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Death and Resurrection: The Story of God and Man in a Garden

After God created Man, He placed him in a garden in a placed called Eden (literally, Paradise or Delight). There God communed with Adam, promising him life for obedience and death for disobedience to his commands. After the Fall, Genesis records,

And 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 (3:8).

There is debate about whether or not the English phrase ‘cool of the day’ is a proper translation. Some scholars have argued that the phrase should actually be rendered, ‘And they heard the sound of the Lord God in the garden in the wind of the storm…’ That’s quite different from ‘in the cool of the day.’ You can read about the translation issues HERE. If the phrase, ‘in the wind of the storm’ is accurate, it only serves to emphasize the judgement that was impending for Adam and Eve.

That judgement included the several curses listed in Genesis 3, along with expulsion from the garden:

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (3:24).

From the flaming sword of Genesis 3, thousands of years, and the entire Old Testament, pass before God is seen again walking with man in the garden. That brings us to John’s Gospel and Jesus’ betrayal by Judas Iscariot:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples (John 18:1-2).

Jesus Christ, the man who is God, met with his disciples in a garden called Gethsemane; it was there that he wrestled with God over the judgment that was to be poured out upon him at the cross. It was there that he sweat, as it were, drops of blood for the sake of sinners:

For me it was in the garden he prayed, ‘Not my will but thine.’
He had no tears for his own grief, but sweat drops of blood for mine.

That wasn’t the last we would see of God in a garden. Somewhere near Golgotha he was laid to rest in a garden tomb:

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:41-42).

And because he was laid to rest in a garden, he was resurrected in a garden. In fact, the first eyewitness of the resurrection, Mary, mistook him to be a gardener:

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15).

She mistook him for the gardener of that particular place at that particular time, but we make no mistake in realizing that he is the great Gardener. His resurrection opens the doors to paradise for all those who rest and trust in him as he is offered in the gospel. G.K. Chesterton comments on this passage:

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn (The Everlasting Man, p. 214).

The resurrection begins the new creation, and each of us who trust in that resurrection are already a part of it, awaiting its ultimate consummation. John’s Revelation points to the consummation of the new creation in a city; but assuredly it will be a garden-city, for in it is Eden’s Tree of Life:

…through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

From one angle, the Bible is the story of Paradise, Paradise lost, Paradise regained, and Paradise restored. And it tells us that in order for that restoration to happen, man has to pass through the flaming sword of God’s judgment (Gen. 3:24). Beginning with Gethsemane, to the cross, Jesus did precisely that. Adam forfeited his life in the garden when he ate the forbidden fruit, Jesus gained it back for us when he took the foreboding cup of God’s wrath. Adam betrayed God in a garden, Jesus was betrayed by Judas in a garden (for the sake of the children of Adam). Then he was buried in a garden to rise in a garden that he might open the doors of paradise for all who would trust in him.

Everyone desires paradise. Eden is programmed into our system. Whether it’s a snow-capped mountain, a warm beach, a cabin on the lake, or a rock concert, we all want it, and we all know that it is lost. We may have glimpses from time to time, but we can never lay hold of it. Jesus in the garden of resurrection assures us that when the Christian thinks about paradise, it is not simply a tragedy of the past, lost and almost forgotten; rather it is our hope for the future.

Except Your Brother Be With You

An humble soul knows that since he broke with God in innocency, God will trust him no more, he will take his word no more; and therefore when he goes to God for mercy, he brings Benjamin, his Jesus, in his arms, and pleads for mercy upon the account of Jesus.

-Thomas Brooks, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ from Works vol. 3, p. 20.

  • And Judah spake unto him, saying, The man did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you (Genesis 43:3).

As the brothers of Joseph could not come before him without Benjamin, so we will not come before the Father without Jesus as our Brother.

Dead Wood

And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs (Exodus 4:17).

