“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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). John 20:13-16
Through the years, I have often found this Easter encounter to be interesting and a bit curious. It’s not that fact that Mary encountered two angels. It’s not even the part where Mary doesn’t recognize Jesus. My curiosity has always been piqued by the part where Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener. The gardener! How can something like that even make it into the gospel account of the resurrection?
Our Lenten journey has made something clear for me. In wrestling with all of the Lenten readings this season, I was especially struck by our reading for the Third Sunday in Lent. You may recall the parable of the Fig Tree. The gospel of Luke, the thirteenth chapter, tells us the story of a fig tree that hasn’t produced fruit in three years. The owner wants it cut down as it is taking up valuable resources. The gardener pleads for the life of the tree saying that he will tend and nurture the tree to new life. Yes, the gardener…
Standing these two accounts side by side offers us wonderful images of who Jesus is and what his resurrection means for us. As a wonderful old hymn tells us, “The powers of death have done their worst,” trying to rob the fullness of life that God intends. Yet, the grave is not the end for the grave can not hold him. The resurrection has the last word. God’s will is not judgment, for he sends us Jesus who is a word of grace and mercy. The image of the gardener speaks of love and the tender care that Jesus has for us, so much so that he gave his life for ours.
May our curiosity always continue to be piqued by God’s incredible grace and mercy.