Jesus the Gardener

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus….Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20:11a, 14, 15b)

You’ve probably read this passage dozens of times. And if you’re like me, you’ve likely always thought of the fact that Mary mistook Jesus as “the gardener” as some odd but insignificant detail of Scripture. 

But no word of Scripture is placed there by accident, and as renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright has pointed out, this detail is no exception. It appears that John is pointing to something quite remarkable indeed. John is contrasting the first Adam in the Garden of Eden with the last Adam, Jesus Christ, in the Garden of the Tomb. 

In the beginning, God created Adam to work the Garden of Eden—to fill and subdue the first creation. At the resurrection, Jesus inaugurated the final creation—the eternal Kingdom of God—which would restore everything the Fall destroyed.

What does this have to do with your work today? Everything. Because while Jesus could have brought the fullness of his kingdom that first Easter morning, he didn’t. Instead, he called us to advance it through our lives and work (see Acts 1:6-8).

Just as Adam had his bride—Eve—to help him cultivate the first creation, Jesus has his bride—the Church—to help him cultivate the final one. That is the end to which our “good works” are meant to be aimed: The repairing of creation. Working to make this world look more like the kingdom “as it is in heaven.”


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