The Garden And The Cross
Reading Time: 7 minutes
In the place where he was crucified there was a garden — John 19:41
As Christ left the disciples, bidding them pray for themselves and for Him, He selected three—Peter, James, and John—and went still farther into the seclusion of the garden. These three disciples had seen His transfiguration; they had seen the heavenly visitors, Moses and Elias, talking with Jesus, and Christ desired their presence with Him on this occasion also. Christ expressed His desire for human sympathy, and then withdrawing Himself from them about a stone’s cast, He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” The superhuman agony with which He had been wrestling had brought Him to His disciples, longing for human companionship. But He was disappointed; they did not bring to Him the help He expected from them.
Jesus experienced disappointment in others, just as we continue to do today. But from this special Garden, we can learn the blessings of going to The Father in prayer, and finding a Heavenly Friend who wants to be close to us, in our trials today.
There Was A Garden: It was an ancient custom for particular families to have burying places in their gardens. See 2 Kings 21:18, 2 Kings 21:26. (see also John 18:1).
New Sepulchre: See on Mat 27:60, Jesus was in no way to come in contact with corruption (Psalms 16:10). The sepulchre belonged to Joseph.
As in a special Garden it was said to the human race:
“In the day that thou eatest,” etc. (Gen 2:17),
so in a Garden Christ was, by His rising from the dead, to say to us today:
“In Me ye have eternal life.” (John 5:39)
The Proximity of the Cross and the Garden
To a deep-seeing heart like that of John, this proximity was more than a coincidence. John felt that there was an inward harmony between the Garden and the Cross. The cross was the crowning service of Christ’s life. It was love going to the uttermost. (Heb 7:25). It was the final and voluntary sacrifice for the salvation and service of the world. And to John it was no mere coincidence that in the place of that supreme surrender there should be the fragrance and the blossoming of flowers. One would think that we would just find a desert there. As human beings we presume to anticipate a bleak and dreary scene. What struck the seeing eye of the apostle was that everything was quite the opposite of that. Christ died. He gave Himself for mankind. He poured out His life in full surrender—and in the place where all this happened was a Garden. The Beutiful Garden of Gesthemane.
There Is Always a Garden When We Share in the Self-Surrender of Our Lord
So too, do we touch the profound truth that John, in the spirit of poetry, is hinting at. John hints that there always is a garden when we share in the self-surrender of our Lord. Let anyone deny themselves, let them willingly lay down their life for others, let them surrender what is dearest to him in the self-abandonment of love, and the strange thing is that everything grows beautiful, and the flowers begin to blossom at his feet in a way they never did before. It seems to be a hard, bleak life, the life of a continuous self-denial, with little reward. It seems to rob one of self-realization and of many a sweet thing which is the gift of God; but John saw it was entirely otherwise. Live for self, and you move into a wilderness. Sooner or later the scenery grows desolate. The music goes; the fragrance disappears; the world grows cold and meaningless and ugly. Live for others; give yourself for others; lose your life for the sake of those who need you; and in the place where you are crucified there is a Beautiful Garden.
Joy Seekers Are Always Unhappy
One might think of daily work a moment, for work, to many, is unmitigated drudgery. It is hard to be tied to counter or to desk when the voices of the bigger world are calling. To feel that one is missing things always brings an ache into the soul. And there are multitudes, chained to their day’s drudgery, to get more things, who have the restless feeling that they are yet missing “something.” What a wonderful difference it would make to them, burdened with their daily crucifixion, if they would write this text upon their hearts. We are here to follow Christ. We are not here to do just what we like. We are here to do just what we ought. When we do our bit we never miss the best. The road to The Garden always lies that way. Sometimes it seems a daily crucifixion, especially in the leafy months of summer. But sooner or later do we all discover what the eye of John was quick to note, that in the place where He was crucified there was a Garden.
