The brutality of the crucifixion is hard to take, but the emotional aftermath is even harder to fathom. To Jesus’ friends, like Mary Magdalene, it must have all seemed like a bad dream.
Discovering an empty tomb, as Mary Magdalene did in John’s account, was understandably devastating. Overwhelmed as she was, it didn’t register that the man standing there, asking what was wrong, was Jesus himself.
She thought he was the gardener.
Thinking he was the gardener, she struggled to understand his role in the ongoing nightmare.
Thinking he was the gardener, she begged him to return the body to the tomb so she could bring an end to the whole debacle, no questions asked.
Thinking he was the gardener, she demanded that he put aside his pruning and do something.
When he said, “Mary,” she lifted her bloodshot eyes toward his.
“Teacher!” she cried, for she suddenly realized he was the Gardener, the very one who’d planted a garden to the east, in Eden, and the one who’d stooped down to plant words in the dust.
This Gardener was unlike any other gardener. He cultivated and reconciled contradictions as no one else could: he was the God who was God-forsaken, the desert-tempted walker on water, the Living Water who sometimes got thirsty.
And because he was the planter and the seed, our harvest is hope.
Thinking he was the gardener, Mary was right.