The Easter story is a familiar one to both Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, it is the world’s most famous story. Almost everyone has encountered the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Each of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) provide various perspectives of this historical phenomenon. They all assert that Jesus was crucified on a cross, died, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead three days later. These events have been depicted in churches and popular culture too many times to count.
However, there is one detail from the Easter story that is seldom noticed. Very few sermons have ever mentioned it – yet doing so would complete and fulfill the entire narrative.
Jesus’ tomb was in a garden.
Among John’s rich and vivid descriptions of Jesus’ death and burial stands one small verse – so small that it is easily passed over or rendered insignificant:
“Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid” (John 19:41).
Although it is easy to dismiss this verse as “narrative fluff,” one must remember that John’s gospel is a theological one. John remembered details from Jesus’ life and death that, in addition to being literally true, also hold great symbolic meaning. Their physical and historical presence in the story is teeming with spiritual significance.
To ensure that the reader did not entirely miss the “garden” detail, John weaves it back into the narrative in 20:15 – and in a rather remarkable way. Upon investigating the tomb and finding it empty, Mary Magdalene is visited by Jesus himself. However, she does not recognize him right away. Instead, the account says that she “thought he was the gardener.”
These two details, if nothing else, reveal that Jesus walked into the garden upon his exit from the tomb. It would have been his first experience of life in his new resurrection body.
Perfection, walking through a garden.
“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15).
Jesus took humanity back to the garden. He brought human existence – in all of its pain, suffering, and death – full circle. He undid what Adam had done. It should be no surprise that upon seeing Jesus in his new form, he was mistaken for a gardener – for that is what uncorrupted humanity was. That was the task we had been given at the beginning. Jesus gives us hope that the brokenness we now live in is only a passing dream. We will one day, like Jesus, be fully restored and perfected.
HE IS RISEN! HALLELUJAH!
“Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.” – Romans 5:14b-19