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TWO GARDENS; TWO TREES.

GOOD FRIDAY 7PM 2003

John 19:38-42
18th April 2003 - 7pm Service

I was in plant nursery when a saw a terracotta plaque that could be placed in the garden, which said:

"The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the bird for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden,
Than anywhere else on the earth."

It made me think of the significance of gardens in the Bible. Especially two gardens.

1. TWO GARDENS.

The first garden is found in the first chapters of the Bible. Genesis 1-3 tells of the new creation with the paradise garden at its centre. "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:15-17

The second garden was where the body of Jesus was laid in a tomb on that first Good Friday. John 19:41 "In the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid." This is a deeply significant stroke in John's painting of the garden of Golgotha.

The garden at Golgotha contained both the cross and tomb. Most Christians know that the New Testament repeatedly calls Christ's cross a tree. But few have observed that John is particular to say that in the very place where that tree was planted there was a garden.

Just as sin began with a garden, it's reign ends in a garden. In a replay of earth's beginning, the cross becomes God's testing: the Cross of Golgotha becomes the "tree of knowledge" as well as the "tree of life." In the first garden of Eden is shown a man in the image of God, a son of God, the firstborn of the human race, a naked Adam, who on the afternoon of the sixth day had his side opened while he slept, in order to have a bride. John is alluding to all this as he presents Jesus as the second Adam, the son of God, the head of a new race who atones for Adam's garden sin, and who, like the Adam of Eden, falls into the sleep of death in Golgotha that He too might have a bride - the church. Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7-9; John 19:23-27, 34, 41

The Cross of Golgotha was erected on the sixth day and it is late in the day when Christ sleeps in death and his side is opened by the thrust of a spear. His body was prepared and laid to rest in a tomb, and the time was the beginning of the Sabbath. He rested on the first Sabbath of the new age. That whole day Christ spent in the tomb was the Sabbath of rest. He had cried at the end of His time on the Cross, "It is finished" John 19:30 and then rested in death. In the Garden in Eden, the key word "finished," is also used, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." Genesis 2:2 In the beginning, Christ, through whom all things were created Colossians 1:16 worked six days then rested on the seventh. In Passion Week He does the same. On the Cross itself He suffers for six hours and enters into rest on the seventh. The garden of Golgotha saw Christ's blood flow as "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The two gardens of Eden and Golgotha make an interesting contrast.

In the early days on the 20th Century, the Rev Arthur W Pink preached in the Ashfield Baptist Tabernacle (Sydney). He was little honoured in this country, but his writings had a remarkable international ministry. He also ministered in USA and Scotland to small crowds. He was known for his intellectual grasp and logical thought. Yet at his death in 1952, he was still little honoured. Yet he had published over 52 books mainly on Christian doctrinal expositions designed to help the ordinary believer. There have been a dozen books published of his writings and sermons since his death. His influence in some American seminaries has been profound.

Arthur Pink summarized the relationships between the garden of Gethsemane and the garden of Eden: "The contrasts between them are indeed most striking. In Eden, all was delightful; in Gethsemane, all was terrible. In Eden, Adam parleyed with Satan; in Gethsemane, the last Adam sought the face of His Father. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, the Saviour suffered. In Eden, Adam fell; in Gethsemane, the Redeemer conquered. The conflict in Eden took place by day; the conflict in Gethsemane was waged at night. In the one, Adam fell before Satan; in the other, the soldiers fell before Christ. In Eden, the race was lost; in Gethsemane, Christ announced, "Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none" (John 18:9). In Gethsemane, Christ received the cup from his Father's hand. In Eden, Adam hid himself; in Gethsemane, Christ boldly showed himself. In Eden, God sought Adam; in Gethsemane, the last Adam sought God. From Eden Adam was "driven"; from Gethsemane Christ was "led." In Eden the "sword" was drawn (Genesis 3:24); in Gethsemane, the "sword" was sheathed (John 18:11)."

2. TWO TREES.

Having compared the gardens, it is natural to compare the tree in the first garden, which was the instrument of the curse, and the tree of the Cross where Christ was made a curse for us. In Genesis we read, "And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." 2:9 When the early Christian preachers spoke of the Cross, Peter declared, "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree." Acts 5:30 Peter also wrote, "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24 We should contrast and compare the trees of Eden and Golgotha.

