Gardener or Teacher?

Sometimes Jesus shows up unrecognized

Happy Easter!

My favorite story of the Resurrection is from John 20. In this account, a grief-stricken Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener — only to recognize him as her Teacher. As someone who is both a gardener and a teacher (and far better at the latter than the former!), this tender and emotive bit of scripture never fails to speak to my heart. Since writing about Jesus as Teacher in Freeing Jesus, I’ve come to treasure this passage more than ever. And it reminds me that even when Jesus shows up, we might not immediately recognize him.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 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. 

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.’ 

When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’

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, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 


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Rosing from the Dead
by Paul Willis


We are on our way home
from Good Friday service.
It is dark. It is silent.
“Sunday,” says Hanna,
“Jesus will be rosing
from the dead.”

It must have been like that.
A white blossom, or maybe
a red one, pulsing
from the floor of the tomb, reaching
round the Easter stone
and levering it aside
with pliant thorns.

The soldiers overcome
with the fragrance,
and Mary at sunrise
mistaking the dawn-dewed
Rose of Sharon
for the untameable Gardener.



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In Christ the world arose, in him heaven arose, in him the earth arose. For there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
— Ambrose of Milan

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

— Maya Angelou

When Christ, rising from the dead after being executed for nonviolent resistance against violent imperial injustice, grasps the hands of Adam and Eve, he creates a parable of possibility and a metaphor of hope for all of humanity’s redemption.
— John Dominic Crossan

On this Easter morning, let us look again at the lives we have been so generously given and let us let fall away the useless baggage that we carry — old pains, old habits, old ways of seeing and feeling — and let us have the courage to begin again. Life is very short, and we are no sooner here than it is time to depart again, and we should use to the full the time that we still have. . . . We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously. The dawn that is rising this Easter morning is a gift to our hearts and we are meant to celebrate it and to carry away from this holy, ancient place the gifts of healing and light and the courage of a new beginning.
— John O'Donohue


THIS EASTER SEASON, I hope that my new book Freeing Jesus: Rediscovering Jesus as Friend, Teacher, Savior, Lord, Way, and Presence encourages you to see Jesus in the unexpected places of your own life. You might be surprised at who you find in your garden.


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