Just to the north of where Alean and I live is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful sites you can ever hope to visit. One hundred and six years in the making, the Butchart Gardens inspire awe from everyone who sees them. If you have not seen them, a trip to Victoria, British Columbia needs to be added to your bucket list.
There is something about a garden that inspires peace within us. The mere mention of the word seems to elicit calm and to dismiss stress from our emotional state. Frances Burnett’s 1911 novel, The Secret Garden has delighted generations of readers, and has since been adapted for stage theater, multiple movies, and multiple television mini-series.
The strong compulsion for humanity to linger in such gardens may stem from the reality that we were created to be in the garden. That is from whence we came (Genesis 2:8), and ultimately, that is where we are headed (Revelation 2:7).
Four Garden Vignettes
The garden motif is strewn throughout both the old and new testaments. It is used both literally and metaphorically to illustrate, inspire, and admonish. We will peek at four such gardens in this blog posting.
1) The Garden of Eden
And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. – Genesis 2:8, ESV
This is the first garden in all of creation, and as stunning and awe-inspiring as I find the Butchart Gardens, I have to believe that this garden, the Garden of Eden, would just knock our socks off! We are told specifically, “And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9, ESV) If the trees were pleasant to the sight, the flowers had to be nothing short of glorious. But what made this garden truly peaceful was that God was there, walking with Adam and Even in the midst of it (Genesis 3:8).
But it was not to last. When sin entered the timeline, humanity was driven out of the garden and away from the presence of God. God and sin cannot coexist. Isaiah 59:2 says that our sin has caused a separation between us and God, and it has hidden his face from us such that he does not hear. In a sense, we have left God alone in the garden.
2) The Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus entered another garden on Mount Olivet, this time with his disciples, those he loved. Jesus’ death was imminent, and he was deep in grief, enduring stress so great that his sweat became like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44) as he pleaded with God to find some other way to accomplish what must be done to rectify what happened in the first garden.
Upon entering the garden, Jesus asked the disciples to keep watch while he went a short distance beyond to pray. Twice, Jesus returned to the disciples and found them sleeping rather than keeping watch with him, or on his behalf. So, despite the fact that the disciples were there, once again, God was alone in the garden.
3) The Garden of Golgotha
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. – John 19:41, ESV
God walked alone in the first garden, searching for his own. He knelt alone in the second garden, agonizing in prayer for his own. Now he is buried alone in the third garden, having died for his own. Given the pattern, it is so fitting that Jesus would be laid to rest in a garden.
It is to this same garden that Mary Magdalene came, found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and two angels standing watch. This garden is a garden of ultimate victory. The crucified Christ has risen from the dead, never to die again.
So it shall be with us when we are laid to rest, that death will have no victory over us, because death has already been conquered through the resurrected Christ.
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? – 1 Corinthians 15:54b-55, ESV
4) The Garden of Paradise
We complete our circle, having been ejected from the first garden, having abandoned Jesus in the second garden, having been separated by death in the third garden, and now we are reunited with him forever in the fourth garden.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. – Revelation 2:7, NASB
Paradise is a term used to describe a place of blessedness, joy, and delight. The Hebrew people use the term to refer back to the original garden, the Garden of Eden. This may or may not be accurate. I really don’t know. What I do know is that Jesus is there, and for that reason alone it is where I want to be.
This is a place where God wipes away every tear, we run and do not grow weary, we walk and do not faint (Isaiah 40:31). We mount up with sings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31), and feel no pain and fear no death.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ – Revelation 21:3-5a, NASB
Here, the curse of sin is forgiven, and we walk with Christ as citizens of heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, NASB).
It will truly be a garden of delight. I’d love to see you there. If I get there before you, look for me in the northwest corner. That’s where I’ll be hanging out and chatting.