In the Garden
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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 “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
Gardens frame the entire biblical narrative. To begin with, God creates life in its manifold forms in the Garden of Eden and tasks Adam and Eve to help God care for the life therein. Creation is good and every part is good. Everything is connected to everything else in the great tapestry of life. Humans, plants, animals, and the dirt itself live in a symbiotic relationship with each other. God converses with Adam and Eve as with friends, and they return the favor. When God walks in the Garden, Adam and Eve are not surprised saying, “What are YOU doing here?” No, this is just life in the Garden.
When I was a child, I remember hearing the “naked” part of the Adam and Eve narrative with some embarrassment. How can the Garden of Eden be such a paradise if everyone was walking around naked? Only later did I learn that this was the author’s way of saying that no one in the Garden had anything to hide. Nothing to hide from God. Nothing to hide from each other. Nothing to hide from themselves. Just naked and without shame.
After Adam and Eve mistrust God, however, they begin to blame each other and hide behind their garments. They hide from God in the bushes, who now walks in the Garden saying, “Where are you?” They hide from each other. They cannot tell the entire truth about themselves. I find it interesting that the word sin is not mentioned once in Genesis 3, but the word shame is mentioned often. They clothe themselves because they are ashamed. They can no longer see that the image of God is stamped upon them and upon the other person. They no longer expect or experience God’s presence as one of peace and friendship. John Milton wasn’t wrong when he called it “Paradise Lost,” and the losing had everything to do with shame, brokenness, and covering.
A lesser known Garden sets the stage for the final act of the Bible as well. In Revelation 22, a river of living water flows from God’s throne, and on either side of the river stands the tree of life. There is no longer any curse, and those who are there see the face of God and the Lamb. His name is on their foreheads.
When you read these verses, you get the feeling that it is the remake of Eden. God is seen for who God is and the people are marked by God’s own identity (image you could say). There is peace between all things living, and what once divided and fractured is now fully healed. And God is the light in this Garden, so there is no night.
In between the two Gardens that bracket the biblical narrative, stands the Garden we’ve been pondering all week. Mary stands there broken and confused. She doesn’t know who Jesus was any more. She doesn’t know who she is any more. When she first sees the risen Jesus, she believes him to be the gardener. I’ve always thought that to be interesting. She doesn’t believe him to be the priest or the janitor or the shepherd, but the gardener. Given how John presents Jesus as the initiator of the new creation (remember that this gospel begins with, “In the beginning…”), I think this is an echo of the creation account.
When the risen Jesus calls Mary by name, it hearkens back to God walking in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Mary sees Jesus for who he is. He sees her for who she is. He calls her by name, not by her condition or her social security number or her job title. He calls her by her name. And everything that was broken and fractured began to be mended and healed.
None of our addresses are in Eden any more and we all know we’re a far cry from the Garden with the river of life flowing from the throne and the tree of life planted nearby. We’re somewhere between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. Our entire lives take place between those two gardens.
I wonder if John 20 isn’t where we are in these days. Confused. Mourning. Tired. Angry. Frustrated. And yet, there stands the Gardener, calling us by name. Whoever has ears to hear…