Three gardens; three crucial events that led to the joy of Easter and the hope we have in Jesus.
Each garden represents a different situation that we can find ourselves in. Let’s take a few minutes in our preparations for Easter and find out what we can learn from them.
GARDEN OF TEMPTATION
At the start of Easter week, it might seem strange to reflect on Genesis. But that’s where the story began. It was in the Garden of Eden that sin came into the world, and when we began to need God’s redemption plan. Before Adam and Eve were tempted, they enjoyed a close relationship with God. But after they gave in to the enemy’s attempts to tempt them, that relationship with God was broken. They had to leave the Garden of Eden, and from then on, only high priests could enter into God’s presence. Sacrifices had to be offered as payment for people’s sins.
But Jesus’ death and resurrection means that all our sins have been paid for, and we can be close with God again and enter into His presence without shame. While we all face temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us of God’s promise that we won’t be tempted beyond what we can resist. And when we do make mistakes, they don’t keep us from God. We can tell Him what’s gone wrong and ask for His forgiveness. We can ‘approach God’s throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV) and have a personal relationship with Him.
GARDEN OF TEARS
Jesus’ visit to the Garden of Gethsemane was not a joyful one. He was full of sorrow because He knew what lay ahead of Him. It’s challenging to imagine the intensity of thoughts that Jesus had while He prayed in this garden. He knew that God’s plan meant He needed to die. He knew that His Father knew best. But that didn’t make it easy for Him. He even asked God if there was any other way.
We can often find ourselves asking the same thing. We know that God’s plans are better than any plans we can come up with ourselves, but sometimes there’s risk involved. We become afraid of stepping into the unknown, and reluctant to make sacrifices for God’s kingdom work. We can find ourselves crying out to God, asking for another way, asking for our burdens to be lifted. But Jesus said: ‘Yet not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39 NIV). Despite all his suffering, fear, and sorrow, He still trusted God. And He walked out of that garden determined to follow God’s plan.
It’s okay for us to enter our own garden of tears. It’s okay to cry out to God and admit there’s too much to handle by yourself. It’s okay to pour your heart out to your Father. But at some point we have to rise up and remember that God’s plans are the best ones for us. He sees the bigger picture, and will walk with us through anything we have to face.
GARDEN OF TRIUMPH
It was always part of God’s plan for Jesus to rise from the dead, but when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that it was empty, she thought that someone had moved Jesus’ body. She was devastated. The Bible tells us that ‘Mary stood outside the tomb crying’ (John 20:11 NIV). It was in this garden that Mary experienced God in a whole new way.
In the middle of her despair, she met two angels. ‘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”’ (John 20:13 NIV). Jesus was actually standing behind her, but she didn’t recognise Him. She thought He was the gardener. But when He spoke her name, she saw who it was. Her grief turned to joy and amazement. It was in this garden that Jesus’ victory over death was realised. Despite Mary’s grief, this was a garden of triumph. Jesus had risen. He was alive. And He still is today.
When we feel like we can’t see Him and that He has left us, when we feel like we’re in an impossible situation, Jesus’ resurrection in this garden can encourage us to believe for a miracle. Whatever we’re facing, He is higher. Jesus overcame death and evil. And He helps us overcome too.
Which garden are you in today? Are you facing temptation? Struggling to surrender to God’s will? Or waiting for God to break through in your life? Wherever you find yourself, let this Easter time help you remember that God has the ultimate victory.