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In the Garden: Not the Gardener

Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.

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“’Woman,’ he said, ‘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’” (John 20:15). 

Why didn’t Mary recognize the Lord? The text doesn’t say but several answers come to mind. Certainly she was not expecting to see him. All of us have “contexts” in which we place our friends. We have people we know from work or from the neighborhood or from a family reunion. Pastors get to know people because they tend to sit in the same place every Sunday. But if the pastor runs into some of those same people at the grocery store on Thursday afternoon, he is likely to draw a blank because they are out of context.

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Certainly Jesus was “out of context” for Mary that morning. And she had been weeping and was overcome with emotion. But the main reason seems to be that Jesus deliberately veiled his own identity much as he did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Jesus did not want Mary to recognize him at first so that he could teach her an important truth. She had to learn that he is always present even when he is invisible to the naked eye. From this we learn that our Lord is often closest to us when we feel the most alone. Many times while going through a dark valley, we think God has abandoned us. But if only our eyes could be opened, we would see the Lord walking with us every step of the way. Just because we don’t see him doesn’t mean he isn’t there.
Note the question Jesus asked: “Who are you looking for?” Not “What are you looking for?” That’s a different question. Mary was looking for a what, a dead body. She was looking for something; Jesus pointed her to someone. The answer to our deepest needs is not something, but someone, the Lord Jesus Christ.

On this happy Resurrection Morning, we celebrate the fact that our Lord is alive today.

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Open our eyes, Lord Jesus, to see you as you truly are. We are glad that we do not serve a dead Jesus but a living Christ. O Father, fill our hearts with Easter joy because Jesus lives today. Amen.

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