In the beginning, God created a garden.
We call it the Garden of Eden, and interestingly enough, this era of history will end with a garden according to Revelation 22. And the prime directive that God gave man was to tend and till the garden. This makes us all gardeners. In fact, “Adam” literally means “of the ground.” Think of what you do in life as your plot of land – your garden. What are you growing? What are you producing? Is it a place where you can walk with and talk with God? The garden was a place of God’s presence, a place where man could meet with God. That’s the simplest definition of prayer. Prayer is walking in the garden with God.
The Garden was the unmediated presence of God. No priests, no rituals, no rites were required. Just man and God, God and man. But then, sin entered the picture. What God designed to be a place of flourishing and beauty became a place of desolation and isolation. Words were introduced that had never been used before: words like thorns, sweat, separation, pain, judgment, and DEATH.
God created a garden. We turned it into a grave. The garden plot became a cemetery plot. Death replaced life. Isolation replaced community. Hard toil replaced loving, sweatless labor. Long walks with God were replaced by shameful hiding from God.
But God wasn’t done yet. He knew that life is still possible even when things appear dead. A wise man who had lost literally everything – his possessions, his family, and his health, except for his hope once wrote:
There is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant. (Job 14:7-9)
God missed His daily walk with man, so He arranged other meeting places where He might meet with us. He tried all kinds of different things. He tried a flood to wipe the Earth clean and get a fresh start. He tried various covenants through Abraham, Moses, and David. But, nothing seemed to get us back to the Garden. So God goes for broke, and sends His one and only Son to the world.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus is the unmediated presence of God in the Earth. When you walk with Jesus, you walk with God. When you talk with Jesus, you talk with God. God made the first man and named him “man.” That’s what Adam means. And this time, He does it again. He creates another “man.”
1 Corinthians 15:47
The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
Jesus is the second Adam. He came, representing His father, to fix what the first Adam broke. If you want to know what God looks like, sounds like, loves like, look no further than the person of Jesus.
Jesus approached many individuals and said “Follow Me.” In other words, let’s go for a walk. The disciples walked with Jesus, which means they walked with God. There are many stories of lives changed and hope restored. Ordinary, broken people, not unlike Adam and Eve, walking in the unmediated presence of God as they traversed the dusty roads of Israel with the Messiah.
But, then, to the shock and dismay of those walking with Him, the authorities decided that Jesus posed a threat. The powers-that-be hung Him on a tree. Creation started with trees in the garden. This world, at least as we currently know it, all ends with trees in a garden city. And, there is THE tree in the middle.
On that dark, dark Friday, the Savior breathed His last on that tree. And, it appeared that the God-man experiment had failed. And where did they bury Jesus? In a garden.
One of Jesus’ disciples, Mary Magdalene, journeyed to His tomb the following Sunday morning to visit His grave. She was weeping because she would much rather be walking with Him than walking to anoint His lifeless corpse. She had quite a story. Every writer of the four gospels mentions Mary Magdalene. Mary was from Magdala – a Roman town with a bad reputation. Magdala was a town so steeped in sin and wild living that rabbis later attributed its fall to its promiscuity and immoral lifestyle. Mary fit there so well she was called Mary Magdalene. Mary had more than a checkered past. She had serious issues with troubling spirits. Jesus gave her a new spirit and a new mind.
She surely remembered that day that Jesus freed her from her spiritual oppressors. She undoubtedly remembered the day she began walking with Jesus. She remembered His laugh, His miracles, His compassion, and His ability to light up a room.
But, now, all that was gone, and she walked alone in the dark to a grave. However, she encountered something quite unexpected.
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
The tomb was empty! The only logical response is that someone must have stolen the body. After all, dead bodies don’t tend to move around.
Peter and John are confused by the news and need to check it out themselves.
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Peter and John have a foot race to see who can get there first. This detail always makes me smile. Of all the things that happened on the biggest day in history, John wants to make sure that we know that he outran Peter.
Inside the tomb, all they find are two stacks of laundry. Where Jesus’ head had been, there were grave clothes folded. Where Jesus’ feet had been, there were grave clothes tossed. Both saw the laundry, and both believed. But, just believing isn’t what matters. What you believe is what’s really important. Peter and John believed that the tomb was empty, but not that He had been resurrected.
Peter and John ran back to where they were staying. They ran there, and ran back. It makes sense though. They had a funeral to attend. Jews would sit shiva for 7 days after burial. There was a formal process of mourning and remembering their loved one. They didn’t want to be rude to the deceased, so they went back to where they were staying. They could try to find the body later.
I can’t help but notice that everyone is running! Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples. The disciples ran to and from the tomb. I can think of no imagery that better exemplifies the day we live in. Everyone is running. We are winded, overwhelmed, and desperate! The pace of life is exhausting. The pressure of leadership in an age where each day brings a new crisis causes a hurried and frantic approach to life. The seemingly omnipresent and omniscient devices in our pocket demand constant attention.
But if we don’t stop running we may miss our Garden moment.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
Peter and John ran back. Mary stood still. Peter and John saw two piles of laundry. Mary saw two angels. Where some see dirty laundry, others see angels! What do we miss because we refuse to ever stand still?
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
The angels are aware of news to which Mary isn’t privy. If she knew what the angels knew, her tears of grief would be tears of joy. And, I’m convinced that if we knew what heaven knew about our lives, our tears would be transformed too.
14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Mary is confronted with the same question, but this time by a strange man. She’s not sure who it is, but she assumes He is the gardener. Wait. The gardener? Adam, the first man created, was a gardener, entrusted with tending Eden. But, there is a Second Adam, the firstborn of all creation. To regain the Garden for His people, Jesus had to become the second Adam. That is, He had to come in our likeness, so that He could obey God perfectly and succeed where Adam failed as our representative. Paul makes this connection for us.
1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
Adam turned the garden into a grave. Jesus, the second Adam, turned the grave into a garden. Adam took fruit from a tree and brought the curse. The second Adam became fruit upon the tree and broke the curse!
The place of Mary’s greatest despair became the place of her greatest miracle. The place of death replaced by resurrection life. The grave became a garden! The seed wasn’t buried, it was planted! A couple verses later, the restoration of the garden is made even more explicit. The resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples, minus Thomas and Judas.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Just like God breathed His life into creation in the garden, Jesus breathes new life into new creation after His resurrection. Jesus wants His disciples to stop mourning the cross so they could experience the resurrection. In other words, it’s time to live again!
The last couple of years have been unprecedented. Many people have placed their lives on hold, caught up in the chaos, the panic, and the pandemonium. Life has revolved around a pandemic, posts, and politics. They see death, despair, and destruction all around us. This Easter, let’s point them to the Gardener and remind them that it’s time to live again!
Landon Galloway is the Director of Education at Destiny Ministries and oversees Destiny Leadership Institute. Landon also serves as campus pastor of Grace Church in Tomball, TX. Landon is married to Sarada and they have two daughters, Vanna and Zarra.