SCRIPTURE SEEDS | GARDENER
“She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize Him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought He was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will go and get Him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to Him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (Which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).” John 20:14-16
She thought He was the gardener.
Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for the gardener. He was there standing before her, and yet she did not recognize Him. He was the One she was asking about. The One she was looking for.
Now it’s one thing to think you see a friend on the cereal aisle in the grocery store, and you quickly find out it’s not after they turn around. Anyone else?! But this is Jesus we’re talking about here. How could she not recognize Him? Right? Or maybe not so fast. After all, last time she checked before that morning, the tomb wasn’t empty. It makes me stop and really marvel when I read this passage because Mary witnessed a truly full-stop remarkable moment. According to the Scriptures, she was the first one to see and talk with Jesus after His resurrection. In that panicked “where is Jesus?” question, it only took one word for her to realize who this man truly was: “Mary!” One word, her name, changed everything. It also made me wonder this: do we recognize Jesus’ voice when He calls us by name?
“I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1b
Mary knew Jesus. Personally, as a real living, breathing human. She knew His voice audibly. It’s amazing to me that even though she mistook His appearance at first, Jesus’ voice cut through the confusion and gave her the exact truth she was seeking: Himself.
We need that clarity too. In the midst of noise, chaos, confusion, and anything else the world throws our way, we need to listen for Jesus. He speaks to us so clearly through His Word, and to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. I believe He speaks through His people too.
In our Scripture Seeds Lenten card set, this past Sunday told the piece of the story from John 20:14-16. Just an hour after I read it, the pastor at church in our corner of Tennessee read the same words alongside preaching about Jesus as the true vine in John 15. Jesus' gardener encounter with Mary felt even more timely that day as the words on our Scripture Seeds set echoed our pastor’s sermon! When little winks like this come along, I pay extra attention. Our pastor said something like this and it has stuck with me since: a gardener is constantly working in his garden. It makes sense to me. We don’t plant a garden, walk away, and plants magically appear. We must tend diligently, with a bucket of patience and a can of water. With time and care, good things begin to grow. Even if it takes a little longer, we don’t give up. The same is true with God working in us. He is always nearby, always digging deeper, always pruning. He comes with His bucket of patience and can of water, giving us what we need. And you know what else? He doesn’t leave us or give up on us. When we look for Him, we might just realize He’s been there all along.
A few chapters before in John 15 Jesus says to abide in Him. He is the true vine and His Father is the gardener. (Yes! So there is a gardener after all, Mary!) All are connected in a beautiful picture of the Trinity at work in the garden of our hearts — God the Gardener, Jesus the Vine, Holy Spirit the water — giving life flowing from the Vine (Jesus) to the branches (us).
“Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” John 15:5 NRSV
Abiding closely to the vine is our lifeline. Jesus, the true Vine, is our source of life. Apart from Him we cannot grow to harvest eternal fruit. The more branches twist around a vine, the closer they become until they are inseparable. With this idea in mind, think back to Mary’s gardener encounter with Jesus. During Jesus’ life, she spent time with Him, and as you know, knew His voice. Her faith was deeply entwined into His life. She not only recognized the sound of His voice; it was a trusted and comforting one. As we press into His nearness, I can’t help but think we’ll know His voice more too. And the more we spend time with Him, we’ll be closer entwined with His heart and character. May it be so.