At Work & Theology 101

Graves, Gardens & God at Work

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Bright daffodils and green grass are rising. Spring has eagerly sprung where I live. People in our region are buzzing about this upward emergence of warm, plant life from previously cold, dead ground. Neighbors are already mowing and mulching. Springtime is rising in tandem with Eastertime. It’s truly glorious!

I am compelled to revisit ancient words, God’s inspiring story of resurrection. Easter’s true meaning supplies more than all the feel-goods of bright baskets, eggs, and flowers. Travel biblical trails and encounter solid answers to age-old questions puzzled over by humans. 

Why are we here? What are we made for?

Is death really the end? If not, what can we anticipate after death? 

Might resurrection have any real implications for daily tasks and business endeavors?

There is an oft-overlooked detail in the resurrection morning story. It’s a curious inclusion that holds potential for answering these questions. It might also bolster our faith at work. 

Christ’s Grave & Resurrection in a Garden

Appearing only in John’s Gospel, we might readily miss it: “At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid” (Jn. 19:41 ESV).

It’s tempting to say, “No big deal, really. The Apostle John was just setting the stage.” However, he very intentionally emphasized the garden, mentioning it twice. Biblical authors were quite purposeful. Whenever we encounter repetition in their stories, we should pause to consider why. In addition to mentioning the garden, Mary Magdalene initially mistook Jesus for “the gardener” (Jn. 20:14-15 ESV). 

John’s worldview and his faithful following of Jesus was deeply affected by Genesis. Opening lines in John 1:1-5 (ESV) include picturesque language, like in the beginning, darkness, light, and life—key terms and themes first used in Genesis’ early scenes.

So why would John spotlight the tomb in a garden on resurrection morning?

Garden and Graves at the Beginning

God deliberately planted Adam and Eve in a garden. In Eden, the first humans were responsible for working in the garden (Gen. 2:15 ESV). Following their fall into sin, the curse delivered ugly consequences for daily labors (Gen. 3:17-18 ESV). These consequences culminated in death. Humans would now return to the dust, the same earthy soil from which they were formed. There would be graves. A further devastating outcome included the humans being expelled, barred from that place of flourishing (Gen. 3:19-24 ESV). 

Dusty death and grim graves became humans’ doom and seemingly final destiny. Sadly, the curse of sin still affects every human. It’s why we ask those puzzling questions.

More Garden Language in God’s Story

Marvelous to discover, there’s more to his story. God planned wondrous salvation and renewal, divine work he graciously unfolded throughout biblical literature. In Resurrection Hope and the Death of Death, Mitchell L. Chase cites numerous passages where Christ’s resurrection—and ours—are both foreshadowed and foretold. 

Resurrection lingo includes a rich collection of up words. Words like arise, bring up, rise, raise up, and restore. Especially intriguing are numerous Old Testament places where stories, poetry, and prophecies include such spring-like language. Up words are threaded throughout all the biblical genre, including the Pentateuch, Prophets, Psalms, as well as rich, wisdom texts.

These words consistently point to renewal for God’s people, Jesus’ arrival, his resurrection, our revival both spiritually and physically, and eventual restoration of all things in new heavens and new earth. Consider this sampling:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet . . .” (Deut. 18:15 ESV)

“The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” (1 Sam. 2:6 ESV)

“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.” (Ps. 71:20 ESV)

“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. (Am. 9:14 ESV)

Such storylines grow our anticipation for the second Adam who will rescue and raise up renewed humans. We can expect new life to spring up in a new garden. And we can anticipate the coming restoration of all things someday in that Garden City, New Jerusalem (Rev. 21-22 ESV).

Isn’t it ironic? The death of death emerged in the life-giving environment of a garden! The ultimate new human, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49 ESV) was raised to life, and not just anywhere. In a garden. 

Graves and Gardens. Now What?

Jesus’ resurrection story in the garden calls us to deeply believe. We say “Yes!” to personal faith in Christ. So, we experience our own resurrection life, both now and forever. 

Resurrection helps us reimagine God’s value in our work. We can embrace the wonder again in our offices, kitchens, schools, board rooms, and a host of other everyday “gardens” where we lead and labor. In Living the Resurrection, Eugene Peterson spotlights how the women went to the tomb, intending to work. They aimed to anoint Jesus’ dead body. Instead, they encountered the resurrected Christ. Daily tasks, workspaces, and coworkers are integral to our everyday faith formation. John’s inclusion of garden lingo supplies further evidence of God’s resurrection purposes in our work. 

If your daily endeavors feel feeble or frustrating, like dead-end roads with no real point, take heart! Jesus’ resurrection works out something brighter and far-reaching. See anew the great significance in all you do. Really! Jesus’ resurrection in the garden means the curse has lost its grip on you.

God’s wondrous work ushers in his new kingdom. As Jesus’ followers, we live in the “already but not yet,” and we gain fresh perspective. We can lead, serve, and labor with increasing hope, renewed purpose, and spring-like joy that glorifies Christ (1 Cor. 10:31 ESV; Col. 3:23-24 ESV). 

Because of God’s work in gardens, we can work with fresh motivation in our own daily gardens. Take heart, and rejoice in his resurrection!

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