Easter Sunrise 2023 (Jn 20, 1–18; 1 Cor 15, 1–26)

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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“She assumed that He was the Gardener.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Mary Magdalene was there at His cross, at His burial, and she “came to the tomb early, while it was still dark.” She saw stone rolled away from the tomb. She saw the angels—talked with them! She also saw Jesus. Not His corpse, which is what she’s expecting. No, she sees Him, Jesus, alive!—walking, talking, alive!

It wasn’t just her. While John only tells her perspective in his Gospel, “the other Mary” (Mt 28) also saw Him. So did Salome (Mk 16) and Joanna (Lk 24) and some other women, too! (Lk 24) But there’s more! “Cephas” saw Him. (That’s Peter.) The Twelve saw Him. So did “five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom [were] still alive” in Paul’s day, “though some [had] fallen asleep,” died. Jesus “appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” “He appeared also to” Paul, the persecutor. (1 Cor 15)

At first, Mary didn’t recognize Him because none of Jesus’ followers expected Him to rise. Dead people stay dead. (We, too, often fall into that same unbelief!) In fact, before they bump into the resurrected Jesus, all that anyone believes is what Mary told them: “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve laid him.” “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

So, Mary didn’t recognize Jesus right away. She thought He was a stranger. In fact, we can hear her testimony through John, “I assumed that He was the Gardener!” She assumed Jesus was just some run-of-the-mill human gardener, but, once Jesus calls her by name, she recognizes Him and calls out, “Rabboni,” that is, “My, Teacher!” But what’s funny, or rather exciting and even surprising this easter Sunrise, is this: we can rejoice in Mary’s assumption! She wasn’t completely wrong.


(I. As the Gardener, He frequents many Gardens.)

We know JESUS REALLY IS THE GARDENER, because He hangs out in several gardens. Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested in Gethsemane. John tells us that Gethsemane was a Garden. (Jn 18) He also tell us: “Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.” (Jn 18) And so Jesus often gave His Word to His disciples in a Garden.

Today, we’ve gathered with Mary at Jesus’ Easter Garden. We can call it Jesus’ Easter Garden, because, well, that’s where His tomb was—in a garden. That’s what John tells us about Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid…they laid Jesus there.” (Jn 19) The Gardener buried in the Garden.

There’s one more Garden. The beginning of John’s Gospel gets us to it. There we’re told, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…All things were made through [the Word]…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn 1) Jesus’ is the Word-made-flesh, and His death and resurrection prove Him to be that Word, and if He’s the Word who created, then He’s “the LORD God [who] planted a garden in Eden [where] he put the man he’d formed. [There He] made every tree that [looks good] and is good for food [spring up]. The tree of life was in the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen 2)


As the Gardener, Jesus frequents many Gardens: Gethsemane, His tomb, and even Eden. Now we turn our attention to what Jesus does as the Gardener. He does what any Gardener does: He plants and harvests.

(II. As the Gardener, He plants and harvests Himself.)

Jesus does plant and harvest, and He plants and harvests Himself! That’s what’s odd about when God’s the Gardener. Jesus this says earlier in John, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.“ (John 12) He is that grain of wheat who dies for you, to save you. He is buried. But bears much fruit because, well, He’s raised!

Raised! Going out from the ground. That’s His harvest. As Paul says today, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15) He’s harvested from dead, the firstfruits of everyone who believe in Him who will also rise. Yes, He is harvested. “God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.” (Gal 1) He also harvests Himself. “I lay down my life that I may take it up again…I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (Jn 10)


Yes, JESUS REALLY IS THE GARDENER, and so He does Gardener things. He plants and harvests. He does this for Himself! When you’re the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, you can do all things, especially when it comes to saving you. (Mk 10:26–27; Lk 1:37) He is your Priest and sacrifice, your Lord and Servant; so also, Gardener and Plant. And here we get to another work Jesus does as Gardener. As the Gardener, He plants, cultivates, and harvests you!

(III. As the Gardener, He plants, cultivates, and harvests you!)

“You are God’s field.” (1 Cor 3) He plants you into Himself. He’s the Gardener; He’s also the Vine. (Jn 15) Again, when you’re the Beginning and the End, like He is, you do the Beginning and End and everything in between! Paul puts it this way: “If the root is holy, so are the branches…you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree.” (Rom 11) The Tree must be cut for grafting, and Christ was! “He was pierced for our transgressions.” (Is 53) “[A soldier] pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (Jn 19)

In Holy Baptism you were sprinkled clean with His blood, washed with pure water, being “cleansed by the washing of water with the word” (Eph 5). Thus, you were baptized into Christ. And “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” (Rom 6) And you receive these benefits by faith. (Mk 16)

You’re His pleasant planting (Is 5). “I’m the vine; you’re the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him bears much fruit.” (Jn 15) So, He nourishes you (Eph 5) with His Supper, where the bread actually is His body and the wine actually His blood, just like Jesus says, “This is.” To not discern this, not believe, means judgment, but faith means forgiveness because He also says, “For the forgiveness of sins.” He also promises:

Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will [resurrect] him up [on] the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (Jn 6)

There’s one more Garden to harvest! It’s just out there! He will harvest all of them on the Last Day. He will resurrect them. You, too! He brings you to a Garden better than Eden, into a Land better than the Promised Land—the new heavens and the new earth. The Tree of Life is there. There we’ll live forever with Him. A foretaste and promise of this Life is also here at His table. We gather around Christ “with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven”—even them! This Supper prepares you for the life that never ends.


Mary’s expectation was that Jesus was dead, and her assumption was that He was just some human gardener. But what’s fantastic is that


He frequents many gardens: Eden, Gethsemane, and was even buried and raised in one!

As Gardener He planted Himself in heart of the earth, and He also harvested Himself. Only God can do such a thing!

As Gardener, He also planted you. He planted you in Himself. He still cares for you, as any good Gardener would do. He waters you. He prunes and fertilizes you with His Word. He nourishes you with His own body and blood. The lifeblood of the Vine flows into His branches.


And He’s got one more field to go. As He harvested Himself, so He will harvest them, and you. On the Last Day, He will send out His holy angels to harvest and “gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”(Mt 24) Even this little corner of it, to gather us all into His everlasting barn. (Mt 13)

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

᛭ INI ᛭

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