Cross-Bearers Find Themselves in a Garden
As Christians, we think of cross-bearing, for cross-bearing is a universal thing “if anyone is in Christ…” (2 Cor 5;17). Every life has the shadow it must enter, and be “under;” (Psalms 91:1). Of course, it can be very hard to bear the cross. There are serious times where we are tempted to rebel. If our cross were gone, how happy we think we might we be. Life would be like sunshine, thus proving our “favour” with God. Yet who can look on life and watch its issues and follow the track of patient cross-bearing without discovering that that very track is God’s appointed road into The Garden? I knew a man who once gave his life to Jesus. And sometimes that man was tempted to grow bitter, for it meant stern self-surrender every day. And one tragic day, a few months after he had quit the drinking and the drugs, he just got enraged, and picked up the bottle once again. Tragically, he went home drunk later that day, beat his wife with a baseball bat, breaking both of her arms, and then he shot her at point blank range in the face. But some of that man’s children have grown up into Christ, I had personally studied and prayed and cried with them. They have carried their cross, and they went to their Garden. And they all are very blessed, and they enfold one another with welcoming arms and the love of Christ. I would suggest that in the place where that man’s wife was “crucified” there was/is a Garden. How else could those children feel so blessed IN CHRIST after something like that?
Self-Denial Is the Way to Joy
Let us turn our thoughts to the Christian life, to our current-day life in Christ; for THAT life; the Christian life, is never easy. I have grown to always distrust things that are too easy, especially a too easy Christianity. “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way.” (Mat 7:14, Num 22:26). If thy right hand offend thee, cut if off. They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. Is that an easy life? One might well think that such a life as that would be a desolate and dreary business, and there are many who shun it, based on such erroneous conclusions. “What? Surrender up my life with its freedoms and its sweet and secret pleasures?” “Turn my days into an arid desert where no passion-flowers can ever grow?” The Amazing Grace thing is that with the great surrender there comes gladness, and birds begin to sing sweeter, and every beautiful flower looks more beautiful. Self-surrender is the road to service. Self-denial is the way to song. To be made captive by the Lord Jesus Christ is to have the freedom of the universe. Then one goes back to this quiet word of John and begins to understand the width and the depth of it:
“in the place where He was crucified there was a Garden.”
Go to your Garden [closet] and there alone plead with God:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Be in earnest, be sincere. Fervent prayer availeth much. Jacob-like, wrestle in prayer. Agonize. Jesus in The Garden sweat great drops of blood; you must make an effort. Do not leave your closet until you feel strong in God; then watch, and just as long as you watch and pray, you will not be sleeping when Jesus does something amazing. The Grace of God can and will, appear in you. The proximity of The Garden to The Cross is striking! It is what “the verlasing gospel” of Rev 14 is all about! There IS ALWAYS a Garden when we share in the self-surrender of our Lord. THAT is “the testing truth,” and “the straight testimony!”
I sometimes feel like there is nothing holding me up but angels. It seems like my own strength ran out, a long time ago.
I have found that when there is no place left to go; when all the resources have been tapped, there is still somewhere to go, somewhere to rest, and somewhere to be finally sure about something:
The Garden Alone
(based on Luke 22:39-46)
“And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him…”
God was with Him in The Garden alone
Jesus conquered by strength divine
But the separation went deeper than bone
As the battle began; God drew the line
The Father didn’t want to remove the cup
The disciples slept from sorrows and fear
While Gabriel came to lift Jesus up
His sweat poured out as blood and tear
As crises supreme did heart and soul break
Jesus came alone to fight by petition there
The angel assured Him He made no mistake
For now He might answer the sinner’s prayer
We all have to go to The Garden alone
We have to bring all the worry and care
For when we go we glimpse the throne
Yes, in The Garden, our Lord is there
Jesus conquered by strength not His own
And we can have that encounter today
As we go by faith to our Garden alone
To walk with Him, the blood-stained way.
– copyright 2020, David T Battler, all rights reserved, worldwide
Christ conquered in divine strength, and so must every burdened soul overcome. God was with Christ in The Garden of Gesthemane; and by this experience of Christ, I can learn to trust our Heavenly Father at all times and in all places. I have a place where I can believe that He is tender and true and faithful; able to keep that which is committed to His care. In the agonizing struggle of Christ our Substitute and Surety, the Father was beside His Son; and He is beside every soul that struggles with discouragement and difficulty.