Bishop Ward speaks about Holy Week in this Connections video. Watch the video above or read the transcript below. Also, Bishop Ward has published a related devotion, called The Power of the Silent Garden.
This journey through Holy Week, to the cross and finally to the tomb on Easter Sunday, will end in a beautiful garden. The garden is described at the end of the Gospel of John. When Jesus is crucified, Joseph of Arimathea asks for Jesus’ body. He wants to take it, anoint it, and bury it in a way that’s proper, according to the Jewish custom. Nicodemus, the same one who came to Jesus by night and asked Jesus questions, brings now ointment to anoint the body of Jesus – myrrh and other spices. Jesus’ body is taken to a garden and there, his body is anointed, wrapped in cloths, and it is laid in the tomb.
Throughout the long Saturday, between the crucifixion on Friday and the resurrection moment, the garden is silent – a silent witness to a very very long day of waiting and watching. The silence in the garden is accented by the blooming of beautiful flowers, the silent trumpeting of lilies, the beautiful colors of other flowers in the spring.
The story of our salvation begins in a garden and ends in a garden. In Genesis, humanity created, is placed in a garden, and they’re to till it and to keep it. In Revelation, when all things are consummated, there is a garden with twelve trees for the healing of the nations. In the Easter garden, everything that happened in Eden is redeemed and made right. The sin which happened in Eden, the turning away from God, is overcome by radiant love and light. We watch in the silent garden on this Saturday and then early on Sunday morning, we see the stone rolled back. The tomb is empty and Christ is alive – alive in the world and alive in all eternity.
Last fall, I found myself in Palestine, in the city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Savior. I was visiting Wi’am Conflict Transformation Center, a partner mission agency of the Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. Wi’am sits against the harsh separation wall, dividing Israel from the Palestinian territories. The wall surrounds Bethlehem so that the people are captives in their own city. Wi’am Conflict Transformation Center, up against that wall, which represents division and harshness and even violence, cultivates a beautiful garden, right up to the wall. I asked the missionaries who work there about the garden and they said, “It is our silent witness for all that is right and against all that is wrong.”
It’s an Easter garden in my memory and as Jesus is laid in the tomb and we watch in silence for the resurrection victory, I give thanks for every place in this world where we believe and where we stand and where we cultivate and where we create beauty as a witness to the great beauty of God in Jesus Christ triumphant over the grave.
May this Holy Week be a time of renewal and renewed commitment and of the deep appreciation for the beauty of Christ’s way among us. As we travel all the way to Calvary with Jesus, and as we wait in the garden for his resurrection, may we be blessed with strength and light and strong hope.