“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him…”
This really struck me this Easter. According to the account of John, when Mary Magdalene turned away from the angels in the tomb, she saw a man whom she did not recognize.
Immediately she judged that he was a gardener.
Was it how he was dressed? Or was it something in his look, his demeanor? Of course, the tomb was in a garden–a noteworthy fact in itself. But is any man in a garden immediately supposed to be a gardener?
It is interesting that John chose to record this detail. It is perhaps a way of emphasizing that at first she failed to recognize Jesus. But in the famous painting of this scene Beato Angelico portrays Jesus holding a hoe. This great artist prompts us to ponder anew: was there in reality a specific reason that Mary Magdalene ‘mistook’ Jesus for a gardener.
Perhaps I go too far, but I can’t help but think this was somehow a fitting mistake, if really a mistake at all. In writing on this event Gregory the Great actually takes this very approach: Mary was in a sense right. For the Risen Lord is a gardener: a spiritual gardener, planting seeds in Mary’s soul.
Surely there was a garden in the home at Nazareth. I wager that as a boy Jesus would take a break from carpentry to see how his gourds and melons were growing. What a very pleasing image; as is that of him with a hoe in his hand, even after rising from the dead.
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