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THE MYSTERY OF THE GARDENS
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, February 27, 2005
"She, supposing him to be the gardener…" (John 20:15).
Mary came to that garden early in the morning. She saw Jesus and thought "him to be the gardener" (John 20:15). In a way, she was right. He is the gardener.
Fifty years ago an Oxford philosopher, Dr. Antony Flew, the world's leading atheist, gave the following parable to show that there is no evidence for the existence of God.
Once upon a time two explorers came upon a clearing in the jungle in which there were both flowers and weeds. One explorer says, "Some gardener must tend this plot." The other disagrees, insisting that there is no gardener. So they pitch their tents and set up a watch. No gardener is ever seen.
But the believer insists that there is an invisible gardener. So they set up a barbed wire fence, electrify it and patrol it with bloodhounds, reasoning that even an invisible man could be smelled though he could not be seen. But the fence is never tripped and the bloodhounds never cry out. No matter how long the explorers keep their vigil, no gardener is ever detected.
Yet the believer is unconvinced. He insists, "But there is a gardener, an invisible, intangible, elusive gardener; a gardener insensible to electric shocks, who has no scent and makes no sound, a gardener who comes secretly to look after the garden which he loves."
But the skeptic despairs, "Just how does what you call an invisible, intangible, eternally elusive gardener differ from an imaginary gardener, or even no gardener at all?" (Antony Flew, Ph.D., "Theology and Falsification," in Essays in Philosophical Theology, Macmillan, 1955, p. 96).
Dr. Flew said that there is no evidence for an invisible, intangible, elusive God. Exactly fifty years later, Dr. Flew changed his mind. A recent (December, 2004) Associated Press news story said,
Antony Flew, 81, said scientific evidence has now convinced him that a super-intelligence is the only explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature. If his newfound belief upsets people, Flew said, "that's too bad" - but he's always been determined to "follow the evidence wherever it leads."
Well, the evidence of science has led the world's leading atheist to belief in God. Flew now says that there is an invisible gardener! He would have known that long ago if he had read the Bible and believed it. God has always been here, tending His garden. Mary saw the risen Christ, and "she, supposing him to be the gardener…" Why, He is the gardener! He is the one who created the Garden. He is the one who tends it.
"All things were created by him and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Colossians 1:16-17).
Mary thought that He was an earthly gardener. She was wrong. But in a greater sense, He is truly the great "Gardener" of the universe. And I think that the garden where He appeared to her is an illustration, at least, of other gardens in the Bible. The whole mystery of sin and salvation can be understood by looking at three gardens. What happened in these three gardens shows us the meaning of Christianity - and life itself.
I. First, the Garden of Eden.
The Bible gives a simple and straightforward explanation of the creation of the first human being:
"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed" (Genesis 2:8).
"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:15-17).
The Garden of Eden was beautiful and perfect. Everything that the man needed was there for him. All he had to do was reach up and pluck fruit from the trees. God also created a wife for him named Eve. She was his companion in that paradise.
But the Devil was also there. And the Devil entered the body of a serpent, and spoke through the mouth of the serpent, and tempted Eve to eat of the one fruit that was forbidden. She listened to the Devil, and
"She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Genesis 3:6).
God made it easy for man. He created man without a sinful nature and placed him in an ideal environment. God provided for all of man's needs. God gave him strong mental and physical powers. God gave him meaningful work and a partner to help him. God had given him a clear warning against disobedience. Adam's sin was a clear rejection of faith in God, and a clear rebellion against God. Dr. Henry Thiessen said, "The first sin was…the choosing of self-interests rather than God's interests" (H. C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1971 reprint, p. 255).
The consequences of the sin of our first parents were, as Dr. Thiessen put it, "Immediate, far-reaching, and fearful" (ibid.).
They immediately lost communion with God. They now hid from God.
"Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God…" (Ephesians 4:18).
They immediately became totally depraved, "Dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5). And they immediately received the sentence of death in their bodies.
