“Again you shall plant vineyards; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. Jeremiah echoes Deuteronomy’s promise of covenant renewal, and point forward to John’s Easter garden. Mary was on the right track, mistaking Jesus for the gardener. In typical Johannine irony, he was indeed the gardener (though not the way Mary thought), the true Adam, planting again the vineyard of Israel, bringing God’s people home from the exile of death and sowing them like seed in their new land.
“Only imagery like this can begin to do justice to the reality of Easter. Too often the story and its meaning are flattened out into subsidiary truths: a belief in life after death (which most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries held anyway), or the truth that Jesus is still alive, and we can come to know him. John’s poetic genius tells a larger story through hints and allusions. Easter is the beginning of God’s new creation, new covenant, God’s whole new world. John’s readers are invited to live in that new world, to become partners in the new covenant, to be under-gardeners in the new creation. With the rolling away of the stone, a great door has swung open in human history, and we are summoned to go through, to make our own the undiscovered country on the other side.
“Scarcely surprising, then, that the story is full of puzzles. Where were the angels when Peter and John (if it was John) went into the tomb? Could only Mary see them, and if so why? Why did John describe the linen cloths and the headpiece so carefully? And — perhaps most perplexing — why did Jesus forbid Mary to hold on to him? What does his explanation (‘I have not yet ascended’) mean, and how does it relate to his subsequent invitation to Thomas to touch him and see?
“The only way of coming to terms with all this is to grasp the nettle. Easter invites us to recognize a new level of being, a new mode of existence. Jesus’ resurrection (unlike Lazarus’s) was not a mere resuscitation. It was a transformation into a new sort of physicality, catching up the old within it but going far beyond. This is a body that somehow lives in earth and heaven simultaneously (easier to imagine when you remind yourself that, in biblical thought, they are complementary and overlapping spheres of God’s creative order), though it is sometimes more appropriate to think of it as basically inhabiting one or the other. It is the beginning of that new creation which will only be complete when heaven and earth are finally married. The fact that we are obviously at the borders of language here is no shame. Where else should you be on Easter morning?
“Part of the strange truths of Easter is that it is about us, too. ‘Your life is hidden with Christ in God.’ You are already a citizen of the heavenly world. So why still behave as though you weren’t?”
N.T. Wright, Twelve Months of Sundays: Reflections on Bible Readings Year A