Sunday morning while it is still dark Mary Magdalene got up and went to the Lord’s tomb. Certainly it is frightening for a woman to go out in the dark. Yet, for this saint, there was no greater darkness than the death of Christ. Because He (Christ) stayed in the tomb, she didn’t wait until the sunrise to reveal to her the eternal light of her life. Her concern was not that it was day or night. Instead, her only concern was the idea that He, who illuminated mankind, was under the grave for three days and three nights. Indeed what kind of darkness or demons frighten for a woman whom Christ casted out seven demons. For “Perfect love drives out fear” (1st John 4:18). Therefore, she didn’t say let me wait until dawn but not being scared of the darkness, she went to the tomb of our Lord.
However, she didn’t find the Lord’s body as she anticipated. He wasn’t there. Not finding Him in the grave became disheartening for her and for the disciples as well rather than remembering what they have heard Him saying “I will Rise.” Even the Pharisees and the chief priests came to Pontius Pilate and said, “We remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ (Matthew 27:63) But the disciples and Mary Magdalene couldn’t trust that He said He will rise even after they saw an empty tomb. As a result of their doubtfulness, Christ rebuked both of them saying “O! Foolish ones and slow of heart to believe!” (Luke 24:25) to the disciples and as for Mary, saying “Do not touch me” (John 20:17).
But when Mary couldn’t find our Lord in the tomb, instead of saying “O! Well, if He is not here, let me go back to my home and rest.” Rather, she stood there and kept crying. Then with her fuzzy tearful eyes, she saw two angels sitting on the left and right side of His tomb. Not knowing who they are, she said to them “They took my Lord!” (As Saint John Chrysostom commented) When the angels turned their head outside, she turned while following their eyes and she saw Christ Standing. However, she didn’t know it was Him.
Then Jesus said to her “Woman why are you weeping, and whom are you seeking?” She thought He is the gardener and said to Him, “Sir, if You have took Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15) Then after scolding her for her unbelief, He revealed to her who He is. Afterwards, this Saint became the first from the daughters of Zion who preached the resurrection of Christ. As Mary the sister of Moses preached and announced the freedom of Israelites, Mary Magdalene announced the salvation of mankind. Not only her, but for their devotion, the other women who cried and followed Him to death also became to be declarers of His resurrection. The salvation work of God that was started by saying the word “Rejoice you” for a Woman (Luke 1), was concluded by a woman (Mary Magdalene) saying “Let all Rejoice”
We cannot overlook the verse that states “Mary Magdalene thought He was the gardener so she said to Him ‘Sir, If You have took Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’” Even though Mary said these words not knowing Him, the words are more prophetic than just flat-out wrong. How amazing is the phrase “She thought He is the gardener?” When our forefathers give commentaries on the book of Ezekiel (44) they would say “sometimes there is a wrong that may seem better than the right.” Similarly, Mary’s wrong assumption have a rightness in it. When Christ was on this earth many assume Him to be many things. When He was born they assumed He is the son of Joseph. For Herod, He was assumed to be an adversary of the worldly throne. Nicodemus assumed He was a prophet. The Samaritan woman assumed He was just a mere human who is begging for water and she later taught He was a prophet. For some they thought He was Elijah, for others Moses, for some, Joshua. For the travelers of Emmaus, a traveler; for Roman soldiers, a criminal, For Herod’s advisers a magician. He took upon Himself to be called many things. He accepted to be mocked, accused, and eventually suffered and died so in turn we may be called God’s children.
On Resurrection Sunday Mary Magdalene assumed Him to be a gardener. Mary, in a way you are right. Who you saw is a Divine Gardener. Truly if He wasn’t a Gardener why would He walk in the Garden of Eden saying “Adam where are you?” Mary you didn’t make a mistake. Wasn’t He who called us to judge saying “I planted the choicest vine. So I waited for it to bring forth grapes, but it produced thorn-plants. What shall I yet do for my vineyard that I have not done for it? Judge between Me and My vineyard.”?(Isaiah 5:4) Wasn’t He that explained us the parable saying “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the reapers are the angels.”? (Matthew 13) Who would be the best Gardener other than Him? The parable about a man with a vineyard and that He made a fence around it, is the holy church wherein the Gardener (Christ) planted us to be united with God the Father and to never be plucked out. Christ is the Gardener who made us grow while watering us by the water from His side when he was pierced and who nurtured us by His work on the cross. The Gardener who is called “When Paul planted, Apollo watered but the Lord (the Gardener) made the increase.” (1st Corinthians 3:6) He is the Gardener who came for three years but never found a fruit in us. (Luke 13:7) We on the other hand, grew thorn and weed but He is our zealous Gardener. Mary, when you called Him a Gardener, you were right.
Even if it’s just a question “Sir, if You have took Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away”, it’s a genuine question. Who really took His body? Who rose Him up? Isn’t that He Himself. Mary you asked “Sir, If You have took Him away, tell me where You have laid Him,” it is a legitimate question. But insist Him to answer this question. He Himself is the one who raise His own body. He stood before you who gave life to His own body from the grave. If you need evidence, John wrote this in his gospel after he heard Christ saying “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:18) Do not let go of Him. Tightly hold on to Him. It is Him who willingly gave up His soul and who rose from the grave by His own authority. If you (Mary) hear that someone took His body, do not believe it. It is He the divine Gardener (Jesus Himself) who stood before you that raised His body from the dead.
So, Mary, fall down before Him and never let go of His feet. You think that He only emptied the grave? What would you say if you saw Hades? In the past two days before He emptied His own grave, He demolished the gates of hades and released countless souls and led them to paradise. And now He drained what is left by raising His own body. Therefore do not let go of Him, Mary.
O! Mary what a prayer was it when you said “Sir, If You have took Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Ask this for us as well. It has been a while since we lost our Lord from the grave of our hearts. It has been more than three days and three nights since we hid His body and blood (communion) in us. However we always feel like He is not with us and we become anxious. More than the seal of Pilate, we have the imprint of the cross on our body but we still feel empty and we still feel He left us. As how they give excuse for the emptiness of the tomb by the soldiers or by the priests saying “it’s because they (the soldiers) were asleep why the Lord was taken”, we cannot give such an excuse because that excuse didn’t even convince Pontius Pilate. But when we fill this emptiness, we are calling Him, the divine Gardener, who said “Adam where are you?” and we are asking Him “Lord where are you?” in the wilderness of our heart. So please Mary ask Him for us. Ask Him to let us know if He furiously “took Himself away” when we pray as King David said “do not take you spirit away from me.” (Psalm 50)
But if He told you where He kept Himself, please tell us so that we can place Him in our heart. Then knowingly we would say “Rabbi!”(Teacher) Even if He tells us not to touch Him, that is all right. We would say “O! Lord you yourself cling on us, touch us and we wouldn’t touch you.” We would say “within our empty and distressed heart, You yourself tell us where you are. We are not worthy enough to put our finger on you. We prefer to be touched by you and get healed instead of us touching You and end up burned as Thomas the disciple. (John 20:28)
By Deacon Henok Haile
Translation by Kesis Abaineh