Sunday, 25 January 2015

Things That Happened in the Garden ~ Ganeida

When God says His word is a living word He means just that.  It is full of surprises.  And we grow blase because having read the scriptures over & over we think we know what they say.  We think we know what they mean ~ when in fact we know very little at all.

So I was thinking about John 20:17 ~ which is an odd little verse in the midst of an odd little scenario.  Jesus has been crucified & hurriedly tucked into a borrowed tomb because of the Sabbath.  At the first opportunity Mary heads to the tomb.  She has in mind to prepare Jesus body properly for burial but is worried about moving the stone that shuts the tomb.  She is probably carrying the necessary spices, something to hold water so she can wash the body, cloths & linens.  It is very early.

Now here's where I promptly stumble.  The Sabbath lasts from sundown to sundown, about 6pm to 6pm the next evening.  Don't ask me to do the math but because it was Passover there was an extended Sabbath because Jesus didn't just overnight in a tomb.  He was there a full 3 days, from sundown to sundown.  The messy logistics of this are not my point just now & better mathematicians than I have tackled them far more effectively.  What has always arrested my attention are 2 things:  Firstly Mary completely failed to recognise a man she had lived & traveled with & looked at for the better part of 3 years!  She mistakes him for the gardener.  Secondly Jesus says, in effect, Get off me, woman!

What is fascinating about all this is how the scriptures always tell it like it is. 

The first thing to note is Mary's expectations.  She is looking for a dead body, not a living man.  This expectation alone, let alone combined with the discovery of the stone rolled away & Jesus' body missing, has defined her reality.  When she finds a living man her immediate reaction is that it cannot possibly be Jesus because she *knows* that Jesus is dead.  She stood at the cross.  She saw the blood & water pour from Jesus side.  She recognised the signs of death.  She saw the body taken down.  She understood what it meant.  Jesus was dead.  No doubt about it in her mind ~ & dead men do not raise themselves.  She has no expectation of meeting Jesus.

Secondly she is distraught with grief.  Grief almost always distorts our reality.  She is grieving.  She doesn't even look at the *gardener* properly.  She is weeping [Jesus comments on it] & most people are not in the habit of looking others directly in the eye when they are weeping.  They avert their gaze, often their whole face.  They turn their body away.  They carve out a private place in public so others cannot intrude on their grief & need not be embarrassed by it.

Thirdly, & we know the story so well it is easy to miss it, it is really early in the morning.  If you are standing under trees at first light, just as the dawn forms the first bright streak across the horizon, before the first birds have begun to sing, you are standing in a murky gloom where nothing is clearly defined.  Seeing a strange man's features clearly would have been difficult.  What we do know is that Mary recognised his voice when he spoke to her. 

Visually Mary last saw her beloved Jesus beaten almost unrecognizable, his body twisted in pain upon a cross, naked & bloody.   Alive he was in the habit of wearing the usual male Jewish robe with the Tzitzit clearly visible [this is what the woman with the issue of blood touched] either on the robe or his  prayer shawl,  sandles on his feet.  Jewish men of this day & age did not wear a prayer cap.  

But Mary mistook him for the gardener.  Which immediately raises the question, at least in my mind, What did the gardeners wear?

Apparently something like what the High Priest wore at Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement]: a linen tunic,  linen trousers, a linen belt & some sort of head covering & barefooted.  Now this is absolutely fascinating because what did the High Priest do on Yom Kippur?  He entered the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people!

We need to stay in the garden for a bit & look at what transpires between Mary & Jesus.  Jesus asks why she is weeping ~ why not?  Boy, has he got a surprise for her!  Mary recognizes him & I imagine throws herself at him ~ as you do.  Yes?  In any event Jesus tells her to stop clinging to him.  This seems a little unfeeling on Jesus' part in the light of recent events & the shock Mary has just received on finding a dead man alive & well & chatting with her in the garden.  Issuing her instructions even.  However he also gives her an explanation ~ of sorts.  He tells her he has not yet ascended to his father.

Do you not find this just a little weird?  Not so long after he's letting Thomas poke his grubby fingers in the holes left by the nails.  And it is even later before he ascends on the clouds in full view of the disciples but Mary gets short shift.

Yet here's the thing ~ & it is wonderful & amazing & mind~boggling.  Sin did not originate on earth! Nope.  It did not.  According to Isaiah it began in heaven when Lucifer said: Is15:15 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.Yet you shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit.

Revelation 12:7 tells us that as a consequence there was war in heaven & a third of the angels fell...

The clues are all there for us.  When Satan sinned he defiled heaven.  In his hate & arrogance Satan set about corrupting what was God's, including what God had made in His own image: mankind.  There was no plan of redemption for Satan & his fallen angels, but there was one for mankind ~ & Jesus knew it.  He was preparing to ascend to His father, as He plainly tells Mary, dressed in His High Priestly linen to perform His first duty as our High Priest, enter the Holy Of Holies & sprinkle His blood on the mercy seat.  For us.

When He returned He set about preparing his people to walk in obedience & faith because He had prepared the way for the Holy Spirit to be available to all who believed on Him. 

 I believe the bible is very literal.  Jesus is not metaphorically our High Priest.  He is our High Priest.  The duties of a High Priest fall to Him.  And He had a duty to fulfill in heaven as our High Priest, the very first thing needed:  He atoned for our sins in the heavenly temple.  With His own blood.  Shed for us.

There is power in that blood.  Power to save.  Power to redeem.  Power to resurrect.  Power to give life.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says it best:

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

Jesus said: I am the way, the truth & the choose life & live.

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