The Rev. Chris Bowhay asked in his sermon yesterday morning, “Mary went to the tomb and was weeping when she couldn’t find the body of her Lord. Why didn’t Mary recognize Jesus, thinking instead that He was the gardner?”
I guess I’d always dismissed this passage as Mary being too distraught with grief to think straight, or maybe Jesus had been disfigured beyond recognition by the crucifixion.
But Rev. Bowhay shared with us that in those days it wouldn’t be unusual for a gardner and other blue collar workers like fishermen to work naked as they wouldn’t want to spoil their clothes with their heavy toil. Mary wouldn’t have been surprised with an encounter with a naked man; it would have been commonplace for the laborers of the day.
“What if Jesus presented himself to Mary as a naked man?” After all, the linen clothes were still laid in the tomb.
Rev. Bowhay then asked, “Who else do we see naked?”
“Adam. In the Garden of Eden.”
In Genesis 2:25, we first hear, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” But after sinning against God, it is a different story: “At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.” (Genesis 3:7)
Just as Adam brought sin into the world, Jesus brings us a new beginning. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 we read: “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.”
It is only in our shame and nakedness that we understand sin and only then can we begin to appreciate the new life that Jesus gives us.
And what of Mary?
Mary represents Eve, the church and all of us who are seeking a new life.
All Jesus had to do was to speak her name, “Mary”, and then she recognized her Lord!
Jesus brings us this new life, when, like Mary, we seek out the new gardner to cultivate our new life.