The day I went to the garden tomb in Jerusalem was grey, with a fine drizzle of rain that made me shiver. There weren’t many people about, so the garden had a lovely stillness about it, a sombre atmosphere that kept me from speaking. A young man sat alone amongst rows of benches. He was hunched over, praying. Our tour guide spoke in a hushed tone. As we stepped down toward the tomb our feet made soft scraping sounds on the limestone. I glanced back toward the spot where some believe Jesus was crucified, then stepped through the opening in the rock.
It was much smaller than I had envisioned it, the low ledge where his body would have laid, a narrow gouge in the rough-hewn stone. I shuffled forward with the others, then moved slowly back toward the opening. I touched the edge of the rock as I stepped over the lip of the entrance and heard a soft voice behind me say, “It’s empty.” As I stepped outside, beams of sunlight were streaming through the trees. The rain had passed.
I remembered those images as a small phrase in the first verse of John 20 struck me. It’s a phrase I hadn’t noticed before, a simple description of the time of day. But the image of that garden, of the greyness of the day and that beam of light made it suddenly have meaning. The phrase – “while it was still dark.”
The unfathomable mercy of Christ suddenly overwhelmed me. For it was into the darkness of this world that God sent His Son, it was in the midst of the ugliness and cruelty that he lived, it was while surrounded by His enemies and those who had betrayed Him that He died.
While it was still dark. “While we were still sinners…” (Rom. 5:8) He loved us enough to endure the torture and humiliation of the cross. “for the joy set before Him…” (Heb.12:2). He knew the darkness would not last. Light would stream through that garden and He would be its source.
While it was still dark, Jesus rose. And now, in the midst of the darkness of our world, we are able to shout Hallelujah! May the hope of Easter take root in your heart.