Easter has long been one of my favorite holidays. The weekend leading to Easter was always a whirlwind of fun when I was growing up. My aunt, uncle and cousins drove down from Maryland, and we spent Saturday afternoon painting Easter eggs. I can still smell the boiled eggs and feel my burning fingertips as I raced to dapple on the egg dye before the egg cooled too much to hold the paint.
Sunday promised homemade bread for breakfast; a spectacular, joyful service; and a race home, where the aroma of lamb and herbs roasting in the oven greeted us before we even got inside. Dad hid Easter eggs, and after the egg hunt, my mom and aunt hid Easter baskets.
Eggs and garden flowers are inextricably linked in my memory, especially the pink azaleas that often bloomed right in time to conceal an equally pink egg. I was a terrible egg and basket hunter, while my brother was always the champion, but I always knew to check the pink azaleas for the pink egg. Somehow, Easter doesn’t feel quite the same without a hunt of some sort.
The joys of Easter Sunday always wiped away the somber Maundy Thursday service with its black draped cross, the haunting solo of Where you there when they crucified my Lord?, and the darkened sanctuary.
At this point in Holy Week, we have the somber moments yet to remember and ponder before we celebrate the joyous Easter. And as I look around at my own garden blooming, I am reminded of the two Easter gardens: one of darkness and betrayal, the other of light and joy.
Tomorrow will mark the point in Holy Week when we revisit the darker garden, the garden full of grief and trembling and betrayal, the Garden of Gethsemane.
When Jesus spoke had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples.
– John 18:1
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.
– Matthew 26:36
To read the full events of that night in the garden, read Matthew 26:36–56. The upshot is this: Jesus asked his disciples to stay awake while he went a little ways off to pray. He begged God to change what was about to happen, but Jesus also submitted to God’s will. He scolded the disciples for falling asleep in the face of his distress. He prayed again; they slept again. Judas and the soldiers arrived to arrest Jesus, and the disciples fled.
The second garden is joy-filled. It’s the garden where an empty tomb awaited visitors Sunday morning:
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
When she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
– John 20:11–16
I love John’s account of Mary mistaking for Jesus for the gardener. Her eyes and brain and heart weren’t ready yet to see the risen Jesus standing in front of her, alive, in the garden. Are your eyes and brain and heart ready?
I’ll leave you today with a tour of my Easter garden. Most of these flowers I can identify, but I need your help with one of them. I hope you enjoy them. May these blooms remind you of the joy of Easter.
Happy Easter, my friends! I’d love to know what’s abloom in your Easter garden and how you celebrate the joyous day.