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An encounter with the ‘gardener’

An artist’s depiction of Mary’s encounter with the ‘gardener’. Artist unknown. Image reproduced courtesy of


It’s early in the morning and the heavy darkness of the night is just beginning to lift. The heavy darkness in my heart, however, still sits like a stone deep inside me and yet my eyes are dry.

I gather fragrant oils and spices and quietly leave the house. It is a long, slow walk to the place where he is buried, and my thoughts turn to those last days, so filled with trauma, and to the early days, which seem so long ago now.

Love and compassion

I remember the first time he looked at me – a look of compassion when I had been so used to people looking at me with contempt or disgust. He saw me as though he saw into the very depths of my heart – and still didn’t turn away! I couldn’t hide anything, even if I had wanted to.

He reached out and touched me, healing me from the pain and suffering within, from the feelings of failure and unworthiness. No one had ever touched me with such compassion before. No one had ever truly seen me before, seen who I was beneath all the layers and masks I had worn for so long. Life was never the same for me after that.

I was filled with joy and felt completely free for the first time ever. I wanted nothing more than to fall at his feet, the feet of Jesus, son of God. Jesus spoke words of life, truth and freedom to me, and I was so incredibly thankful. I longed to learn more from him, to learn the ways of true love and compassion, to learn forgiveness and trust, to learn how to live with kindness and hope in a world that can be cruel and chaotic.

I did learn all that and more from him. I saw him show compassion to all sorts of people, even those who were unkind to him. I saw him touch and heal those who most needed it. I saw how he spent time with people who no one else wanted anything to do with. I learned from him what forgiveness looks like and feels like – and how freeing such forgiveness is.

Jesus crucified

And I saw him stripped and whipped, beaten and tortured. For months I had walked with him and his companions on roads throughout the country as he taught and healed. I walked with him on his last walk through the streets of Jerusalem, broken and bloodied and carrying a cross. I stood there as he was nailed to that cross and hung there to die. I watched, with the other women who loved him, as his body was taken from the cross and placed in a tomb. And I watched as a massive stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb so that no one could move his body.

This bothers me now as I approach his tomb. I want to anoint his body, according to our customs, but I have no way to move the stone from the entrance of the tomb and I don’t expect there to be anyone around to help me.

Mary approaches the tomb. Image courtesy of Mary Magdalene the film.

I lift my gaze toward the tomb and my steps slow and the oils and spices fall out of my arms. The stone has been moved, and I can see right into the tomb! I can’t even imagine how that happened. I run to tell our friends that Jesus’ body has been taken away and Peter and John run back with me to see for themselves. They look inside, and all they see is empty grave clothes. There is no body.

They go back to where they are staying, but I cannot bear to leave the tomb. I have no idea where Jesus’ body is, and this grief overwhelms me. Sobbing, I look into the tomb, and it is no longer empty. Two angels, dazzling in white, are sitting where Jesus’ body had been placed. I can barely speak for grief, but I tell them that the body of Jesus has been taken and I don’t know where he is.

I hear a voice behind me, asking why I am crying. He must be the gardener and must know something, so I explain that I am looking for the body of Jesus and plead with him for help.

Jesus is alive

As I look at him, hoping he can tell me where Jesus is, he speaks my name! And I know! This is Jesus! I hadn’t recognised him at first, but when I hear him speak my name, as he has done so many times before, I know it is Jesus, alive!

I know, and I believe. All the things he had taught us, all the strange promises that didn’t make sense – it is all true. It is three days since his death, and Jesus is no longer in the tomb but alive and speaking with me! I think of his mother, his family and closest friends, and I am amazed that it is me, an ordinary woman, standing here outside the tomb, speaking with Jesus who is so clearly full of life.

Again, like that first encounter so long ago, I am filled with joy and want nothing more than to tell the whole world that I have seen the Lord! Jesus is alive!

* Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus and the first to witness his resurrection.


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