I have been greatly challenged and encouraged as of late by the late Francis Schaeffer’s book No Little People. The very first sermon of the book takes up the theme of Moses’ rod. How did a dead piece of wood become an agent of salvation for Israel? How did a dead piece of wood turn the Nile to blood? How did a stick part the Red Sea? How did a staff whack water out of a rock? It was just wood, dead wood.

The answer is that Moses’ rod became God’s rod. God took ownership of it, and caused his power to flow from it. From this Schaeffer argues that there are no little people, or places, or things. Anything that God takes ownership of is significant – even a dead piece of wood.

If he did such things with a dead piece of wood, what might he do with you if you yield to him? If you could be still and quiet before him like a staff, then what? Now I digress from Schaeffer.

Dead wood performs all sorts of assignments in the history of redemption. In Genesis it is covered with pitch that it might seal out the waters of God’s wrath (Gen. 6:14). In Exodus it performs signs and wonders. In Leviticus it provides for the burnt offering (cf. Lev. 1:1-17). In Deuteronomy it is the material of the ark of the covenant (Deut. 10:1) and the instrument of cursing that will begin to unfold in the conquest of the Promised Land (Deut. 21:23). In Joshua it is the death-instrument of cursed kings (Josh. 8:29). In 1 Kings it is the floor of the house of God (1Ki 6:15). In Job it holds out hope in death (Job 14:7). In Psalms it is the Shepherd’s rod (Ps. 23). In Proverbs it is fuel for the fire (Prov. 26:20-21). In Song of Solomon it carries the king of Israel (Song 3:9). In Haggai it renews the destroyed temple (Hag. 1:8).

Dead wood has no power in itself, but only when the right person wields it (Isaiah 10:15).

In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John dead wood is the agent of our Savior’s death. There, on the cross, He is our Ark in the midst of the flood, our miracle Worker, our burnt Offering, our Mercy Seat, our cursed King, our Temple, our Hope in death, our good Shepherd, our Fuel, the Lifter of our spirits – the One who makes us into the temple of the living God.

Through dead wood, wielded by Jesus Christ, God brings salvation to the world. The cross became God’s rod, and our deliverance. All this with dead wood. Can he use you? On account of dead wood, and a risen Savior, indeed he can.

You are the Man, You will be a Substitute: The Gospel in 1 Kings 20

In 1 Kings 20, Ahab, having just defeated the Syrians, makes a peace-treaty with King Ben-hadad of Syria. God didn’t like this treaty. He had devoted Ben-hadad to destruction – he was placed ‘under the ban.’ He was, in other words, sentenced to death. He was a reprobate, headed for hell, and Ahab’s armies would be God’s agent to bring him there. But Ahab had other plans.

This sets up a moment in some ways similar to David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan. This time, an unnamed prophet bruises himself and covers his face in order to appear as a soldier. He confesses that he was given the charge of guarding a prisoner of war, and that the prisoner of war has escaped. He asks Ahab what punishment he would receive:

  • 1 Kings 20:39 And as the king passed, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ And as your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”

Ahab responds in v. 40:

  • The king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.”

The prophet was only retelling the story of Ahab, who had let King Ben-hadad go, despite the fact that he was to be devoted to destruction. He is in effect saying, ‘Ahab, you are the man!’:

  • 1 Kings 20:42 And he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.'”

This is quite the compelling narrative as it is, but it actually serves to set up Ahab, in a sense, as a type of Christ. Ahab essentially is declared by God to be a substitute for the cursed Ben-hadad. Ahab’s life will be taken in the place of Ben-hadad’s. The King of Israel becomes the substitute for a cursed Gentile. He takes destruction in his place.

Ahab was a wicked king, a sinner to be sure. He deserved death in his own right. His death would in no way atone for the sins of Ben-hadad. But we have a righteous King, the King of Israel, he is without sin and willingly makes himself a substitute for cursed Gentiles.

Ben-hadad is named the ‘Son of Hadad.’ Hadad was a false god. So, in 1 Kings 20, the King of Israel is to die for the ‘son of god’ (Ben-hadad). In the gospel the King, the true Son of God, dies for those who have followed after idols.

