Sunday 3 April 2016

A Tale of Two Gardens.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a most beautiful garden.
It was new, fresh, and teeming with life!
In it was planted every kind of seed-bearing plant, and trees laden with fruit.

And there were birds soaring across the expanse of the sky, great creatures diving in the ocean depths,
and beasts creeping, scuttling and roaming through the fields and forests.

The tale begins in an Edenic paradise planted by the Great Gardener for the ones he cared for most 
- two perfect human beings – the apple of his eye!

But the goodness of the garden was soon shattered in a moment of betrayal...
the humans disobeyed their Creator, taking a deadly taste of sin from the forbidden tree,
and Evil came flooding into the garden destroying its beauty.

Grief and Death entered the garden and corrupted the cosmos.
And when the Gardener came in the cool of the day to walk and talk with the ones he loved most,
ashamed they hid away, and His heart was broken.

But this is not The End...

The tale continues... many, many years later, a woman stood sobbing in the middle of a garden.
A new day was dawning, but through her tears she couldn’t see it.
Her world was dark.
The One she loved most had been cruelly executed before her very eyes.
His pierced and battered body had been laid in a tomb in the garden.
Oh, how she longed to see Him one last time. But his body isn’t there. It's gone.

Then, in the midst of heartbreak in the garden, she hears a voice. She thinks it’s the gardener.

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

She had come expecting to find Death. Instead, she finds that Life has burst back into the garden!
She IS standing with the Gardener in the cool of the day, but doesn’t realise it’s HIM...

until he calls her by name,
Called by the Living One who cares most for lost men and women in a dying world:

 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.” ~ Isaiah 43:1

Are you listening for his call?
A Tale of Two Gardens (Genesis 1-3 & John 20:1-18) is really part of a much bigger Story - 
It's all about getting humanity back into a fully restored Edenic paradise
when can we finally see the Gardener face to face (Revelation 21:1-4; 22:1-5).
Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem ~ 15 June 2012

The mystery of the unnamed travelling companion

Have you ever tried doing an internet search for images of Jesus and the two (disciples) on the road to Emmaus? If you do, you will probably notice that most of the scenes consist of three men - Jesus, Cleopas, and one other man. For most of my life I pictured things that way too. However, not all of the images picture Jesus with two men. Try it for yourself and see what else you can find...

The well-known post-resurrection appearance recorded in Luke 24:13-35 is one of my favourite stories in Luke's Gospel mainly because of the vivid description of the encounter, the amazing transformation the characters undergo during the course of their journey, not to mention the glorious recognition of the risen Jesus at their destination. The Gospel writer gives us so many details of what happened on "the same day" that Jesus had risen from the dead while "two of them were going to a village" (v. 13), for example...

...the name of the city they had come from - Jerusalem (v. 13)
...the name of the village they were going to - Emmaus (v. 13) far away the village was located - about seven miles (v. 13)
...what the two were discussing as they walked along - everything that had happened (v. 14) they were feeling - sad and downcast (v. 17)
...the name of the stranger who joined them - Jesus, whom they didn't recognise (v. 15-16)

Then, Luke reveals the name of one of the two disciples. It's Cleopas (v. 18). He's only ever named once for sure in Scripture, in this verse. And he asks Jesus, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?" (v. 18) He honestly can't believe this stranger has not heard about the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the one they had hoped was going to redeem Israel (vv. 19-21).

Interestingly, the Gospel writer says "they replied" to Jesus (v. 19). Both of the two disciples participated in answering Jesus. But, somewhat frustratingly, Luke never goes on to tell us the name of Cleopas' travelling companion! He just doesn't say. And as the results of my internet search revealed, most readers tend to simply assume the unnamed disciple is a man. However, Scripture doesn't explicitly say it was a man and there is a small bit of evidence to suggest that it might have been a woman!

Some commentators turn to John 19:25 which reads, "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." It is possible that although the name is spelled slightly differently that Clopas could be a variation of the name Cleopas and that perhaps John's Gospel is referring to the same person as Luke 24:18 does. This would mean that the wife of Cleopas was present with the women who stood at a distance (Luke 23:49) when Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem three days earlier. And it is therefore not unreasonable to assume that Cleopas' wife, Mary, was the unnamed travelling companion returning to Emmaus with her husband on the morning of Jesus' resurrection.

I suppose that in the end, knowing the precise identity of Cleopas' unnamed travelling companion probably doesn't matter all that much one way or the other. It remains a mystery. Nevertheless, given that the very first witnesses to the resurrection were all women, I like to picture two disciples on the road to Emmaus that very same day......

...and of the two burning hearts walking alongside Jesus,

   I imagine that one beats with hope and excitement inside the breast of a woman.