“Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him…”
John 20:15

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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