Day 1: John 18:1-27
Day 2: John 18:28-40
Day 3: John 19
Day 4: John 20
Day 5: John 21
As the Apostle John wrote the final few chapters of Jesus’ biography, it seems he wanted to do two things at least. He wanted his listeners to lean in. To come close. To get as near as possible to a first-hand experience of witnessing all the things he had witnessed. He wanted us to be part of the garden confrontation, where Jesus’ words, “I am” (don’t miss the significance of that!), send the guards falling back to the ground. He wanted us to be in the room with Caiaphas and his officials, watching them falsely accuse and blatantly abuse the One who said nothing but the truth. He wanted us to be a fly on the wall while Pilate, both impressed and confounded by Jesus, questioned him about who he is and what he was up to. And he certainly didn’t want us to miss the disturbing scenes where the soldiers dressed him up like a king (no shortage of irony there), beat him, and eventually nailed him to the cross.
But it seems John not only wanted us to lean in and get the perspective from up close. He also wanted us to step back. Way back. And get a much bigger perspective. One that keeps in view not just the details of Jesus’ final moments, but that sweeps across the entirety of history to see just how big an event Jesus’ death and resurrection is in light of everything from the very beginning. In fact, John has been doing this throughout his biography, even from its beginning. “In the beginning...” were John’s opening words in Chapter 1. And those words point us back to the very beginning of God’s story – Genesis 1. Where God spoke light and life into the darkness. And now, we’ve been told, the very Word that God spoke was somehow Jesus Himself (John 1:1, 14). He is the very Light that shines in the darkness, though the darkness has not understood it (John 1:5). He is the one that brings life to all things (John 10:10, 11:25). Jesus Himself was the One behind all of creation.
But in John’s closing chapters, he wants us to be certain of more than just that. He wants us to know that Jesus is also the One behind a New Creation.
So we are brought to a garden in chapter 18. This one was called Gethsemane, but John didn’t even bother with its name. What was more important was the garden it pointed back to – the Garden of the Creation Story, the Garden of Eden. Because in both this garden and that one, something deeply wrong took place. The sin of humanity was exposed. In the first it was through a forbidden fruit. In this, it was through the betrayal and arrest of the Son of God. But both were expressions of the deep rebellion of people toward God.
And both led to death.
From Gethsemane, Jesus went first to Caiaphas, then to Pilate, and finally to Golgotha.
But from the cross, he was taken down by friends, and laid in a tomb, which coincidentally was also in a garden. And on the third day, a most magnificent scene took place. The stone was rolled away, and the tomb left empty!! Hallelujah!! But this was not merely a miracle for the moment. It was a Sign (John used this word at times) that pointed to something much bigger. That God, through Jesus, was planting something altogether new. The Great Gardener from Genesis was making Creation new again. And similar to the beginning, this resurrection scene has Jesus, the New Man, and Mary Magdalene – a woman who has been made new through him, and was the first to witness his resurrection. Together they stand, embracing in a garden, as the sun rises on a New Day.
This is more than just poetic imagery. These garden scenes are meant to bring our minds back to those first garden scenes, with the first man and woman who lived. But history will not be repeated here. This is altogether New Creation. Jesus, the New Man, has conquered the tyranny of sin and death that Adam, the first man, brought into the world. And Mary, the first to take her place as the Bride of Christ, steps into an all-new reality as one who walks again with the living God through the garden “in the cool of the day”.
Praise Jesus, the One through whom all things were made. And the One in whom we have been re-made! He has done it all for us. And He remains “God with Us”, Immanuel, as we learn to be remade in Him!
Questions to consider as you reflect on this week’s readings...
- Where do you see glimpses of the opening chapters of Genesis in these chapters? If you need a refresher, or have never read them before, check out Genesis 1-3.
- Where do you see ways that sin has skewed people’s view of Jesus, and broken their ability to respond with love to him, to others, and to God.
- In what ways do you see Jesus living out an altogether different way of life and of love?