Mary Magdalene’s Resurrection

From “A Sermon Preached Before King James I at Whitehall” (1620)

The risen Christ comes unknown, stands by Mary Magdalene, and she little thought it had been he. Not only knew him, but misknew him, took him for the gardener. Tears will dim the sight, and it was not scarce day, and she seeing one, and not knowing why anyone should be at work in the garden so early except the one that tended it, she understandably made a mistake. But it was more than that; her eyes were not only held so that she did not know him, but even more, he appeared in a form that resembled the gardener whom she took him for…

Yet Mary did not mistake in taking him for a gardener; though she might seem to err in some sense, yet in some other she was in the right. For in a sense, and a good sense, Christ may well be said to be a gardener, and indeed is one.

A gardener he is. The first, the fairest garden that ever was, paradise, he was the gardener, for it was of his planting. And ever since it is he as God makes all our gardens green, sends us yearly the spring, and all the herbs and flowers we then gather; and neither Paul with his planting, nor Apollos with his watering, could do any good without him. So he is a gardener in that sense.

But not in that alone. He it is that gardens our ‘souls’ too, and makes them, as the prophet Jeremiah saith, “like a well-watered garden;” weeds out of them whatsoever is noisome or unsavory, sows and plants them with true roots and seed of righteousness, waters them with the dew of his grace, and makes them bring forth fruits to eternal life.

Christ rising was indeed a gardener, and that a strange one, who made such an herb grow out of the ground, the like of which was never seen before, a dead body to shoot forth alive out of the grave.

But I ask, was he so this day alone? No, but this profession of his, this day begun, he will follow to the end. For it is he that by virtue of this morning’s act shall garden our bodies too, turn all our graves into garden plots; yea, shall one day turn land and sea and all into a great garden, and so husband them as they shall in due time bring forth live bodies, and even all our bodies alive again.

Mary Magdalene standing by the grave’s side, and there weeping, is brought to represent unto us the state of all mankind before this day, the day of Christ’s rising again, weeping over the dead. But Christ quickened her, and her spirits that were good as dead. You thought you should have come to Christ’s resurrection today, and so you do. But not to his alone, but even to Mary Magdalene’s resurrection, too. For in very deed a kind of resurrection was wrought in her; revived as it were, and raised from a dead and drooping, to a lively and cheerful estate. The gardener had done his part, made her green all of a sudden.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) was Bishop of Chichester and Winchester, one of the most influential scholars and church leaders of his day. He was one of the principal translators of the Authorized “King James” Version of the Bible, and a widely admired preacher. He preached the 1620 Easter Day sermon at Whitehall Palace in London before King James I. He is commemorated on September 26 on the calendar of several Anglican churches.


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