But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. – 1 Corinthians 15.20
There are so many wonder-full moments about John’s account of the resurrection. Like the way John, in the middle of a passage describing the morning on which all of history hinges – Christ’s victory over death – needs to make sure that all of his readers for millennia to come know that when he and Peter were running to the empty tomb – John outran Peter. Yes, Peter went in first, but John was faster. Let’s make sure we’re all clear on that one.
But my favorite is when Mary encounters Jesus, after Peter and John have left. John throws in this little comment on their conversation, “Thinking he was the gardener…” Now, this is of course just speculation, but I wonder if the reason Mary assumed Jesus was the gardener possibly could have been because he was gardening (on a Sunday!). Jesus, just resurrected, is making his way through the garden where he had been buried days earlier, pulling weeds and cultivating the life that is growing there.
Regardless of whether he was actually gardening, John is drawing our attention to an important concept. Just as the original creation began in a garden, here again, in another garden, the new creation is breaking forth. The death that corrupted the original creation has been conquered, and there’s a new creation bursting into the midst of the old one.
Paul uses this imagery repeatedly, especially in his letters to the Corinthians. He declares that Christ’s resurrection was the firstfruits of our own coming resurrection, and he says that those who are in Christ are already participants in the new creation today, as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
I often fail to grasp the magnitude of this truth as I go about my daily tasks of work, sleep, changing diapers, conversations with those around me, and even occasionally gardening. So much of it feels insignificant. And yet, the Scriptures emphatically declare, that through all of these moments, I am filled with the power that spoke all of creation into being and that achieved victory over the grave and brought forth a new creation.
As citizens of this new creation, we are to be about the work of gardening – cultivating the flourishing of life in our neighborhoods and churches. For Paul, knowing the new creation has come meant taking on the title of an “ambassador of reconciliation,” uprooting the weeds of greed, sexual immorality, bitterness, anger, and idolatry. And tilling the soil to bring forth the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control wherever he went.
We celebrated Resurrection Sunday a couple weeks ago, but it’s still true today. How will you cultivate the life of the new creation in yourself, in your church, and in your neighborhoods today?
Author: Pastor Gary Hansen