“The gardener” was alive!

Posted Apr 17, 2017

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Daily Scripture

John 20:1-16

1 Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” 3 Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. 4 They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. 5 Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. 8 Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.

11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

Reflection Questions

Even when they found Jesus' tomb in the garden empty, Mary (and then two of the male disciples) were troubled, not excited. The men left, but Mary stayed, weeping. John said she thought the man asking who she was looking for was “the gardener.” In symbol, he was. Adam failed in the first garden (cf. Genesis 3), but Jesus (the “second Adam”) would tend earth’s “garden” well (cf. Romans 5:15-21). Mary didn’t recognize Jesus’ voice at first. But apparently the way he said her name was unmistakable.

  • Mary went to the tomb “while it was still dark.” She clearly didn’t expect to find Jesus alive, but in love and devotion she was eager to care for his body as soon as possible. (The Jewish laws Jesus had challenged forbade that on the Sabbath.) How can you nurture a desire to go to Jesus, even in times of despair and darkness? What practices and choices can build you a “first name” relationship with Jesus, a link between your heart and his?
  • In the gospel of John, the details mattered. John described Mary seeing two angels in the tomb in a way that evoked the “mercy seat,” the cover of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:17-20 described the cover). How did Jesus' death and resurrection make God’s mercy real for all people, in ways the Ark could only point ahead to for Israel?


Lord Jesus, if my attention strays and I don’t recognize you, please call me by name and draw me again into a saving connection with you as my risen Savior. Amen.

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Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen serves in Communications at Church of the Resurrection by creating and managing social media content.

(Donna first wrote this Insights blog in March, 2016. You may not have been a GPS subscriber then--but even if you were, it's worth reading again.)

As someone who is a bit over the top competitive, I smile at the way John describes this scene. Twice, he points out who arrived first at the tomb: “the other disciple ran faster…” and “…the one who had arrived at the tomb first…” Perhaps you recall in earlier scenes (described in Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s gospels) when Jesus caught the disciples arguing over which of them was greatest. And at one point they flat out asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Perhaps each was hoping for the coveted trophy. Yet Jesus responded, “Whoever is least among you all is the greatest.” (In this day of “all I do is win, win, win – no matter what!” that’s not the answer many of us may be looking for.)

Back to our scene at the tomb. I do love that it was Mary Magdalene who really was there first – did I mention my competitive nature? But when Peter and the other disciple heard her news of the empty tomb, they took off running to see. I find myself duplicating their behavior at times. So eager am I to know Jesus – to get close to him – that I just cannot run fast enough toward him. But something stopped this disciple when he got to the tomb’s entrance: “…he didn’t go in.” His eagerness to run hard and fast may suddenly have turned to fear once he got there, so he hesitated. Wait – what does this mean if the tomb is empty? What will be required of me with this discovery? I’m just really not sure I want to go there!

Yes, I run fast toward Jesus my teacher, my friend, my savior. But my sacrificed King? – what is that gonna require of me?! Sounds messy and complicated. I don’t think I can do this…

I stop and I don’t go in.

Blessedly, as this disciple had Peter, we have others to help us press on when we hesitate to enter the tomb and fully embrace what has happened. And we have a God who gives us chance after chance to get it right.

This Easter, let us run fast to the tomb – let us go in and find it empty. Let its emptiness fill us with the courage to follow a sacrificed King. Because he is also a risen King. And one worth running to.

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