Lent is wrapping up and so is my journey through the Gospel of John. I hope you enjoyed pursuing Christ through these 40 days of Lent- I know my eyes have refocused on the beauty revealed in God’s Word.
When I traveled to Israel years ago, I visited a garden tomb.* Surrounded by beautiful flowers, there was a long rock wall and a large opening. At the base of the wall was a groove in the stone where a large rock could roll over the opening. Stepping inside the tomb, I was struck by the fact no one was there.
I know this sounds simplistic and obvious, but until I saw with my own eyes, I never comprehended the profound beauty of an empty tomb. I remember taking my hand and pressing it up against the cold rock and thinking, “This is what the resurrection looks like, embodied in an empty tomb.”
In John 20, Mary Magdalene first sees the vacant burial site. She is so desperate to find the missing body that the two angels sitting in the tomb don’t phase her. And then a man approaches her in the garden. This is the moment when I can’t help but love Mary Magdalene. She looks at this guy who bears a strange resemblance to someone else she knows but can’t quite place a finger on it. She decides: never seen this guy before. He must be the gardener.
I love this detail. The very Son of God, the Son of the one who created the skies, formed the mountains, and unleashed the solar system splashed with spectacular beauty is now mistaken for a gardener.
John goes on to describe the disciples hiding together when Jesus comes in and stands before them and announces, “Peace be with you!” He shows the disciples the scars in his hands and side. But one of the disciples, Thomas, isn’t there. When Thomas catches wind that he missed the party he still doesn’t believe.
Eight days later, Jesus appears again in the midst of the disciples, and offers the same greeting. Peace be with you. Then he zeroes in on Thomas, inviting him to touch the scars.
The final chapters of the Gospel of John demonstrate how God pursues us-both individually and as a community of believers. John didn’t leave out the story of Jesus revealing himself to Mary, visiting and revisiting the disciples, and reaching out to Thomas, who’s struggling to believe by mistake.
These chapters share what a transformed relationship with the resurrected Christ looks like for followers of Jesus. He pursues them. After the resurrection, Jesus specifically pursues Mary in the garden. He pursues his disciples. He pursues Thomas despite his doubts. And in their stories we’re reminded of the beauty in the greatest story of all: God is pursuing you and he is pursuing me.
What does this glorious chase look like in your life? Is God seeking you through the lyrics of a song? Through a soft beckoning to sit with him during the silence of a sunrise? Through the tender hug of a loved one? We may be tempted to brush him off as if he were the gardener, but the Creator of the stars will continue to persevere after us in a beautiful pursuit.
If you are interested in going through a study of John consider Pursuing God’s Beauty: Stories from the Gospel of John. To purchase, click here.
*Tradition also suggests there is another possible spot for Christ’s tomb: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. For more information click here.
**Photo courtesy of here
How are you being pursued by God lately?