Furthermore, the consequences were far-reaching, for
"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin"
"By one man's disobedience many were made sinners"
The sin-nature of Adam was inherited by the entire human race. Every human being is born with a depraved nature, inherited from Adam.
"They are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God" (Romans 3:9-11).
The Garden of Eden was the garden where sin ruined the human race, and cut humanity off from God. But that is not the end of the story, because there was another garden.
II. Second, the Garden of Gethsemane.
The night before He was crucified Jesus celebrated the Lord Supper with His disciples, then
"He went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples"
Please turn in your Bible to Mark 14:32-35. Let us stand and read these four verses aloud.
"And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death; tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him"
You may be seated.
What happened to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane? No one answered that question better than Spurgeon, who said,
Our Lord, having eaten the passover and celebrated the supper with his disciples, went with them to the Mount of Olives, and entered into the Garden of Gethsemane. [Why did He] select that place to be the scene of his terrible agony? Why there in preference to anywhere else…? May we not conceive that as in a garden Adam's self-indulgence ruined us, so in another garden the agonies of the second Adam should restore us? Gethsemane supplies the medicine for the ills which followed upon the forbidden fruit of Eden (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Agony in Gethsemane," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint, volume XX, p. 589).
Spurgeon was not saying that Christ atoned for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. Spurgeon, above all others, could never be accused of denying or downplaying the Cross as the place of vicarious atonement. But Spurgeon is telling us that Christ took upon Himself the burden of our sin in Gethsemane. As Dr. John Gill said,
Now he is bruised, and put to grief by his father: his sorrows now begin, for they did not end here, but on the cross, or that this was but a bare beginning of his sorrows, or that these were but light in comparison of the future ones; for they were very heavy, and indeed seem to be the heaviest of all, as appears from his own account of them; his vehement cry to his father; his bloody sweat and agony… and to be very heavy; with the weight of the sins of his people, and the sense of divine wrath, with which he was so pressed and overwhelmed (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 334).
"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
The soldiers now break into the quietness of that garden. They arrest the Son of God. They drag Him away, in bloody sweat, to crucify Him. Christ took our sins from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross the next morning, where He "died for our sins according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3). As Spurgeon said, "May we not conceive that as in a garden Adam's self-indulgence ruined us, so in another garden the agonies of the second Adam should restore us?" But this too is not the end of the story, because there is a third garden.
III. Third, the Garden by Calvary.
They nailed Jesus to a cross the next morning. In the afternoon He said,
"It is finished" (John 19:30).
And He died.
"But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34).
"Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher…There laid they Jesus"
They put the body of Jesus into a tomb there in that garden, beside the place where He was crucified. They sealed the tomb and left Roman soldiers to guard it. They went home to eat dinner. He was dead now, and that was the end of it all, they thought, as the sun went down.
The next morning, Mary Magdalene came into that garden weeping. She came to the tomb. The stone had been rolled away. She turned around and saw Jesus, but she didn't know it was Him. Jesus said, "Why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?"
"She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him… Master" (John 20:15-16).
There He was! There in the third garden, He had risen from the dead!
"He is not here: for he is risen, as he said…go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead" (Matthew 28:6-7).
Thus, we see the plan of salvation, and the mystery of the ages, set before us in three gardens. The Garden of Eden became the garden of sin. The Garden of Gethsemane became the garden of redemption from sin. The Garden by Calvary became the garden of life. In the Garden of Eden man sinned and became a ruined, lost creature. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ took our sin and paid for it on the Cross. In the Garden by Calvary, Christ rose from the dead to give us everlasting life.
"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous"
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth"
And may God give you grace and faith to do exactly that! Amen.
(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 20:11-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
"Hallelujah, What a Saviour!" (by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).
THE OUTLINE OF
THE MYSTERY OF THE GARDENS
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
"She, supposing him to be the gardener…" (John 20:15).
I. The Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:8, 15-17; 3:6;
II. The Garden of Gethsemane, John 18:1; Mark 14:32-35;
III. The Garden by Calvary, John 19:30, 34, 40-42; 20:15-16;