The Garden Near the Cross

Mar 20, 2024

It was pathetic but also sweet – like an ugly puppy. There we were, staring at the cold dirt, two signs of spring – a smatter of purple crocuses and a couple of neighbors talking to each other. Really, this is Cape Cod. It draws people who can’t run any farther away from the rest of the world, without swimming. But, there we stood, huddled over a small patch of dirt that bordered our property line, transfixed with silly grins as the sun set and the damp chill began to wrap its icy fingers around us.

Spring in New England, especially on the coast, is more symbolic than substance. I know other places in the country enjoy lilies and bonnets and picnics in the park, but here, an Easter egg hunt must be fast and efficient, like Saturday mass. Keep the car running. 

Somehow, Easter was buried beneath the frozen ground when I was a child. “He is risen!” the priest would exclaim. From what? I was curious. It sounded like a hat trick. Now you see him, now you don’t. The cross was drizzled over hot cross buns and forgotten. The connection lost.

In the place where He was crucified there was a garden. John 19:41

Amy Carmichael wrote: “This is my Easter word for you. You will find your garden very near to the place where you will be crucified.” Then this –

Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.   John 12;2

A coworker asked me to tell her about Jesus last week. As we sat on her couch, cradling our coffee mugs, I said something like this:

There is nothing on earth to compare to the joy, the peace, the completely undeserved and immeasurable love of God. Then we get heaven. But first, you have to die. Alone.

This is not a big selling point. In that place…there was a garden. In that very place where we die, there is good dirt. I have planted seeds of forgiveness, scattered faith, and watered with tears in a field called Despair. But wait.

Three days must’ve seemed like a lifetime to Jesus’ disciples. Time enough to doubt, to turn back, go fishing and start a new fire. Death is stubborn. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter three times after He had risen. Love has more gravity after you die.  It’s a robust, rugged God-love that works this garden. Just when you think nothing at all could ever grow, the craziest things spring up, and you are spinning in wonder, “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” dizzy with the fragrance of divine life and miracle fruit. And the God-love never runs out, as long as we keep on sowing the seed –  in His garden, near the blood-stained cross and the sealed grave.

It is hope when all seems hopeless. That’s a promise.

Take up your cross daily and follow me – Jesus (Luke 9:23)

Daily? That’s also a hard selling point. Right after that, he tells the crowd that if you really want to find your life (Ah! Now he’s talking!), you must lose it. (What?)

Some days, I don’t want to pick up my cross. I am too busy living my best life now, with its perks and petty offenses. I want things my way. It seems so…right. But the garden suffers horribly. Nothing can grow except big fat weeds, dense and demanding. I think dying becomes more attractive over time.

My neighbor and I waved each other back inside our houses, leaving the brave little crocuses to huddle above the barren earth as the night covered them in frost. And they were there this morning, waving to me as I pulled out of the driveway, a shout of color against a bitter Spring morning,  a Hallelujah breaking through the whitewashed sky. That’s my God, I thought as I drove off. Hope. And it’s all worth waiting for. 

He is risen. He is risen indeed!


In Christ Alone (Celtic Worship)