When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). ~ John 20:14-16
As I travel to Yuma, Fort Yuma, and Buckeye; I can see the endless fields of broccoli, lettuce, asparagus, and other greens. You can also see brown fields waiting to be harvest or planted. When you’re in San Luis, Arizona in the afternoon, you can see hundreds of farm workers returning to Mexico after a long day in the fields. Women protecting their faces with a cloth you can only see their eyes. Men with large hats trying to hide every inch of their skin from the scorching sun. These farmers rise very early when it is still dark and make their way to the buses which take them out to the fields. They have to work fast with their hands and feet, bending to handpick the majority of fruit and vegetable crops.
After a hard day’s work, back to the bus and then home to take a shower prepare dinner and lunch for the next day. These souls are the ones who grow the plants we eat, the fruit we savor, and the flowers that embellish our homes.
It is intriguing that John presents Jesus as a Gardener and Mary doesn’t recognize him. There are other communities where they do recognize Jesus as a Gardener. For example, an artist from the community of Solentiname, Nicaragua, paints the risen Christ as a gardener in the middle of a vast orchard, filled with tropical flowers, trees full of fruits and lush plants. (The Gospel in Art by the Peasants of Solentiname by Philip and Sally Scharper).
To see the risen Christ requires for us to slow down from the distractions of life or ministry, to look closer, to look beyond the covered faces, the large hats, and callouses hands hardened by the soil and fruits of their labor.
Jesus seeks us in the orchards, in the tombs, in our pain and grief, and in the celebration of our communities.
Jesus could appear to us as a gardener. You never know! We should take more care of our gardeners, not only because they work with the resurrection of our nature, but because in any of them could be coming to us the same Jesus.