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Three Gardens: A Lenten Devotion

Three Gardens: A Lenten Devotion

Robb Redman
Three Gardens A Lent Devotion Blog

Worship Leader founder Chuck Fromm (1950-2020) was fond of describing worship and prayer as “garden walking,” a reference to the early relationship of God and Adam and Eve. Before the fall, God enjoyed their company on walks through the garden he had created for them. Sadly, the garden of fellowship soon became a garden of a ruptured relationship. The beauty of the garden became a painful reminder of what had been lost, indeed, it was too painful to bear. So God in his severe mercy removed them from Eden and barred the way back. There would be no more walks in the woods (with apologies to John Hollander).

Walking and Praying

In the final days of Jesus, we find the incarnate Son of God walking and praying in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Having assumed our flesh at his conception and birth, Jesus now enters the depths of our estrangement from God. He walks and prays alone with doubt and fear – bearing our doubts and fears – while his disciples sleep. His prayers are passionate and pleading,

“Father, let this cup pass from me!”

But the Father – with whom Jesus had enjoyed closer fellowship than anyone since the first garden – is not walking with him this time. Thus, the passion of the Christ begins in a garden, but it is not a garden of fellowship; it is a garden of estrangement, a reminder of all that was lost in the that first garden.

From the garden, Jesus will be taken first to the Sanhedrin, then to Pilate, the Roman procurator, then on to Herod, the puppet King of Judea, and finally back to Pilate. Jesus is viciously flogged, then led away to be executed by crucifixion on a hill outside of Jerusalem known locally as Golgotha, and by the Romans as Calvary. It is an intentionally sadistic and painful affair, a reminder to the residents and Passover visitors of the brutality of Roman power. The sign on the cross reads “The King of the Jews” in three languages, as if to say, “this is what Rome thinks of your messiah pretenders.”

Jesus – already beaten within an inch of his life – lingers briefly but painfully on the cross. He dies within three hours. At the end, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46) His words are greeted with jeering and mocking, as the bystanders take in the spectacle of another Roman execution. The last thing he hears on earth are scoffers and hecklers. Heaven is silent, and defiance has the last word. Or does it?

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (Stuart Townend, 1995)

The Passion Ends in the Garden

The passion of the Christ, which began in a garden, now ends in a garden, in a garden tomb purchased by and prepared for Joseph of Arimathea. Except for John, the disciples have fled, leaving Joseph and the women with the unenviable task of preparing Jesus’ body for burial. Cold flesh is laid on cold stone. A massive stone rolled across the entrance, sealing the long-awaited Lord of life in a cave of death. It is the end. Or is it?

The Holy Lamb was stricken, abandoned and alone
He bore the world’s affliction, he bore it as his own.
For me he was forsaken, for me he died alone.
My sin forever taken, that I might be his own.

“The Holy Heart” (Anne Barbour, Marsha Skidmore, 1992)

Whatever is next will have to wait until the third day. And we’ll have to come back to this garden to find out.

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Reading on Lent

Bread and Wine Readings for Lent CS Lewis   Preparing for Easter CS Lewis

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