It was my 40th anniversary of taking people to Israel, following the footsteps of Jesus. Arriving in Jerusalem two days in advance of the group to prepare the final arrangements, I anxiously wanted this to be a very transforming time for each person. Needing prayer, I went to the Garden Tomb of Jesus, wondering if the garden would be open at noon. No groups are scheduled for visits over the lunch hour. The entrance gate was open and NO ONE was anywhere in the entire garden area.
I sat quietly, looking through the trees and garden flowers in front of the empty tomb. There were so many details racing through my mind. How much I needed the Lord to give me guidance and peace before the group arrived. I needed Him to be in charge of all the details.
Praying and listening, He spoke clearly that I needed to release the group to Him. He was in charge. Let Him arrange the day to day schedule. I knew that was right. I did need to surrender everything to Him, including myself. Pausing, I released it all to Him.
Opening my eyes, this is what I saw as I faced the empty tomb. The gardener had quietly come as I was praying and watered the flowers a few feet away. No one else was around. I had the entire garden to myself…except for the gardener. Immediately I thought of Mary Magdalene coming alone to the tomb on Easter Sunday, mistaking Jesus for the gardener. It was just as though Jesus was saying to me, “I am with you. Trust Me.” And that is what happened the next nine days. As I tried to get out of the way, I saw Him at work. It was one of my most life changing group tours in 40 years, not only for me, but also for others who were fellow pilgrims!
Both Mary Magdalene and I experienced Jesus at the Empty Tomb, in the figure of the gardener! With Mary, it was Jesus Himself. With me, it was a gardener sent by Jesus. Was he an angel? I never saw him later anywhere the Garden. Or was he really one of the gardeners caring for the flowers around the garden tomb? If so, he must have been sent by Jesus to stand there at the very moment I opened my eyes. There were hundreds of flowers throughout the large garden area, and normally a gardener would have waited until I left.
Whether an angel or the real gardener, I knew he was a confirmation of the message from the Lord that day. It became like Easter in my heart. I could rejoice that He had this “following in the footsteps of Jesus” pilgrimage under His control!
He wants you to experience the reality of His daily presence and Lordship in your life as well. Can you trust Him, yield to His guidance, and obey His will?
He is Risen!
Hallelujah! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Dr. Larry Selig