In the last “Follow Me” column (July-August issue) we embarked on a journey of exploring how Scripture is framed in bookend fashion by two unique but connected garden-like experiences. Both the Garden of Eden in the Genesis account and the city of God from heaven at the end of Revelation are fundamental to understanding the seamless purposes of God.
The divine declaration in Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×), was but the beginning of the creative process. The ultimate conclusion of “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 Hebrews 2:10For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
American King James Version×) is a spiritual creation that is still in the making. That is, God is simply not through! Not with humanity as a whole or you personally! There’s so much more to God’s creative intent than what is shared in the initial Genesis account.
Both garden settings have three common features—the presence of God, the presence of the tree of life, and the presence of those made in God’s image and likeness. But there are other features absent from the garden setting of Revelation 22 that were mentioned in the Garden of Eden experience. To understand this, it’s essential that on our journey we visit the second garden—one in the middle.
What occurred here is effectively the “glue,” or should I say “heart,” that unites these gardens of Scripture. It’s here that the One who interacted with Adam and Eve in the first garden, the Word who became Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-4 John 1:1-4 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
American King James Version×; John 1:14 John 1:14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
American King James Version×), directs us, “Follow Me”—welcoming us into this garden setting to experience with Him the most intimate moments of His human experience. It’s here that we linger and explore the ultimate “heart-set” of this Son of God, this Son of Man, as framed by the forever words, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
American King James Version×).
A place to clear the heart
We are invited through Scripture to enter this garden on the last night of Jesus’ human life. Our visit commences after His disciples have partaken of the symbolic bread and wine that their Rabbi has told them depicts His upcoming personal sacrifice. One of the disciples, Judas, is in the process of betraying Him. Now, the time is drawing near in which Jesus must become the sacrificial Lamb of God offered for the sins of the world (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
American King James Version×). He proceeds to a space outside the walls of Jerusalem to clear His head and, most importantly, clear His heart to remain steadfast in agreement with His Heavenly Father.
He selects the Garden of Gethsemane (Hebrew for “olive press”), a familiar gathering spot for the Master and His disciples (John 18:2 John 18:2And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus often resorted thither with his disciples.
American King James Version×), several hundred yards outside the city across the Kidron Valley at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It’s reasonable to surmise how often Jesus’ entourage enjoyed the shade of the olive trees as they would journey on this natural route from Bethany across the Mount of Olives to the temple.
It’s here with one sweeping view that Jesus could gaze up westward toward the Temple Mount, the site of so many sacrifices, and then gaze upward eastward to the Mount of Olives, from where He would shortly ascend to heaven (Acts 1:9-12 Acts 1:9-12 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven.
12 Then returned they to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey.
American King James Version×) and to where He will, as foretold, one day return to rescue humanity (Zechariah 14:3-4 Zechariah 14:3-4 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×).
It’s here between the place of sacrifice and the site of future glory that Christ comes in the cool of night to huddle with His Father. He needed precious alone time with the One with whom He had shared eternity, because before the sun would set again He would be nailed to a wooden beam and die for you and me. Indeed, the hour had come! There was one more task on earth that needed accomplishing—one more teaching that would have to be taught by personal example to those who would heed His call of “Follow Me.” Before one bears a crown, one has to bear a cross (Luke 14:27 Luke 14:27And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×).
The choice between two trees remains
What would be accomplished here stands in stark contrast to the first garden. Adam, along with his wife Eve, rejected God’s grace and commandment and were removed from Eden and the presence of God—because they gave in to their own will and desires against what God had said.
Eve was enamored with a tree that was “good for food … pleasant to the eyes, and … desirable to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6 Genesis 3:6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×). She listened to the serpent too long and stuck around until it was too late. She bit into his lies that forsaking God’s specific instructions to not partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil wouldn’t have consequences. She totally swallowed the line that “you will not surely die” but “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4-5 Genesis 3:4-5 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: 5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
American King James Version×). She became dead wrong, and her husband was one bite behind.
Thousands of years later the Spirit of God would inspire the apostle John to present a spiritual yardstick to measure the fruit of this tree. Note what John wrote in 1 John 2:15-17 1 John 2:15-17 15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever.
