Our story begins in a garden. In the most perfect and beautiful garden one can imagine – the home God made for the man and woman he’d made. The man and woman enjoyed peace, all comforts, and a perfect relationship with the God who loved them and made them. They were given a charge to fill the earth and rule creation. The garden was meant to grow.
But instead, we find the woman, Eve, fell victim to the lie that God didn’t really mean what He promised. For a moment she doubted His desire for her good and did the one thing He’d told her not to do. She committed treason.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the mad and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden
Eve understood in that moment what had been lost. In shame, she ran from His presence, though she couldn’t possibly understood fully what the effects of her actions would be.
But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
He went looking for her in the garden. And we read next that God issued consequences for this sin and in the same breath promised one day the curse would be undone, when Eve’s offspring crushes the serpent’s head.
Then He clothes them in garments of skins. Did you catch it? God makes a sacrifice to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness and shame. The first sin offering. Right there in the garden.
Then He tells them they must leave the garden, but not out of anger. They have not been cast out. Even in this, He is protecting them from eating from the tree of life and begin eternally trapped in spiritual death.
“The expulsion from paradise, therefore, was a punishment inflicted for man’s good, intended, while exposing him to temporal death, to preserve him from eternal death” (C.F.Keil). It was merciful for God to send them out of the garden and prevent them from eating from the tree of life.
And so this story ends with a cherubim with flaming sword blocking the way in to the garden. I see Eve glancing back toward him, thinking of all she has lost.
But this is not the end of the story, or of the garden.
Years later, the Promised One arrives on the scene and one night, He walks purposefully into a garden. He surrenders to His Father’s fill in total obedience. Unlike Adam and Eve, He does not doubt the love of the Father. Here He is betrayed by one of his own — arrested and taken out of the garden to die on the hill.
He is crucified — naked, put out for open shame, and wearing a crown of thorns. He bears the full consequences of the crime committed long ago. He dies.
So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 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. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Another garden, another sacrifice. The Promised One surrenders in the garden. There He is buried, and for a moment, hope is lost.
But there in the garden, the Son of Man rises with healing in His wings.
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.”….
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stopped 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.”
Here we see Mary Magdalene, one who knew as well as anyone the full impact of the curse. This daughter of Eve, from whom, Mark tells us, Jesus cast out seven demons. A woman scorned and shamed, rejected, hopeless. What she must have been feeling in this moment! Her days following Jesus had transformed her life and given her purpose and joy — what was she to do now? Was it back to brokenness, isolation and hiding in shame?
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know 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.”
I hear the desperation in her words. Where is my Jesus? What have you done with Him? At least give me His body to mourn. Where else could she go?
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 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.
The first act of the Risen Christ was to find the broken and shamed woman in the garden. This time, though, she wasn’t hiding from Him. This time, the woman turned and beheld Him, then ran into His arms. The Risen Christ finds the woman and reconciles her to Himself. Mary Magdalene – the first to trust in the finished, complete work of Jesus Christ. She walks with the presence of God in the garden. The angels in this garden no longer prevent access. These angels usher her toward His presence and announce His finished work.
And still, this, too, is not the end of the story. He gives her a job to do. Go and tell. Tell the others Christ is risen. Tell the others the curse has been lifted and Jesus is making all things new. Everything sad will come untrue – even death.
Like Eve, Mary’s mandate is to be fruitful and multiply. Go and tell and bring the blessings of the garden to the whole earth. Go and tell that men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation will believe and one day be citizens of that great city, the New Jerusalem. For in the middle of that city is another garden, filled with the river of the water of life; “also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
One day soon we will all be with Him in the garden.