Preface: Here’s hoping to warm a place in you where the natural temperature cannot go. And tkx to all for the encouragement of things not seen…………..
So there she was, her hopes dashed, probably struggling to see through her tears, forgetting that not too long ago, her unique yet puzzling friend had given her solace in the face of apparent aloofness: It is possible she once wrongly thought that He didn’t care that the brother of Martha had died. Yep, incorrect news travels fast.
Now with David’s greater son gone, her world came to a screeching halt. She could have thought: Why Lord must our hearts be rended so, why must the pain be so punishing, why must our grief affect every string of our fiber, and why do you appear to take what we love, and at the very worst times? But her questions were not perfect.
Yes, this Mary asked our questions, for her heart is the same by virtue of her membership in the human race. ‘Lazarus is dead,’ was the headline news, words that caused her travail and yet great joy, but she could not remember the words of the Comforter when He said: Lazarus is asleep; but only to add: I am the resurrection and the life…..
So there she was, tending to the tomb of her deceased friend and Lord. Now, in one of the most touching incidents of scripture, this solitary woman would encounter a person, but more so, she would hear words spoken for her, to her alone, at that time, in that place, to dry her tears and satisfy her deepest thirst.
But first, perhaps in her stillness, she recalled the loaves and the fishes, she considered the lame, the maimed, the halt, the blind, the cripple, the leper, the dignity of friendship, the care for the poor, and the never-ending example of truth in all things, especially that He is the friend of sinners. She loved the sting of this bitter truth, this biting truth. Truth that gives hope to the hopeless, and truth that condemns the proud. Perfect truth.
She recalled the word ‘in three days I will rise again,’ but who wants to hear scripture when the heart is broken? Who wants to eat when the stomach is sick? Who can hear the soft voice of the shepherd when the ear is battling with truth and doubt? It is not that Mary believed less in her grief, no, it is that her spiritual pain was tolling a louder bell.
Yet in this, the Lord of glory appears in our deepest need, on time, and with a purpose. His word is always enough if we would only hear that still small voice. He does not boastfully open the door and loudly scream: I AM HERE……….no, the good shepherd speaks with the right cadence and cascade of words, yes, like a song we are most fond of, and one that reaches emotions that were previously hidden.
So there she is at the tomb, the place where all the bereaved are welcome, and as the water is streaming down her cheek, she hears this: ‘Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?’ Still lost in her hope, and not quite connecting the dots, not yet hearing exactly the One who spoke, and with her vision still cloudy through the tears, she softly states, perhaps even a whisper: ‘Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.’
In this brief moment, in this twinkling of an eye, there was the appearance of two people randomly meeting, not knowing each other. He, asking why she is crying, she, mistaking Him and supposing Him to be the gardener. Mistaking Him for the gardener! Of course. Why else was He there, if not tending to the area of the newly deceased, the place of the planted, and she who weeps there. Was He not also acquainted with grief as the man of sorrows?
Does not the master gardener care for the branches of the Vine?
So we come full circle to the garden from whence came the first man Adam. Indeed he tended the garden, and now the last Adam would be mistaken as the gardener for just a moment………until He spoke her name: ‘Mary!’ Is this not endearing? Is this not the pearl of great price? Can you not see the lustre of both her request, and the Lord’s presence? And, does He not speak our name…
Indeed, and hearing her name in the midst of her pain put wings to her heart and speed in her step. ‘Master!’ she cried, and all was well once more. Her Lord of glory was the same ‘my Lord and my God’ of Thomas, and the same Lamb of God identified by the baptist., and the same Lord who took Peter, James, and John to the mount where they beheld His majesty, as well as into the home of Jairus daughter. ‘After three days…………’
‘Supposing Him to be the gardener.’ And in this one correct and incorrect assessment of a ‘stranger,’ gardeners everywhere are elevated in the toil of the earth. What man or woman is not impressed with a handful of dirt? What person does not delight in seeing that which was buried spring into life?
Now with erased tears, the woman at the tomb would be charged with ‘go tell my brethren.’ True, by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, but true again, by this woman would carry the finest of news, that Christ Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised again the third day………according to the scriptures.
Gardeners? I like gardeners, even ones with mistaken identities. And Mary here? Yep, varied opinions, but while we know in part, there is One who knows entirely, and is deserving of our trust, who is not a stranger, and calls us friends.
(ps- if you are one of the few who despises this post, how about waiting a while before you sling the arrows of discontent, lest you scare away decent people who may actually want to share their two cents.)