Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tale of Two Gardens

Lush foliage adorned the trees in the garden. Patches of color from exotic flowering plants dotted the landscape. Ripe luscious fruit dangled low, waiting to be picked. Serenity shrouded the area with sounds of singing birds, chirping crickets, and cascading waterfalls. A gentle breeze lifted her hair as she strolled upon the thick green grass. The Utopian garden contained everything she and Adam needed. “What an exquisite place to live! Thank you, God,” Eve said. 

Day after day Adam and Eve walked in the peaceful garden, lounging under trees and gathering nourishment from the fruit of hanging limbs and vines. Everyday they enjoyed their relationship with each other and with God. His presence generated joy and peace. The entire Garden of Eden aesthetically pleased their eyes and God energized their souls. Life overflowed in abundance with peaceful perfection. “What beauty, Lord. Thank you for this tranquil existence,” they repeatedly told their Creator. 

Until one day........

When the serpent meandered into Eve’s beautiful existence, he questioned her on God’s directives about eating from the trees of the garden. He asked, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 

A bit puzzled, but intrigued, she replied, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

To which the serpent quickly responded, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Eve’s eyes gawked with delight as desire and power consumed her. She ate with instant gratification and extended her fruit-filled hand to Adam. For a split second, Adam remembered God’s compelling words to him before Eve was created. You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die. Then he immediately realized he hadn’t exactly told Eve the truth as he sunk his teeth into the fruit. The serpent hide his scowl with a hideous smirk.

Right away, staring at each other, Adam and Eve knew something was wrong and the bliss they had enjoyed earlier faded away. Into their souls rushed regret, despair, and heartache as they tried to hide from the presence of the Lord. Covering themselves, they stooped low beneath vegetation as the sound of God’s footsteps drew near. 

“He’s here,” whispered Eve.

“He’s always near, Eve,” said Adam. “Why did we think we could hide from Him?”

“Where are you, Adam?” they heard Him asking.

Adam answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

With quick justice, the Lord pronounced punishment upon the serpent as well as Adam and Eve. Paradise ended for them that day as the serpent was cursed and Adam and Eve were relegated into their human roles of life outside of the garden of Eden. But amidst the discipline, God declared His restoration aloud, saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

A return to paradise was declared right there in paradise, yet sin had already entered in and a battle ensued......for generations. Satan (that age-old serpent) repeatedly tempted God’s people throughout the ages causing them to take their eyes off of their Creator God. Patriarchs spoke for God as they continually tried to redirect God’s people into a right relationship with Him. Prophets predicted a coming Savior who would save people from the sins they repeatedly committed. Joy unspeakable and a peace exceeding all human understanding were promised to those who put their faith, hope, and trust in the Lord God Almighty.

One starry night, in the fullness of time, the promised peace and joy descended onto earth in the form of a newborn babe. His mother Mary and father Joseph named Him Jesus as told by an angel before He was conceived. God the Heavenly Father sent Jesus Christ His Son to save a lost and dying world. People from far and wide traveled to the site of this miraculous birth, believing in faith and receiving the gift of salvation, yet not everyone recognized Messiah.

Jesus the Messiah grew up and was baptized into the glory of God to fulfill His mission of restoration and redemption for all people. Following His baptism He encountered a time of testing in the wilderness where the devil (that serpent of old) entered the picture. Three times Satan tested Jesus and three times Jesus cut through his temptations with the Sword of the Spirit (the Word). The devil then left Him in that moment for a more favorable time in the future.

For three years, Jesus traveled many miles proclaiming good news to the poor, setting captives free from bondage, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and making known the Lord’s favor. Crowds of people followed Him wherever He journeyed, many of them believing in the power of His name. He actually fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah, yet not everyone recognized Jesus the Christ. 

Many people followed Jesus until one day........

When Satan entered Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ own disciples, he plotted together with Jewish officials as to how he might betray Jesus. Judas watched for the perfect opportunity, with no crowds present, to hand Him over to the proper authorities.  

Meanwhile Passover approached and Jesus and His disciples prepared to celebrate their Jewish tradition with fellowship and a meal. On the night of the festival, Jesus instituted a new covenant with His disciples while also speaking of betrayal, suffering, and denial. They didn’t understand what He was saying and were confused when Judas rushed out of the meeting place before their feast ended. 

Later that same evening when the meal was over, the remaining eleven disciples followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives. He told most of them to sit down at the foot of the mountain while He went off to pray, but He asked Peter, James, and John to walk further with Him. Together they slowly walked into a garden of olive groves. 

Knotty trunks of olive trees with white flowering limbs lined the landscape. Tiny dots of color from blooming flowers grew among the olive garden. Except for the twinkling of stars, darkness shrouded this garden called Gethsemane. Nocturnal animal sounds broke the silence. And Jesus said to His three disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Even as He was filled with affliction, He continued walking further into the Garden of Gethsemane until He fell with His face to the ground and prayed. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

The opportune time had arrived. Once again Satan entered a garden, this time through a man called Judas. Judas, the betrayer, had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” 

Satan hide his scowl with a hideous smirk. The outcome in this garden will be different. How easily it all happened and Jesus didn’t even put up a fight. Finally I’ve struck Him down. Satan had waited so long for this moment; now he only had to wait a little longer. Through the willing hands of the Jewish religious elite and the Roman officials, Jesus fate was set. Nailed to a cross, battered and bloodied, Jesus finally died and Satan reveled in the conquest. 

Until one Sabbath morning........

When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He crushed the head of the serpent of old. Jesus’ submission to the will of His Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane overcame Adam and Eve’s submission to Satan in the Garden of Eden. Conquering death, God’s only Son paved a way for all people to enter into His kingdom on earth and in heaven. Jesus the loving Savior triumphed over that selfish serpent Satan. Redemption restored paradise. Praise God for His victory in Christ Jesus!

No comments:

Post a Comment