Epilogue: Part 1
Getting Back to the Beginning
God is a gardener. In Genesis 2:8 we are told that God planted a garden in Eden. In John 15:1 Jesus reminds us that he is the vine and his Father is the gardener. As any good gardener knows (I had to ask!) success depends on light, water and seeds to bring his empty soil to life. In Genesis 1:3 God creates light and later creates the sun, stars and moon. In Genesis 2:9 he creates trees with fruit (including the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) and in verse 10 he puts a river in Eden to water his garden.
This is how the Bible begins. The Bible ends with a vision of a new heaven and earth at which point we see a description of these same three essential keys to gardening success. In Revelation 22 these items exist in a heavenly scene as the Bible describes a crystal clear river flowing out from the throne of God. The same passage also mentions the tree of life on either side of the river producing fruit year round. And finally, the author describes the light in this new heaven and earth is not from a fire, lamp or sun but rather as a result of the glory of God himself, as an eternal light shining on all things everywhere.
In the Revelation account it is clear that Jesus is the source of the river (flowing from his throne), the giver of life (through the tree of life) and the one whose radiance provides the brilliance to the shining light of God. This should come as no surprise as Jesus told people in John 8, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ He also declares in John 7, ‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ And in John 15 Jesus explains, ‘Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’
Not only did God create water, light and trees with fruit, he is the source of life through these things. Jesus makes it possible for us to not only drink deeply from eternal springs but also become a source of these living waters for others. He has invited us to be connected to him as well as through that connection produce fruit and reproduce spiritual life in others. Not only does he shine his light on us but calls us to let our light shine so others might see God’s glory through us!
In order to demonstrate his authority to accomplish all this, Jesus died on the cross and according to John 19 was buried (planted) in a garden tomb. Jesus foreshadowed this event in John 12 when he told his followers, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ Jesus did not remain in the ground because the cold, dark earth could not contain the power of the gospel planted in that tomb. Similarly, seeds of the gospel planted in the lives of others with not remained buried forever. If they are planted, watered and given light, they will grow to produce fruit and reproduce new life themselves!
I love the subtle allusion in John 20 after Jesus had risen from the grave. Mary, grief stricken over the death of Jesus and now the apparent theft of his body, looks for someone to help her. Upon seeing Jesus and not recognizing him she presumes he is of all things, a gardener. The time between Genesis and Revelation is given to allow some gardening to take place. Perhaps we have allowed our lives to become overgrown with weeds and even the good plants have not been cared for and have grown unruly and unproductive. A simple invitation is all Jesus needs to put on his gloves and get to work. It may be a hard and even painful process in some cases but the results are always beautiful when Jesus is doing the gardening.
God also invites us to share in his gardening duties. We do this when we plant gospel seeds, sowing truth, justice, love and forgiveness. We join God’s efforts when we allow the living water he has poured into us through the Holy Spirit to spill out onto those around us and invite his perfect light to not only shine in us but also through us so others may enjoy the warmth on their faces. In 1 Corinthians 3 we are reminded of how this all works when we read, ‘[Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.’ In our churches, our lives and in the lives of others, Jesus is the source of life and growth, biologically and spiritually. So let’s not be afraid to get our hands dirty and get to work, gardening in Jesus name!