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Reform Magazine | June 25, 2019

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Chapter & verse: John 20:11-18

Chapter & verse: John 20:11-18

Susan Durber realises Jesus really was the gardener

Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, only to find it empty and the body missing. She weeps, and then someone she takes to be the gardener asks her why.

I once assumed that Mary was simply wrong about Jesus being the gardener. But, as this is the fourth gospel, the wise reader should be alert for irony. Could it be that the Gospel writer (this one is so good at hints and signs and hidden meanings) wants to tell us that Jesus actually is the gardener? Was Mary, in a way, right?

It is this Gospel, after all, that begins with a quotation from Genesis: ‘In the beginning’. The phrase reminds us of the creation of Adam – a word that means ‘earth creature’. Adam is created from the soil and has a vocation to cultivate the earth – ‘to till it and keep it’. The first Adam, the first human being, was created to be the gardener, to turn the wilderness into paradise (in Greek, the word for garden is also the word for paradise.)

God made us to be gardeners, those who enable the rest of creation to flourish. This is what the Bible imagines we are for. And if Jesus is the first one of a new humankind, he is a new kind of gardener too. Some of the early Christians talked about Jesus as the second Adam, seeing that Jesus, in his dying and rising, brought new life not only to people but to all creation. He brought back the vocation of humankind in relation to creation, the ‘first fruits’ of a new kind of human relationship with creation…

Susan Durber is Minister of Taunton United Reformed Church, Somerset

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the April 2019 edition of Reform

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