"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'" (John 20:15-16).
It has happened now and then in history that a person spoke of God better than he knew. The unsavory Caiaphas unwittingly extolled him: "It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish" (John 11:50). The woman with the alabaster flask of costly ointment did not know she was preparing Jesus' body for burial (Matthew 26:6-12). The soldiers fashioning thorns into a crown did so mockingly (John 19:2). Abraham, unaware of describing an event far down the corridor of time, said to Isaac, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:8).
"The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed" (Genesis 2:8). But it was not God's intention to take care of His paradise directly, but indirectly, through men in His image. He gave the man, Adam, significant authority. He was to beat back the darkness and extend the boundaries of the beautiful garden to the ends of the earth. He was the gardener.
We know that there was darkness out there beyond the beautiful garden, because it soon found its way in, the interloper entering in the form of a serpent. His gripe was really with God, not man. But since it is laughable that vermin such as himself could ever touch God, he set his hatred on the image-bearer.
What is little understood in our day is that the serpent had no authority in the garden. None whatsoever. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, he could not do as he pleased. (You may remember Glenda's rebuke in Oz: "You have no power here!") Any hope of gaining authority would have to be by ruse. And so he loitered, and talked to the woman until he got her to agree with him-and that was all he needed. Because whenever we speak out words of unbelief, putting ourselves in agreement with the devil, we hand him our authority and put ourselves under his:
"Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Romans 6:16).
It is important to know that God's plan never changed-the plan that it should be a man who would rule over His garden and expand dominion to where the wild things are. But alas, Adam failed. God looked around: "And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none" (Ezekiel 22:30).
Finally, His own Son came, emptying Himself of everything-of deity's perquisites of power, position, and majesty. Being God, yet He operated strictly within human limitations, and secured our salvation as a perfect Man. The miracles? Jesus did everything He did as man in right relationship with God, as man in complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. As He Himself said, "The Son can do nothing on His own accord" (John 5:19).
This is not the last step. This Man became both the power and the model, that we might be restored to our original dominion as gardeners expanding God's garden (God's government) into the hinterlands. "But how can we do like Jesus?" we cry. "He had no sin to separate Him from the Father." Do you not know, Christian, that we also have nothing now to separate us from the Father? We are grafted into His triumph. Jesus makes the point emphatically in His very next breath to Mary: "Go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17).
Not only freed from penalty but called to garden amid thorns, we should joyfully embrace our new identity and go forth alongside the Gardener whom Mary met outside the tomb.