Revelation 22: 1-3
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
“There was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.”
In this age of scientific skepticism, many people like to look for all of the inconsistencies in Biblical narratives. What amazes me more than any inconsistencies is the spectacular consistency of the message of God’s saving grace expressed in great major themes that are carried across documents that span thousands of years, many different authors, and various literary forms! Adam Hamilton in 24 Hours That Changed The World: 40 Days of Reflection (Chapter 12) traces the theme of the garden, the symbol of the cradle of life created by God, from Genesis, through the gospel of John, and on through Revelation.
In the beginning, God created the garden to support life and to give humans the opportunity to express their god-likeness by giving them charge of it. When people rebelled against God, they were removed from the garden, and creation experienced disorder and decay. As Jesus knelt in the garden, wrestling with his Father’s will to save humanity by mounting the cross, his obedience reversed the effects of human rebellion, restoring order and life.
An image popped into my mind while thinking about this incredible, graceful reversal of human fate (bear with me, please, as I was a creative writing major at one time with a strange imagination!). It is the image of my son’s soccer socks; those long socks that manage to be inside out and full of dirt and grass every time he takes them off after a game. When it’s time to wash them, my wife or I must reach into the gritty sweat, reach the very bottom where the toes go, and pull them right side out again, dirt, grass and all. All of the nasty stuff falls out (we do this outside or over the trash can) or we shake it out so that those stinky things can go into the wash to become clean again. Jesus’ obedient trip to the cross, through his tomb, and out the other side through the resurrection is what pulls our lives right side out again, dumping out all of the nasty stuff that has collected as a result of our disobedience.
Jesus’ work in the garden of Gethsemane leads us to the garden in Revelation. There we see the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, where the river of life visually flows from God’s throne, where there is fruit year round, and where the leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations! Jesus’ obedience to God’s will yields abundant, tasty life! Awesome!
Where is God calling us to obedience…to life?!?