Finding God in the Garden
A tour of memories reveals our Lord to one of his guides
Gregory J. Rohde
Genesis tells us that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Have you ever wondered what God did on the eighth day? God walked in a garden. The apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree of Life, so is it any surprise that the Son spends some of his first resurrected day in a garden?
Every year during the octave of Easter, our hearts are refreshed by the tale of this memorable morning. On the first day of the week, the apostles witness the empty tomb. After this seemingly incredible find, what do they do? They go home. Only Mary Magdalene accepts Jesus’ invitation to remain. Only she abides with him. In the garden, but not alone.
What is Mary Magdalene’s reward for being the only one to remain? She is the first person to encounter our risen Lord. She nonchalantly observes two angels before turning around to see Jesus. She perceives her Lord as a gardener; not a grave digger, not a merchant, not a carpenter. One who tills.
John’s Gospel easily could have omitted this gardener detail, but it is far too vital to leave out. John thus connects three gardens: the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve choose their will over God’s will; the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus submits to and fully embraces God’s will; and the garden by the tomb where Jesus as the new Adam redeems all the earth. Creation, submission, and resurrection all take place in a garden.
Jesus tells us that God is a gardener. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower….Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me” (John 15:1, 4). Jesus has many titles—King, Savior, Redeemer, Lord, Shepherd. While “Gardener” is not one of them, once that seed is planted in your imagination, it might take root.
Rembrandt portrays Christ as a gardener wearing a wide-brimmed sun hat, carrying a spade, with a pruning knife secured to his waist. Scripture reveals that when he was teaching, Jesus used images from a garden many times: a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying, seed being sown, vines being pruned, trees in danger of being uprooted for not yielding fruit. One might even link a gardener’s four major tasks—planting, watering, weeding, harvesting—with Christ’s four actions at the Last Supper—take, bless, break, share. A gardener takes a seed and prepares soil so it can be buried; blesses the seed with water; breaks any weeds or stems that need pruning; shares the new fruit from the seed that died and rose again.
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