabernacle with us.

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