American King James Version×, with parallels from Genesis 3:6 Genesis 3:6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×in brackets:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [‘good for food’], the lust of the eyes [‘pleasant to the eyes’], and the pride of life [‘you will be like God’]—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
The first human couple succumbed to the lure of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than, in faith, embrace the tree of life (Genesis 2:9 Genesis 2:9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
American King James Version×). While Eden is gone, the low-lying fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil still tempts humanity—be it the Son of Man when walking on this earth or us today. Will we continue to reach for it to take a bite?
Sacrifice not an event but a way of life
Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45 1 Corinthians 15:45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
American King James Version×) made a different choice in the Garden of Gethsemane. He would not sacrifice God’s trust in Him, but sacrificed Himself without reservation. His desire to follow the Father’s will above His own was not merely an event but a way of life He had persevered in. The gateway into this garden, in terms of what it represented, was not only just now unlocked in the shade of olive trees, but had effectively been opened a few years before in the heat of the Judean desert.
It’s in that desert wilderness that the devil (the serpent) came at our Savior with the fruit of the forbidden tree (see Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
8 Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
10 Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
11 Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version×). He spoke to Jesus’ hunger from fasting, appealing to the lust of the flesh, by beguiling Him in vain to turn rocks into bread.
The devil tried to lead Jesus down the lane of the pride of life by urging Him to jump from the pinnacle of the temple to prove who He was. Satan strove to overwhelm and blur our Savior’s vision and bend Him to the lust of the eyes by offering Him a virtual tour of the kingdoms of this world and their glory.
Jesus won every time even as the devil strove to sucker punch Him with a string of “ifs” regarding His status as God’s dear Son. Sorely pressed as the Son of Man in a hostile wilderness condition but ever fortified as the Son of God, Jesus concluded the wilderness experience with a “spiritual GPS” that would ultimately direct Him, step by step, to Golgotha: “‘For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10 Matthew 4:10Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
American King James Version×).
But now this God-centered “heart-set” is transferred and fixed in time into the setting of this middle garden. It’s here that Jesus is confronted with the great decision of whether to live in the moment or consider eternity with His Father and ultimately with us. It’s here that He must, through the Holy Spirit, override the longings of His flesh to fulfill the words of Isaiah 53:5-6 Isaiah 53:5-6 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
American King James Version×: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, … and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
He fully comprehends what is to happen as He departs this spot. Early in His ministry, He had stated that He would be “lifted up,” referring to His crucifixion (John 3:14 John 3:14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
American King James Version×). And like His fellow Jews of that day, He would have seen the agony and degradation endured by those who were crucified. Is it any wonder that, as Matthew 26:37-38 Matthew 26:37-38 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then said he to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death: tarry you here, and watch with me.
American King James Version×records, He was “deeply distressed” and “exceedingly sorrowful”?
“Abba, Father”—always there, always cares
It’s here in this garden that Jesus comes to pour out His heart three different times in prayer (Matthew 26:39-44 Matthew 26:39-44 39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.
40 And he comes to the disciples, and finds them asleep, and said to Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, your will be done.
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
American King James Version×) to the only One who can provide Him strength, wisdom and encouragement to move through this final leg of earthly existence. It’s here that He communes with the only One who is alerted to His inner trauma even as His earthly companions sleep just a stone’s throw away.
It’s here that we hear Jesus agonizingly request “that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him” (Mark 14:35 Mark 14:35And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
American King James Version×). And humanly He means it!
But in the next breath, He addresses God with the Aramaic term “Abba”—Dear Father (Mark 14:36 Mark 14:36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.
American King James Version×)—speaking to God not merely as a sovereign entity, but as a Father who is near and going through the experience with Him. The intimate relational bond is deep and will hold as Jesus prays again: “… Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36 Mark 14:36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.
American King James Version×).
It’s here in this middle garden that Jesus declares that no matter what comes, He embraces the tree of life—and that His life will be given so that the forbidden tree with its curse will never take root in the future garden of God’s city in Revelation.
Within hours the second Adam will die—but not apart from God’s presence, as the first Adam died. Christ truly is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×). And He has led us to this garden spot of absolute surrender of personal agendas so often based on temporary gain versus long-term gain towards our Heavenly Father and those He brings into our lives.
Next time, we will take Jesus at His word when He said, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2 John 14:2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
American King James Version×), as He asks us to “follow Me” into the third garden—the City of God described in Revelation 22.