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Monday, March 25, 2019

Two Gardens. Two Trees. (part one)

This is part one of the message I preached at a 55+ community on the third Sunday of Lent. I have edited/shortened it for the ease of reading.
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The title of my message today is, ‘Two Gardens.’ The first refers to the Garden of Eden,  the second to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here is a portion from Genesis two beginning with verse eight: 

“The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing 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. . . . Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” 

The text then describes how God created Eve and brought her to Adam, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” 

God told our first parents they could eat the fruit of any of the trees, including the Tree of Life. The only three they were to avoid was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 

In the next chapter, Satan seduced Eve into disobeying God. He implied God wanted to keep something good from them, that God cannot be trusted to have their best interests at heart.  So, Eve ate the fruit and gave it to Adam who was with her. 

Now here is one critical point of many embedded in this historical account in Genesis: God warned them, In the day that you eat from the forbidden tree, you will surely die.” 

But Adam and Eve didn’t die on the day they ate from the tree. Or did they?  

Yes, they did. Here is Genesis 3:6-7 – “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. [Then] they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:6-8) 

God routinely met with Adam and Eve in the garden. But today was different. “Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (verse 9) 

A few verses later God exiled them from the Garden. Their unique and intimate relationship with their loving creator died the very moment they ate the fruit from that forbidden tree. 

St. Paul understood spiritual death as a consequence of a broken relationship with God: “But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me . . .”  (Romans 7:8-10). 

Paul hadn't experienced physical death. But he experienced spiritual death when his sin broke his relationship with God. 

Back to the garden. God did not exile Adam and Eve as punishment. He sent them away to protect them -- and all their progeny. When our first parents disobeyed God, their sin – what theologians call ‘original sin’ – their sin produced a type of spiritual strand of DNA that has corrupted earth itself and everything and every person throughout history. 

Well, everyone except for One. More about that in part two of this message. 

Here is how Moses records what God said just before sending Adam and Eve away: “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden . . . [and] He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22ff) 

If Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Life after they fell into sin, their fallen state would have infected not only this earth, but also eternity with sorrow, loss, anguish, and ugliness. Heaven would be no different than our present earth, except heaven’s corruption would last forever. 

Before we move on to the second garden, let’s take another few moments to review other important lessons of Eden – lessons that will crop us as we look at that Second Garden. 

First, God did not send our first parents naked from the Garden. He clothed them with animal skins. To do that, God killed an animal, shedding its blood, and then used its skin to cover their shame. Here then is the first instance in all of Scripture where God used blood to cover sin. 

Further, God sent them from the Garden with a promise of a Redeemer – Someone who would fix what they broke. God said to the devil, in the hearing of the first family: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) 

The reason for this somewhat lengthy backstory is to give us a better understanding of the events of the second garden. We will look more closely at that question in part two.

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