Thought for the Week - 6th November 2016

Mrs Grace Gault

John 19: 39-42

And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night,
and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices,
as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden;
and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day;
for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

When you read the background of John you begin to feel that every word is weighed and weighted with meaning.  His purpose is to prove that Jesus Christ came as the son of God, but also as flesh, to save us.

We read: “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden”.  I think that John said that very deliberately, because he saw clearly how often a garden features when there is the action of God, and when something critical has happened.

Our minds go back to an earlier garden, a perfect garden that had been exceedingly beautiful… Eden.  Into that garden was put man.  And man also was beautiful, and perfect.  There was no sin in that garden.  God walked in that garden, and communed with Adam and Eve.  There was no pain, suffering or distress.  There was no absence of God’s presence.

We also know that also in that garden there was a serpent.  We know it was the devil in the form of a serpent who tempted Eve.  That temptation was to doubt God… “has God really said not to eat this?”, “why did he say that?”, “oh, just do it”.  God hadn’t given many commands, but they disobeyed His instruction not to eat of that tree.  All their descendants have suffered from it.  That undid the beauty for mankind.  We know the outcome.  We know the effects of sin in our own lives.  Sometimes a person wants to be freed of the consequence of sin – because it brings chaos into our lives and reaps its own rewards – but is not ready to forsake the sin.

That sin makes a great gulf between us and God, and only one can bridge that gulf.  And we come to another garden, where we see that gulf being bridged.  We see the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is man and He is God.  In that manhood, He is called to a place of suffering beyond our comprehension.  He pays the cost for our sin, where by shedding His blood He redeems the world.  One drop of Christ’s blood spilled is so special to God, because He is so special and so perfect.  That perfect man, God in man, is undoing the work of the Garden of Eden.

At what cost to the Godhead?  As there in Gethsemane, among the olive trees Gethsemane – trees that wouldn’t be there if not for the great Creator – Christ, lays prostrate, alone.  He sees the cup being held out for Him… a cup that is very full; a cup of suffering; a cup that only He could drink.  It didn’t mean for Him only the crucifixion that was agony to the flesh.  In Christ’s cup there was suffering that involved separation from God, and involved the coming on the spotless one the weight of sin and the weight of grief of the world.  He carries our sicknesses, our wounds, our griefs and our sins.

In that garden He says ‘Father not my will but Thine be done’.  He takes the cup.  That garden of Gethsemane is like a bridge-builder between Eden and this garden where He’s buried.  The bridge is being built that covers the great gulf between God and man.  The bridge between these two gardens; Eden where that serpent was, until we come to this garden Gethsemane where He had been crucified and was laid to rest.

What an attraction He has, that even His death caused Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to openly show that they loved Him.  Even in the very words we can sense something of the peace that was there – the suffering passed, the work was finished – but there was grief there for those who mourned Him and saw Him laid to rest.

We read in John 20: 1-9

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark,
unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple,
whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.
So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter,
and came first to the sepulchre.
And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre,
and seeth the linen clothes lie,
And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes,
but wrapped together in a place by itself.
Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre,
and he saw, and believed.
For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

Later on we read that beautiful scene where Mary is looking for Him (John 20: 11-16):

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept,
she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head,
and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them,
Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing,
and knew not that it was Jesus.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?
She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself,
and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

It’s such a contrast with that Garden of Eden.  In this garden you feel that the serpent is absent.  He’s not allowed in there to that garden that becomes the garden of revelation and unveiling.  Mary is representing us.  She loved Christ and still loves Him.  There’s nowhere on earth she wants to be than the place where she last saw Him, and saw Him buried.  She’s not overwhelmed by the angels – it’s Christ she’s looking for.  She would rather have His dead body than the angelic presence.  John, His disciple has seen that the garments are laying as though Christ’s body has dissolved out of them, they’re not unwound, they’re laying there folded.  And he believes.

It’s to them that the first revelation comes… He has risen and He is alive!  John believes even before He sees.  We read that John loves Christ and is the disciple that Christ loved.  Mary loved Christ whether He was dead or alive, or whatever anybody else said.  She had that prized quality of loyalty in her.  In the follower of Christ, it’s something that is demanded of God, that there is a fundamental, deep and abiding loyalty to Him that will carry us through life and whatever life brings.

This is a garden of unveiling and revelation, of Jesus Christ, of the love of God; the bridged gulf between man and God, between the Garden of Eden and sin, and this garden where there is Christ, where there are His redeemed and there is no serpent allowed to interfere, to steal the love of those redeemed hearts.

There is an aspect I want to highlight – love and suffering.  They’re peculiarly allied in both scripture and in life.  The love of God is everlasting.  The love of God is overwhelming, and what will bring security into any life.  It’s the love of God, that love that sent His son and was in His son, to bridge the gulf.  Inherent in that love and that bridging of the gulf there is suffering.

In Hebrews 2:10 we read of Christ:

“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things,
in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Christ was always perfect.  The concept of a God to most of the world into which Christ came, were of beings that were all powerful but totally uncaring of human suffering.  Contrast with that of the God that we know to be the true God.  We see that not only was He in his heaven and that He loved us and cared, but He came down among us.  He took a human form and He suffered.  He could have thrown a life line out to us – like a man on the bank to the man drowning in the water – but that’s not the Christ or the God that we have.  We have the one who came right inside the sea of human suffering; didn’t just stand alongside us, but has suffered.  In as much as He has suffered and been tempted like us but without sin, He gives grace to help in time of need.

The human lot contains suffering.  Because we’re a Christian doesn’t mean it’s taken away.  We know the suffering our own sin can bring, that others’ sin can bring and that comes into life not because of anything we’ve done but just because we’re human.  As we come to Christ and follow Him, we can find healing in Him for past wounds and sin.  We can find that suffering comes into our life simply because you’re being faithful to Jesus, you’re serving Him and refusing to be disloyal to Him.

His heart of compassion looks, and sees, and has suffered with us.  He is our Great High Priest who has become identified with suffering.  He is the captain – the pioneer – of our salvation.  He has gone ahead and made a way into the presence of God.  That is where you will find peace, even in the midst of suffering.  He has identified with us, that which brings us the most distressed and trouble.

Hear His voice saying “come to me, I’ll bring you rest.  My cup is full of love for you, but it was full of suffering for me”.  We’ll never suffer something that Christ cannot reach us.  We’ll never plumb the depths of His suffering.  Was Mary not the richer because of the hours she suffered but was loyal to Christ?  And as she kneeled before Him it was all forgotten.  We must be faithful to Him and not lose faith in Him.  In acceptance lies peace.

Take it to Christ, come to Him; let this be your garden of unveiling, let there be no serpent in your life.

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