By David Faust
I have a special appreciation for the early spring. Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm. I like it when the sun melts away the winter chill. It refreshes my spirit when daffodils and crocuses pop through the icy grass—harbingers of even lovelier flowers soon to bloom.
In Ohio where I live, late March is still too early for planting major crops like corn and beans, but it’s not too soon for spinach, lettuce, and radishes. Gardening got into my blood when I was a young boy. It was the rhythm of farm life—planting and harvesting, weeding and watering, eating the fruit of our labors. Now I live in the city, but the rhythm goes on as I plant onions in pots on my deck and prepare the soil for tomatoes to be planted in May.
Pleasant Gardens, Pressure Garden
Evidently the Lord likes gardens. They appear in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. At the beginning of human life, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. At the end of time, the saved will enjoy a garden graced by the tree of life and watered by a river that flows from the throne of God.
In between, Scripture mentions other gardens and fertile fields. There were the palatial gardens of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 2:4-6). There was Naboth’s vineyard, jealously desired and cruelly stolen for use as a vegetable garden by Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21:1-16). The Song of Songs used the colors and fragrances of orchards and flower gardens to illustrate the way a bride and groom celebrate their love. God promised to bless his people “like a well-watered garden” (Isaiah 58:11; Jeremiah 31:12).
There is another well-known garden in Scripture, famous not for its beauty but for its anguish, not for its flowers and waterfalls but for its tears and sweat-drops that fell like blood.
Gethsemane means “oil press.” Centuries-old olive trees still grow today in the Garden of Gethsemane, a reminder of the oil pressed from olives in the ancient world. Today we remember this garden for a different kind of pressure, for there the Son of God prepared to face the agony of the cross.
Gethsemane shows us the depth of Christ’s suffering. Physically and emotionally he was at the end of his rope, saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). Spiritually he struggled under the crushing burden of sin not his own.
Gethsemane shows the reality of Christ’s humanity. It was not a phantom spirit there in the garden, shielded from trauma. It was the incarnate Son of God, experiencing in his flesh and blood the genuine misery of “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3).
Gethsemane shows the extent of Christ’s love and devotion. For our sake, he chose to say yes to the Father’s will even when it meant crucifixion. Repeatedly he prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).
What grows in the garden? Hope. Misery led to victory. Gethsemane led to Calvary, and then to another garden where Jesus’ body lay until he came forth alive again, like a spring flower pressing through icy soil. His death and resurrection have borne fruit ever since.
1. What does Christ’s suffering mean to you?
2. What good fruit is currently growing in the garden of your life?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for March 24, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Deuteronomy 4, 5