This month’s Pastor’s Perspective is delivered by Dr. Peyton Hill, First Baptist Church, Prattville
This month Christians will remember the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Good Friday and Easter Sunday form the central event of history. Most churches will gather in some way to sing songs of the cross and the empty tomb, and pastors will seek to point their congregations to the forgiveness of sins and hope found in Jesus. But in preparation for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I want you to consider the garden.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was crucified in a garden (John 19:41). John also mentions that Jesus was buried in that same garden (John 19:42). Later, Peter and John entered that garden and found that Jesus was no longer in the tomb (John 20:6–8). Mary Magdalene was weeping in the garden when Jesus appeared to her, but she did not recognize him. In fact, Mary assumed that He was just the gardener (John 20:15). Yet it was in the garden that Jesus opened Mary’s eyes so that she could behold Him, her resurrected Messiah (John 20:16).
At first glance, the setting of the garden seems to be a detail that is unnecessary to think on too deeply. It’s hard to imagine the garden carrying much significance at all, especially considering the circumstances of the crucifixion and resurrection. Except, what if the garden is one of the major points John wants his readers to take note of from his account? Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not mention the garden as the setting of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, but John (who writes decades later) highlights the garden more than once to make sure his readers do not miss the significance of the setting. But why?
John wants to give his readers a bit of déjà vu. Have you ever had that weird sensation like you have been here before? John’s betting on it. You see, just as John begins his Gospel by taking his readers back to Genesis by writing, “In the beginning” (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1), he ends his Gospel by taking his readers back to Genesis, too.
When God created the first man and first woman, He placed them in a garden (Genesis 2:15). This garden was the setting of Adam and Eve’s unhindered fellowship with one another and their unbroken communion with God. But when the serpent entered the garden and tempted the first man and woman, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned. When God came to them in the garden, they ran and hid themselves (Genesis 3:8). But God found them, and when He did, He gave them consequences for their sin.
For Adam, the earth would now produce thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). For all of Adam’s descendants, death would now be the norm (Genesis 3:19). They would be removed from access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24). The situation was horrible, but amid the consequences God offers hope. He promised the serpent that a seed would come from a woman and that seed would reverse the curse by trampling on the snake’s head (Genesis 3:15).
Now, all these years later, John takes us back to a garden. He introduces us to the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. This Last Adam willingly walks into the garden, and He takes on the consequences of our sin. He wears the thorns as His crown (John 19:2), a sign that Jesus has come to bear the curse of sin. He goes to the garden to be hung on a Tree of Death. Jesus dies on the Death Tree so that we can have access again to the Tree of Life. He is placed in a tomb, but on the third day he rises again. The garden that had brought death now brings life. Jesus, in the garden of resurrection, demonstrates that sin and death cannot hold Him down. He alone has the power to overcome the grave.
Now, for those of us who are in Christ, the story of the garden has come full circle. In Adam, we were cursed and sentenced to death. But now, in the Last Adam, we receive grace and are granted new life. Christ has entered the garden, and He has overcome the curse for us. Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, indeed!
Peyton joined FBC Prattville in August 2019 as senior pastor. He is passionate about preaching Christ from the entire Bible and motivating believers for global missions. Peyton is married to Jordan Lee, and they have four children: Harper, Zane, Elliot and Wren. Visit www.fbcprattville.org for more information and service times.