Though I’m two generations removed from the family farm (my grandpa Barnhart grew up on one), I spent a decent part of my youth working out in our garden each spring. Our family gardener taught me many valuable skills for getting the most out of the soil. First, before planting you have to prepare the soil. This means turning over the dirt with a shovel, removing weeds, and breaking up the hard clods; then you sprinkle fertilizer over all the ground and turn over the soil a second time, until it becomes nice and loose, taking on a dark brown hue.
Preparing the soil is like eating your veggies; planting the seeds is dessert. The gardener planted the tomatoes since I’m not a fan of eating them. But for corn, I’d hoe straight furrows and place the seeds about six inches apart, before covering them over with dirt and watering the corn in. I loved this second step in our gardening process: planting the seeds.
Unfortunately, it was followed by the third step: weeding. Gardens have to be weeded. And here’s a news flash: weeding isn’t very much fun. Unless you’re my gardener. As a believer, she viewed weeding as a metaphor for how we have to diligently work to keep sin out of our lives, pulling up those weeds before their roots got deeply established and started reproducing. Weeding was never such a spiritual experience for me; I thought that weeding was surely a result of sin and the fall, not a reminder of the process of sanctification.
Payday came after months of preparation, watering, and weeding: the harvest. There aren’t many things better than summer corn plucked off the stalk, shucked on the spot, thrown immediately into a pot of boiling water, and eaten twenty minutes later with butter, salt and pepper. By that point in time, I was always grateful for the wisdom of my gardener, also known as Mom.
In John 20, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus on that Sunday morning and discovered that “someone had taken her Lord out of the tomb.” Perplexed and distraught, she searched for his body, her eyes blurred by tears. She ran into the gardener and implored him, “If you have taken him away, tell me where you’ve laid him!” The “gardener” then called her by name, “Mary!”, and she joyfully recognized the risen Jesus. Soon she was commissioned to bring good news to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
I’ll always be grateful for my gardener who taught me about the mysteries of planting and harvesting. Even more, I’m grateful for the “gardener” who called Mary by name, opening her eyes to the possibility of new life through faith in Jesus Christ. As you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, I’m curious: What “gardener” opened your eyes to the mysteries of faith and the possibility of new life? Who helped you see the Easter reality of the Risen One? Who might you thank today for sharing with you the greatest story ever told?