Both trees are the trees of the knowledge of good and evil. At the Cross we have a revelation of the goodness of God and the evil of man transcending all other disclosures. At the Cross the believer finds a view pleasant to the eye of faith, and good for spiritual food, just as the tree in Eden was said to be pleasant to the sight and good for food. When the woman found the tree one "to be desired to make one wise" she ate fruit. When we study the Cross it is desirable we partake of the wisdom of God. Both trees were located "in the midst." Genesis 2:9; John 19:18; cf. Revelation 1:13; 5:6; 22:2 By this repeated phrase in connection with the trees of life and knowledge in the Garden of Eden and with the Cross of Jesus in the Garden of Golgotha, we are reminded of the centrality of Christ and His sacrifice.

The Saviour of Golgotha stands between God and mankind, between the Father and the Spirit, between life and death, between time and eternity, law and grace, judgment and mercy. The tree of life in the midst of Paradise also symbolized His Cross, since to find Christ, as one's sacrifice is to find paradise. Only if we keep Him in the centre of all beliefs and practices can all be well.

By way of contrast, we observe that God planted the first tree in Eden and man planted the second tree at Golgotha. Humans were forbidden to partake of the Eden tree but are invited to eat of the second. In one case we have Satan saying in effect, "Take and eat and you will be blessed." At the communion service, which prefigured His death, Jesus bade His disciples, "Take, eat" that they might be blessed. While Adam was a thief stealing from the first tree and as a consequence was expelled from Paradise, another thief on the cross beside Jesus, millenniums later, was promised entrance into Paradise because he partook of the second tree. On numerous occasions, Scripture refers to the cross as a tree. This is most appropriate since trees provide food and shelter; they are places of rest and beauty, and have, in themselves, the seed of continued life. In all these ways, every good tree points to the Cross of Christ. For at the Cross, the believer finds rest, transformation, resurrection and eternal life. Ephesians 2:1-10 Golgotha has transformed the tree of knowledge of good and evil into a tree of life for all who believe.

From the Cross we are judged and condemned by the One who "hung and suffered there." "In my place condemned He stood. Sealed my pardon with His blood." But it was from the Cross Jesus pleaded for us as our advocate.

This week one of my staff reminded me of how Jesus comes to our aid as our advocate, how He "the second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came." I received a letter from Janelle Ford of our Wesley Legal Service. She was representing one of our clients in the District Court this week. She writes: "Last Thursday while awaiting at Court for our case a young man in his early twenties was brought up from the dinghy cells at the old Darlinghurst Court and was unrepresented. He had been charged with 6 offences one of which was serious. He was desperate and needed money for his heroin and gambling addictions. A magistrate sentenced him to 9 months in prison. He appealed the sentence to the District Court which was to be heard that day. He tried to get legal aid but nobody had responded as the Commission is over worked and bursting at the seams due to the Law and order frenzy which has resulted in more people like Stephen being put in prison.

He wanted the matter to be over and done with so that he did not have to go back to prison where he had been violently raped and bashed. As he told his story eloquently his voice broke. He remembered being placed in an orphanage when he was 9 because his parents separated and remarried and neither wanted him. He lived on the streets at 14 and was a male prostitute. I had a lump in my throat and transposed the face of my little son James onto the teary sobbing face of this young man.

The Judge was of the view that he could not assist the young man without him obtaining legal advice. The prisoner commenced to sob uncontrollably and begged for mercy and help. Enough was enough. We had to step in. We leapt into action.

I told the Judge that this is the type of case that the Wesley Mission can help. We assured him that we would help Stephen. The matter was adjourned to yesterday 9th April. We had a hearing at Liverpool. The appeal was ably argued by Chris before Judge Blanch who wanted the matter finalised. Stephen walked a free man to try and get on with his life. A turnaround? You bet. He told us that were like guardian angles, appearing at the right place and the right time. A week ago this young man was full of despair, anger bitterness and fear. This morning I believe he lives, free and full of hope." Janelle concludes her letter, "At this time of Easter, to give kindness and hope to our fellow human beings is Jesus' mission and message. The team should feel proud. We made a difference. Janelle."

REFERENCES.

  • The Expositor's Bible Commentary. F E Gaebelein Ed 1981.
  • THE LIFE OF A W PINK, Iain H Murray Banner of Truth 1981
  • A KALEIDOSCOPE OF DIAMONDS Dr Desmond Ford Vol 2 D Ford Pubns. 1986
    (Thanks to Dr Des Ford who gave me the original concept for this sermon.)
  • JOHN A.W.Pink, Erdermans 1974 p157-158
Wesley Mission, Sydney.