Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ in the garden in which he was entombed, described in John 20:14-15, is one of the most poignant in the entire Bible. If we are to accept the interpretation of some commentaries, Mary, when she finds the tomb empty, in her grief induced confusion[1] fails to recognise Jesus when he appears to her, supposing him to be the gardener. Her fear is that the same people who have killed him have removed his body. It is only when Jesus calls to her by name that there ensues what has been described as “the greatest recognition scene in all literature”[2], one expressed in only two words: “Mary!”, “Rabboni!” It is implicit in Jesus’ response to her, i.e. “Do not hold onto me”, that she has moved to embrace him. The emotion is palpable.

[1] See, for example, Judith Schubert, The Gospel of John – Question by Question (Mahwah NJ: Paulist Press, 2008), 236e.

[2] Nicolas Wyatt, citing MacGregor, in “’Supposing Him to Be the Gardener’ (John 20, 15. A Study of the Paradise Motif in John” in Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentlice Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Älteren Kirche, Vol 81, Issue 1-2(1990), 38.


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