Ahab was killed by the very Syrians for whom he was dying as a substitute:

  • 1 Kings 22:35 And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.

Yet there was no atonement for them. There is for us, because Jesus has taken the curse due to sin upon himself.

Meeting God in the Dirt: Toward a Biblical Theology of Jesus and Dirt

Genesis 32:24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.

The Hebrew word אָבָק (abaq), translated ‘wrestled,’ literally means to ‘get dusty.’ When you wrestle you roll around in the dirt. In order for the sun to rise on Jacob (Gen. 32:31) he had to have a true, heart-changing meeting with the living God. Such meetings with God only occur if God chooses to condescend to man – God must get dirty.

Man is made of dirt:

  • Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

God became a man, and therefore took on a body made of dirt:

  • John 1:14 ¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

He was born in a dirty place (caves/barns are dirty):

  • Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

He did the dirty work of a carpenter:

  • Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

As he writes the law in the human soul, he wrote in the dirt with his finger:

  • John 8:6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

He spit on the ground and made a mud pie to heal a blind man:

  • John 9:6 Having said these things, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud…

His feet needed washing:

  • John 12:3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

He washed the feet of others:

  • John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

He embraces you, as dirt, by taking your literal dirt (flesh) upon himself and by taking your spiritual dirt (sin) upon himself on the cross:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

When he rejects your dirt, he is rejecting your form of sinful humanity:

  • Luke 10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’

He gets dirty so that you, as dirt, can be clean dirt. He loves our dirt, that is our humanity, but rejects our spiritual filth that ruins our humanity.

C.S. Lewis said that Aslan was not a tame lion. We might say that Jesus is no clean God. He is clean in the sense that he is pure, and perfect, and holy to be sure. But he’s not afraid to roll around in the dirt. He touches the dirt and he sanctifies it. Rather than it polluting him, he purifies it. That’s why you’re a Christian.

The Conquestor and the Conquered King (Joshua)

Reading the first 11 chapters of Joshua with my family recently, I could not help but be struck by the idea of king, after king, after king being not only defeated, but hanged upon trees:

  • Joshua 8:29 And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.
  • Joshua 10:1 ¶ As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king
  • Joshua 10:28 ¶ As for Makkedah, Joshua captured it on that day and struck it, and its king, with the edge of the sword. He devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah just as he had done to the king of Jericho.
  • Joshua 10:29 ¶ Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30 And the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

In all, Joshua, chapters 2-12, records that thirty-one kings (cf. Josh. 12:24) were defeated by the people of Israel, many of whom were apparently hanged upon trees.

How do you explain this to children? That’s the issue I face every night as I read with my family. And biblical theology leads to an answer.

This past Sunday, we were having family catechism time, and we read the words of Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 26:

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

With this being the case, Jesus is our greater Joshua, conquering all his and our enemies. But therein lies the problem. We are, by nature, his enemies. We are those who are to be conquered (especially Gentiles like myself and my family). We are those who are to be ‘devoted to destruction,’ or placed ‘under the ban.’ If we are to be on his side, he must first subdue us to himself. He must win us. We must become his trophies of war.

But how can it be? The answer is hinted at in the text of Joshua. For Jesus is not only our greater Joshua, but he is a King who is hanged on a tree. He is not only the conqueror, he is the conquered. He himself must be placed under the ban of God’s holy wrath. He must be devoted to destruction in our behalf. The conquering King must become the conquered King. Therefore, it is not only Joshua himself who points us to our greater Joshua, but those cursed kings of Jericho and Ai. The Commander of the Lord’s army must become their representative in his death. Indeed it is fitting that the Roman soldiers mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ (Mark 15:18). They got it. Pilate got it as well:

  • John 19:19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Jesus was a casualty of war – another King hanged on a tree.

  • Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

But this King didn’t stay dead. That’s why we have life. And that’s what I must tell my family day after day.