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Christ Is the Garden

On gardens, temples, and Christ in all

In John 20, Mary Magdalene goes to Jesus’ tomb twice. The first time, she goes to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1), only to find the stone rolled back. Assuming that the enemies of Jesus had moved the body as one last insult, Mary ran to find the disciples, bringing Peter and John back with her.

Peter and John ran to the tomb, John arriving first, and there is something to this beyond St. John just wanting to point out his blazing speed. Remember the last time Peter had seen Jesus? It was after denying he even knew Jesus. Upon the third denial, Luke 22:61 says, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Perhaps those eyes slowed Peter’s feet?

The disciples both entered the tomb and found the folded grave clothes. They believed Mary’s report, but did not yet understand that Jesus had risen, so they went home. Mary, however, went back to the tomb. She “saw Jesus standing, but she did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away’” (John 20:14-15).

Mary assumed Jesus was the gardener because He had been buried in a garden. John 19:41-42 says, “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” Jesus was crucified, died, and rose again in a garden.

Jesus was also betrayed in a garden. John 18 tells us that Judas betrayed Jesus “across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden” – the Garden of Gethsemane. Later, in the same chapter, Peter denies that he had been with Jesus “in the garden” (John 18:26).

Gardens have particular significance in Scripture. Genesis 2:8 begins, “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”

Adam was given two sets of tasks. As the king over creation, Adam was to subdue and have dominion, bringing the creation into order for the glory and pleasure of God (by naming the animals, for example). As a priest, Adam was to “work” and “keep” the Garden – both words used for priestly service. It was in the Garden that Adam met with God. In other words, the Garden of Eden was a temple, a house of meeting and worship.

But, Adam failed in both his kingly and priestly duties. He failed to keep the Garden, allowing the Tempter to come in, to deceive his wife, and to take part in that deception as well. Rather than working and keeping the Garden, he submitted himself to the Garden’s one forbidden fruit. Rather than serving the God of that temple, he contented himself with the fruit (much like the Pharisees and money-changers who preferred the physical Temple in Jerusalem to Christ the Temple who dwelt among them).

Because Adam failed, he was exiled from the Garden, removed from the temple. In 3:23 – “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” Man could not enter that garden temple again. But, then Christ came. He alone could enter the garden temple, because He was the garden temple.

Adam betrayed God in the Garden, he was sentenced to death in the Garden, he was separated from God in the Garden, and then exiled from the Garden. Jesus was betrayed in a garden, killed in a garden, buried in a garden, but He rose again and left the garden – not in exile as Adam did, but in the triumph of resurrection. The first Adam lost the Garden, but the second Adam kept it and took dominion over it, a faithful King and High Priest.

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