Gardening season came back. Growing pansies, salvia, tulips, daffodils and daisies in your garden and seeing their blossoms are delightful and joyous. The visitors to the Butchart Gardens, one of the top 10 gardens in the world, are delighted by the light green leaves of trees and dazzling white, pink and red flowers and glaring bedding plants and their scents. Among all gardens in human history the Garden of Eden, the garden of God is the most significant one in human reminiscence.
It is meaningful to meditate on the theme of garden in this Easter season because what God has done through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus is closely related to the garden story in the Scriptures. God is the first gardener in history. He planted a garden in Eden and put our first parents to live there (Gen 2.8). It was for us human beings, a happy and delightful life in the garden. The name of the garden Eden, which means delight, abundance or luxury, shows that God’s design for human life is happiness and delight.
Yet, we lost the Garden. Our first parents were deported from the Garden for their disobedience to God’s word. The land where we now live is the place with thorns and thistles (Gen 3.17-18). That is why there is constant worry and anxiety, conflict and war, injustice and poverty, sickness and illness here in this world, even though people invest their entire time pursuing happiness. The garden of happiness is not here. We are at the outside of the garden of happiness. We need go back to the garden. We need to re-enter the garden. This is the first chapter of the garden story.
Another garden story is in the Gospel according to John. A day before his crucifixion, Jesus entered into a garden with his disciples, “… there was a garden, and he and his disciples entered into it.”(Jn 18.1) Matthew and Mark called the place by the proper name Gethsemane, and Luke, the Mount of Olives. Knowing very well the names, John never called the place by either of the names. Instead, he called the place “a garden.” Not only the hill where Jesus entered before the cross, but also the place where Jesus was buried and resurrected (Jn 19:41), John calls by the same vocabulary “a garden.” It is the same Greek term used for the Garden of Eden in the Greek version of the OT (LXX).
Why does John call the place where Jesus entered with his disciples “a garden”? Why does John call the place where Jesus was buried and resurrected “a garden”? Those places are two different locations: one, at the east side of Jerusalem, the other, the west. Why by the term “a garden”? For John, Jesus’ death and resurrection is closely related to God’s purpose and design embedded in the creation of the Garden of Eden. John understood that Jesus’ death and resurrection was to restore the lost garden of God for us, to lead us human beings into the garden of God. Jesus is the restorer of the lost Garden.
From early Christians to today’s biblical scholarship, the garden story of Jesus was interpreted in relation to the Garden of Eden: “The entrance of Christ into the Garden at once reminds us of Eden (Arthur W. Pink.)” “Early Christians conceived of Gethsemane as analogous to the garden of Eden in the divine plan for human redemption (Don Thorsen.)” “That he entered into a garden. ... Christ’s sufferings began in a garden. Sin began in the Garden of Eden, there the curse was pronounced, there the Redeemer was promised; … Christ was buried also in a garden. Let us, when we walk in our gardens, take occasion from thence to mediate on Christ’s sufferings in a garden (Martin Henry.)”
Our first parents Adam and eve were banished from the garden. Now, the second Adam, Jesus, our head, our divine leader opened the path for us to enter into the new garden of God by his death and resurrection on the first Easter. We the followers of Jesus enter into the garden of abundance, into the garden of joy and into the garden of happiness in, through and together with Jesus. Remember, “Jesus entered into a garden with his disciples.” Remember, “There was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb.” In the garden, Jesus resurrected and opened the way for us to enter the garden of true happiness, delight and abundant life.
God is the living God. God is the unchanging God. The God who created the Garden of Eden for our happy life is still working to lead us into the garden of delight in His own Son, Jesus.
Gardening season came back with Easter. In this season, why don’t we pursue to enter the garden of God together with Jesus?
Rev. Sean Kim is the minister of St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church at 132 Greenway Cres. in Thompson.