Three Gardens: An Easter Devotion

Robb Redman

For Christians around the world, Easter represents the high water mark of corporate and personal worship. It is THE DAY when God changed everything and turned the tables by raising Jesus from the grave. We live in the light of that glorious first Easter morning in a world where death has been defeated and hope is alive because Jesus is alive.

Lent and Holy Week led us through three gardens, and now Easter leads us to three more gardens, places where God meets us.

Garden of the Empty Tomb

The first garden is the same as the last garden of Holy Week, the garden of Jesus’ tomb. But now the tomb is empty, the stone securing the entrance has been moved away, and Jesus’ body is gone. The four gospels agree that Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the empty tomb at first light on Sunday, the third day since Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew and John also report that Mary was the first to speak with the risen Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:9-10; John 20:11-18).

The resurrection of Jesus turned a garden of despair and God-forsakenness into a garden of surprise and joy. Just hours before it seemed that all hope was lost, but in a flash it has all come back.  Jesus appears, it’s not a hallucination or a dream, but a flesh and blood man. Jesus speaks, it’s not voices in their heads, but a risen savior and Lord. Jesus is visible and audible.

“In The Garden”

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on roses
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Famous “In The Garden” Recordings

bill-gaither-in-the-garden-hymn  elvis-in-the-garden  the-oak-ridge-boys-in-the-garden*

Mary’s discovery is joyous, it is life-changing and life-giving. But her discovery was never meant to be hers alone. She must go and tell the other disciples. Soon they come rushing into the garden, Peter elbows his way into the tomb to see for himself. They did not experience the garden of despair as Mary had when she buried Jesus, but it is no less the garden of resurrection for them.

The New Garden

What Mary experienced in the garden of the empty tomb was what Paul later described as “the first fruits” of the resurrection and the new creation to come. It was an in-breaking of God’s future into the human present.

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

In Revelation 21 John records his vision of the new creation, the new heavens and the new earth.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

The end of all things culminates in all things made new.

Poets and Bible scholars alike have long seen the connection between the first and last garden, creation and the new creation. In his poem Paradise Regain’d (1670), John Milton connected the first garden – Eden – with the last garden, the new creation.

I who e’re while the happy Garden sung,
By one mans disobedience lost, now sing
Recover’d Paradise to all mankind,
By one mans firm obedience fully tri’d
Through all temptation, and the Tempter foil’d
In all his wiles, defeated and repuls’t,
And Eden rais’d in the wast Wilderness.

The beautiful garden – as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day – is prepared by God and given to his children as their eternal home. Creation is not just restored; it is made new. A new creation for the fulfillment of his promise,

“he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”(Revelation 21:3)

In this new garden, God dwells in the midst of his children, walking and talking together in fellowship. And yet in this garden God redeems what took place in the gardens that came before: the rebellion (Eden), the betrayal (Gethsemane) and abandonment (the garden tomb), and disbelief (our souls).

And every prayer we prayed in desperation
The songs of faith we sang through doubt and fear
In the end, we’ll see that it was worth it
When He returns to wipe away our tears

Oh, there will be a day when all will bow before Him
There will be a day when death will be no more
Standing face to face with He who died and rose again
Holy, holy is the Lord.

– – – Hymn of Heaven Song Story with Brian Johnson

The Garden of the Soul

We too can discover what Mary discovered on that first Easter morning, namely, the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive! The reality of his resurrection turns our mourning into dancing and turns the barren gardens of our souls into places of his presence.

The metaphor of the “garden of the soul” is a commonly used one, made popular by a robust devotional book by that title written by Richard Challoner (1691-1781), an 18th century English Catholic leader and contemporary of John Wesley.

Like the first garden, the soul’s garden is created by God as a place of meeting. We are made for fellowship with God, to walk with him in his garden. Although marred by the Fall, the garden of the soul is still the place where God looks for us. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23) God is looking for us, he hears us when we call on him. A.W. Tozer wrote,

“When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth.”

Easter proclaims a God who did not let sin, evil, and even death, come between himself and his people whom he has claimed as his own. He will be our God and we will be his people, we will know his holy love and presence, now and forever.

Happy Easter! Happy garden-walking!

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Recommended Reading

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