This evening I want to tell a ‘Tale of 2 Gardens’. One is found in our Old Testament and the second in the New.
The first is a mythical Garden which tells the story of how self-interest prevailed in our world. For it was a perfect Garden where a man and a woman shared life with one another and with their Creator and in which all their needs were provided for. It’s story starts like this ..
‘In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens ….. the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; dellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
This Garden was a shared space between humanity and their Creator but as we all know it became a place that represented the self-interests and self-serving of humanity. In this Garden we chose to serve our own interests rather than our Creators. Humanity fell from a state of trust to a state of shame as we took what was not ours to take and in the process broke the bond of generous and unselfish living for which we had been made.
We travel in our minds now to a very real Garden which can still be visited today .. it is the Garden of Gethsemane .. and in this garden we meet a man kneeling and weeping and praying in distress .. as we read …
Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.” While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
Here in our second Garden we see the transformation of human intention. We find as the Bible puts it a second Adam.. who rather than chose His own self-interest above His Creators chooses the will of His Father in Heaven. He prays .. though I want something other .. yet not My will but Yours be done.
A stark contrast to the first Adam who responds to the Divine Will by saying .. not Your will but mine. A complete reversal. You God have said ‘No’ but I will disobey. Whilst Jesus states You Lord have said ‘Yes’ therefore I will obey.
Two Gardens. Two confrontations. Two choices to surrender or to sabotage.
As we sit with Jesus in that Garden of Gethsemane in the coming hours of Maundy Thursday .. what will your choice be. Obedience or disobedience? Self-denial or self-fulfilment? Self-serving or serving others? Jesus calls His disciples to stay awake with Him and not to give in to the temptation of the serpents of this world who hiss at us with distractions and malice and rage. Let us instead stay prayerful with our Saviour that we might escape the falleness that can otherwise overcome us.