Story. I love a good story. Above all stories, the Bible holds story like the Deep Magic of Narnia, story with more power and beauty than all other stories ever told. As I have studied the book of John this year with other women from my church, I have seen so many threads of stories that I haven't seen before, or haven't seen as clearly. "In the beginning," the story of creation, followed by the fall of men, and then ultimately redemption of all things has been present in my mind in every single chapter of John; it arched over every account I read and discussed with my sisters.
And so we began, once upon a time, and I paused in breathtaken awe when I imagined the Christ- called simply "The Word" - existing in joy with the Father and the Spirit before creation - and then becoming the avenue through which all things sprang forth, the very Life and Light of men.
But then the darkness. The doom and danger loomed large on the horizon and the soul-shattering darkness pierced the light ...
...but could not overcome it.
A thread of light trailed through the pages of this Story and I traced it whenever I could.
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world" took me straight back to "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" and I dizzied at the incomprehensible grandeur and humbling over the Word, Life, and Light of men becoming frail human baby flesh
with wrinkly toes and crying for hunger
at a mother perhaps so young that nowadays we would think it a sorrowful thing for this mere child to be raising a child.
To see now the brokenness of the Samaritan woman at the well
To see now the lame man at Bethesda pool, unable to move himself or find anyone to move him into its healing waters
To carry on working alongside imperfect disciples even when a dear one has been beheaded
To hear the clamors for immediate wants and needs with no regard for the deeper spiritual hunger in our own hearts as the crowds demanded signs and miracles for their own selfish and temporal desires
Crowds of people who refused to see and accept that this was the One they had been waiting for because they didn't like giving up their illusions of control and safety
Yet He walked faithfully through each moment of His life with precision care to break into the deepest places of the men and women He interacted with.
Abandoned by His close friends
Body broken by the earthly powers
He was crushed for our transgressions
He was broken for our failures
He finished the work promised in the first story
In the very moments Peter was frantically denying ever even knowing the One who calmed the storm on the sea, Christ Himself was in the process of enfolding the guilt of that denial into Himself
before the Righteous Judge
Christ dying even for the sins of those who had called for His death
My mind reeled as I considered that Jesus was being punished for sins being committed against Him in the very moments of His own death, giving Him such authority as He asked the Father to forgive His accusers.
Then, abandoned finally by the Sustainer of life, He breathed and died.
We discussed together the hours before His death together with solemnity, with sorrow over what He suffered in our own place. I felt a little like we could have been the women standing near the cross and I realized that their world must have just fallen apart in those moments. The storm and fury of God's wrath made the earth tremble. Could they even notice for the trembling of their own souls?
Then, like a clean breeze wafting through the room, shaking out the musty air and cobwebs of sadness, we came again to a Garden and a woman.
This time the woman is not speaking with a snake but with the One who crushed the head of the snake.
The Fall in Eden: undone! Did Mary mistake Jesus for the gardener because He was the new Adam, the perfect caretaker of creation?
In Eden, I hear the Lord's voice full of sorrow and tender longing for His soul-shattered creations, "Children, where are you?" and my heart both grieves and explodes with joy that He cares to seek them out, even if it means being sent from the garden with promises of hard toil and pain of sin.
In this new garden, the children are found!
"Mary," he says and in this Garden it signals reunification and healing. "Tell my brothers I am ascending to My Father and Your Father, My God and Your God." Mary is sent from this Garden in joy and amazement to declare the finished healing between man and His God.
I thought often about the differences between the unbelieving crowds and the believing followers of Jesus. Which am I? Am I willing to receive Jesus as Almighty God over all, with authority to dictate and command my life? Although it sometimes feels safer to deny my need of Him and try to go on with my life, I know that I am too much like dead Lazarus in the tomb, wrapped still in graveclothes but being called out into the light of day. Do you hear His voice calling you up and out to the fresh air of the Garden Healed too?
"Follow me," Jesus said to Peter after Peter's betrayal and restoration. "Follow me."