I really have a way with plants—a knack for turning them brown. So this note isn’t full of tips about tulips, or pointers for primping your petunias. But it is about gardens.
As I spend time mulling over the biblical texts of Easter, I’m struck by the contrast between two garden trials. The first, through Adam, when mankind was tested in Eden and failed—we quite literally fell for it. The second, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus was also tested in a garden. These two trials were both set in gardens, but the outcomes couldn’t have been more different.
In the first garden, “the first man Adam became a living being” (1 Corinthians 15:45). His life was breathed into him by God his creator. This is an echo from Genesis 2:7:
“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
And then came the temptation. And with the temptation came death. Abundant life was given by God, but that abundance of life was forfeited through disobedience. From that moment on, life would have its limits.
In the second garden, called Gethsemane, Christ was tested. Paul called him the last Adam in 1 Corinthians 15:45. He was like the first in his humanity, but they weren’t the same. The first Adam and the last were not identical. The first Adam was made by God. The last Adam was God on earth with the blood of humanity coursing through His veins:
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
The blood of Jesus’ cross was made with the express intention of it being spilled on our behalf. He took on humanity—born of a human woman, taking on human flesh, so that he might fully represent us in the trial that was to come. He came to earth for that moment. And it was in that second garden, on the Mount of Olives, that the ultimate test took place. He wrestled with his options. And it troubled him:
“And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.” (Mark 14:33-35)
He isn’t named, but Satan was surely there, whispering doubts as to whether it was worth it— whether we were worth it. The path of obedience would be literally dreadful. Not just dying, that wasn’t the issue. Everybody dies. No, in the garden, Jesus shuddered on what it meant to take on sin—our sin, not his. To face the judgment we deserve and he doesn’t.
Here’s a question for us all to mull over this Easter: where would we be if the last Adam had failed the garden test like the first one did?