Here in America, certain symbols signify the approach of Easter. Marshmallow peeps and chocolate bunnies abound. Parents scour the stores for kids’ matching outfits and toys to fill Easter baskets. We dye eggs and prepare big family dinners. But this season, the symbol I’ve found myself reflecting on is gardens. Not just any gardens, but four particular gardens. From the literal beginning of time, God’s made gardens a critical part of His story – and of ours.
It was in a garden paradise called Eden where God placed Adam and Eve, formed in His image, and He called His creation “good” (Genesis 2). He gave them all they could ever ask for, including a gift called the Tree of Life. Yet they still went searching for more, and in doing so they sent all of humanity spiraling into a life of sin from which we could never break free on our own. So God made a plan that He’d one day send His own Son to sacrifice Himself for us – to pay a debt He never owed, because we owed a debt we could never pay.
Fast forward through history, to one momentous night on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It was in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed right before He was arrested, and He begged His Father to change the plan (Matthew 26). We spend so much time focusing on Jesus’ perfect life, His sinless nature, His divinity, that we dismiss His humanity. We forget that He felt all the same emotions we feel, and that up to the last moment, He didn’t want to die. He asked God if there was any other way to carry out His plan to save mankind. But in the end, He accepted that He was the Plan – and that it was the will of God for Him to lay down His life.
It’s here that I often feel the urge to rush ahead to the third garden. See, I hate dwelling on the second garden. I hate realizing that I’m the reason Jesus agonized in Gethsemane, weeping with sorrow and begging for His life. I hate knowing that it was my sin that took Him from that garden all the way to the cross. But in order to fully appreciate the resurrection, we first need to grieve the crucifixion. We’ve got to recognize the weight of what He did for us before we can celebrate the burden He’s lifted from us.
Three days later, it was in the garden tomb near Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified, that He rose in triumph over death (John 19). Jesus took our sin to the grave when He died. I can’t imagine what those three days were like for Him. But every day I reap the rewards of His victory. It’s because of His death that my sin’s been buried forever. And it’s because of His resurrection that I’ve been given eternal life.
Which brings us to the fourth garden – my favorite one of all. It’s in the very last chapter in the very last book of the Bible that we read about the same Tree of Life that was in the Garden of Eden, only now it’s in God’s paradise, not the world’s (Revelation 22). That chapter tells us that the curse of death is gone, and that we, His servants, will worship Him forever. The story’s come full circle. The conclusion’s been re-written. The Lord, in all His glory, took what was destroyed in the beginning and redeemed it in the end – the same way He’s redeemed you and me.
This Easter, I’d like to invite you to take a walk in the Four Gardens. And as you do, may you worship the Gardener who planted each one, knowing that because of Him, your story’s been re-written!
“He is not here; He is risen, just as He said.” -Matthew 28:6