The Most Important Gardener Ever

When we left the story of the resurrection last week, we left it in a bit of chaos. There was a footrace. We’re not sure who won really. Suddenly the body is gone, and the disciples (who had incidentally been warned that this was coming) are confused and scared. Mary Magdalene was there, in fact the first to discover the empty tomb and tell the other disciples about it. Our story picks up with her:

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).

This is a comical story to be sure, but there is a lot of detail going on here. For starters, Mary is convinced that someone has come by and stolen the body of Jesus. And truth be told, that is easily the most logical conclusion to come to. If you aren’t expecting a spiritual moment, then spiritual options are probably the farthest thing from your mind. So she turns around in grief and confusion and sees…the gardener.

On the surface, it feels like this is a little bit random. Why assume that Jesus, who Mary has spent a couple of years walking alongside is a gardener? I mean, doesn’t she recognize him? Does he look different? Has resurrection changed him? Or is there something deeper at play here?

There is a theory of Biblical interpretation called the theory of first mention. Essentially what this says is when you see a word or a phrase that seems to come out of nowhere in the Bible, look and see where that word or phrase is first used. Maybe the author is pointing you back toward something. So we ask ourselves, where is it in the Bible that we first see a garden? Of course, we go all the way back to the beginning! This whole adventure between God and humanity gets its start in the middle of a garden. It’s home. It’s the original. It’s the way things were meant to be.

John is reminding us of what’s really at stake in Jesus resurrection, and in ours as well. To go back to the Garden of Eden is to wipe out the mistakes that got us to where we are today. It’s to put things back to the way that God intended them to be. Resurrection puts our past behind us and takes us back to the start of our life with God. Resurrection says we don’t have to live with the mistakes and failures we’re so used to. Resurrection is a fresh start in a good Garden.

Death does not have the last word, life does. Sin does not have the last word, redemption does. The broken fragile world we inhabit now does not have the last word, the gardener does. Live in to that today! Remember that when Jesus rose up from that grave he brought each one of us with him. So today’s failures and missteps aren’t where we stay. Through the power of Jesus we are waking up in the garden.

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