In the Easter story from John’s gospel Jesus is sort of incognito, at least to Mary Magdelene, if not to us.
Mary mistakes him for the gardener which echoes back to Genesis and the garden and the Word was among us. You probably know it. But, that little scene with Mary opens the theological door to a ton of other implications which include – but are not limited to – just about everything in this world. This makes those of us types who believe that Jesus-is-still-resurrecting-things very happy because all of sudden, we look around us and start to notice Jesus is everywhere and we challenge anyone to find someplace he’s not. Further, many of us who fall into this Jesus-is-everywhere camp will argue that Jesus actually chooses to show up in the most unlikely places because that’s where he does his best work. Any place sins need to be forgiven, the devil needs to be told to keep his trap shut, or the dead need to be raised.
This has everything to do with culture, or to put it more crassly, what part of ‘for God so loved the whole world’ don’t you understand? Of course, as confessing Christians we believe that the full revelation of God can only be known in Christ, and it is through this One we come to believe, but simultaneously we also confess God will attach his promises just about anywhere: to stale bread, to too-sweet wine, to meager words, to our mortal bodies. And those are only the places we know about because Jesus said so, but who can ever decipher all the other places and people God loves to latch onto with promise?
I write this because last week, I got in a discussion with a mom who believes the world and our culture is bad and so she only allows her teenagers to listen to Christian music. That’s just dandy, but I didn’t know how to quite tell her without telling her (insert your favorite heresy here) Jesus doesn’t limit himself to songs produced in Atlanta or Southern California. That Jesus could use neon, but more often works in, under, and through what is ordinary, that often God’s ways are hidden and that, maybe even, Arcade Fire has, gulp, Christian-ey lyrics. Even Luther used drinking songs and kitchen posters to get his point across.
This is also not to suggest some cheesy life-is-better-now-with Jesus theology. As Christians, we tell the truth: that sin and death are way too real, that injustices are everywhere, even in our own homes, that the devil is still sniffing around, and usually starts barking, right when we’re trying to get some rest. But Easter also tells us that these things have been overcome. That now, forgiveness is the first one up at the campsite making coffee; that resurrection is waiting for you on the hard plastic chair at the next station; that even though the devil makes a lot of noise and bares his big teeth, Jesus has him on a very tight leash.
Easter reminds us that we just don’t know when Jesus is going to show up, or how. But Easter also tells us, with unflinching, raw certainty that he has, and he will continue to do so. Easter tells us Jesus died on a tree that Adam and Eve have already forgotten, and he stands right in front of you (the Gardener?), calling you by name.