Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’s body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:11-16)
Last week, we saw how Easter gives us an identity for our work. This week, we look at how Easter gives us a King to direct our work.
Reading through the gospels, it appears that Jesus’s favorite topic wasn’t money, sin, or even individual salvation. What He spoke of more than anything was the “Kingdom of God.” And on that first Easter Sunday, Jesus proved emphatically that He is the prophesied King of that Kingdom.
Viewed through that lens, Easter can be seen as a sort of Inauguration Day for Jesus. As we know from our modern experience, the inauguration of new leaders is a big deal. Every detail of an inauguration ceremony is chosen with great care, from the speakers to the songs and even the parade route.
And of course, the detail that matters most is how the new leader appears physically as they address their new subjects. It’s why the fictional president-elect in my all-time favorite show The West Wing refused to wear a coat to take the oath of office in negative ten-degree weather. He wanted to portray an image of “youth and vigor” as he came to power.
So given that Jesus inaugurated His Kingdom on Easter, it’s interesting to note how He appeared physically to Mary. John 20:15 tells us that Mary mistook Jesus for “the gardener.” Of course, Jesus could have chosen to appear any way He wished. But He chose to be mistaken for a gardener. Why?
We can’t know for sure, but here’s my guess: In the inauguration of His new creation, I think Jesus is pointing us back to the first creation and the first gardener, Adam. I think Jesus is showing us that He is the “Last Adam” who is wholly unlike the first one. While Adam sinned, Jesus was sinless. While Adam died, Jesus conquered death ushering in the end of nevermore. While Adam’s reign broke creation, Jesus’s reign is meant to restore it.
But Jesus isn’t going to restore creation in one fell swoop. He’s going to use our work—our gardening and cultivation of creation—to bring about His Kingdom. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright says, “God’s kingdom, inaugurated through Jesus, is all about restoring creation the way it was meant to be. God always wanted to work in his world through loyal human beings.”
You see this in Genesis and you see it again on the first Easter Sunday. In Genesis, God created a blank canvas and called Adam and Eve to fill it. On Easter, King Jesus showed up for Inauguration Day dressed as a gardener as a means of saying, “It’s time to garden again.” It’s time to “fill the earth” again (see Genesis 1:28).
Fill it with what? With reflections of the King and His Kingdom—a topic we’ll explore more deeply next week.