On Pit-bulls and Love

Recently, I experienced all the joy of being attacked by a pit-bull and the subsequent delight of recovering from a significant dog bite. The whole experience got me thinking about the modern idea of “love” vis-a-vis an older idea of love. Allow me to explain.

A couple of days after the event I was contacted by the area Animal Control people who informed me that the dog would not be put down. Initially, I was good with that since I know the animal in question is a pet to some young children who doubtlessly love the animal. Having been a child once (it’s true… really) and having loved my own pets when a child I know that I would not have wanted my pet put down upon an incident that my parents told me was “not typical for the dog.” (Something I was told immediately after the incident by the owners while I sat dazed on the road.)

This is the love of seen consequences. I have compassion for the children (no, I don’t have any compassion for the criminal dog) and out of that compassion, I don’t want to see their feelings hurt.

However, this could also be called hatred in terms of unseen consequences of my agreeing to a lenient approach with the animal in question. The neighborhood that I live in, and where this happened is teeming with children. My agreement for lenient treatment for this animal, while putatively loving to its owners (the seen consequence) is potentially hateful to the next child or person who is attacked and bitten by the dog. My leniency has the consequence of endangering some unseen future person who could share my fate since I was so full of compassion for the children for whom the dog was a pet. I’ve had compassion for the children at the expense of showing a lack of compassion for some future child or person. If somebody else is bitten by this creature, you can be sure I am going to be kicking myself for being so “nice.” This thought has grown exponentially in my musings when I learned the data showing that nearly two-thirds of all dog-bite fatalities come from pit-bulls and this in spite of their only comprising six percent of America’s dog population.

Now, enlarge this idea on a grander scale and see the impact of this. For years we practiced a love wherein we thought about the unseen consequences. For example, in our social order and culture, for years if a young woman was pregnant out of wedlock, she would disappear from school and perhaps be sent to some relative who lived away from the community in question. Help could still be expected but it would help via the back door and not the front door. We look back on that now and think about how unloving that action was and we do so because we have forgotten the love that was being shown to other young ladies who were not pregnant and who may be less likely to engage in the behavior that resulted in the social ostracism of one of their friends. Like my action with the pit-bull which bit me, we are “loving” according to seen consequences and not loving according to unseen consequences.

Today, we don’t do anything to communicate such an action as a taboo because to do so would not be “loving,” just as my not wanting to put the dog that bit me down was loving to one party but unloving to some potential future person.

Love is seldom a zero-sum game. When we offer some version of love to one person we see we very often deprive love to some person who is unseen and not being taken into consideration. When we offer “love” by not visiting capital crimes with capital punishment we show “love” to the criminal but we withhold our love to God and the victim’s family. When we offer “love” to the illegal alien by the spending of our non-infinite nation’s resources we are with-holding our love to the citizen. And when I show love to the children of the pit-bull, I may well be showing a lack of love to the next person who may well be mauled more than I was.


God’s Family Meal

“Meals can transcend time. Taste, and particularly smell, can evoke intense memories and take us immediately back to the last time we experienced the same flavor and aroma. Ritual meals celebrated the same way with the same food, drink, format every year can connect the decades together in ways that nothing else does — so an American family celebrating Thanksgiving in 2017 is closer, in many ways, to Thanksgiving 1917 than it is to the previous Tuesday.”

Charles Taylor 
A Secular Age 

If we are looking to see how families are connected to the generations who have gone before as we live our lives in everyday reality, we have only to look to the times shared around the dining room table during celebratory mealtimes. These kinds of meals were not merely about stuffing one’s face but they brought families together across generational lines. All of us still remember the family reunions characterized by shared meals. All of us still remember those family holiday meals we shared with our Grandparents and maybe even great-Grandparents. And now some of us are at the age they were when we remember those family meals and we are providing the echoes of the generations we remember to the generations who will someday remember us. And so the generations are connected by taste and smell.

The same is true of the Lord’s Table. Here we are connected to God’s people who have gone before by a shared meal with its tastes and smells, as well as a shared faith. As I come to the Table celebrated the same way with the same food, drink, format every time we break t bread and present the cup we can connect the decades together in ways that nothing else does. As I partake again of the table, I am not only eating for myself the bread of forgiveness and the drink of eternal life, I am mindful that I remain connected with those who have gone before. Here at the table Gary & Marge Douma, Buster McFadden, Carol Boffing, Ethel Smith, Cunningham Jones, Gert Kappinga Ralph and Jean Evans live still. We do this in remembrance of our Elder Brother, the Lord Christ, but the table — this shared meal — also reminds me … reminds us that we are not atomized individuals but we are part of a family … the family of God. In belonging to our Father who art in Heaven and as secured by our Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, we remain covenantally connected to the sainted dead and to one another. We are the family of God and as God’s family, we are covenantally connected to the generations now gone because we all, both dead and alive, remain covenantally connected to our Elder Brother who is our covenantal connection and who gives Himself in the faith-filled eating of the Bread and the drinking of the Wine at God’s mealtime gathering.

God ties us here and generationally via a shared meal that proclaims a common faith. Shared meals have always been part of the Gospel faith. On the night when God delivered His nation from Egypt, He formed the identity of his people via a ritual meal with very precise instructions about what to eat, the order of the eating and how to catechize the children in the context of the meal.

It is that Passover meal that formed the identity of God’s people that was transcended by the Lord’s Christ in the new and better covenant.  The Lord Christ takes the unleavened bread breaks and divides it among the Israel of God saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Christ redirects the meaning of the bread in the Passover which communicated God’s deliverance from Egypt of His people to Himself as the only one in whom can be found deliverance from the wrath of God.

The focus of identity in this meal is Christ and not the OT Liberation shadow which proclaimed Christ.

Then Christ takes the cup and connected the contents to His blood.

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

And with this, the Passover is completely transcended and we see why it is called “a new and better” covenant. We say the Passover covenant is transcended and not replaced because we find in the Eucharistic meal all that was promised in the Passover meal come to full bloom. The Lord’s table is thus to the Passover meal what the full bloom of the Tulip is to the bud. The bloom doesn’t replace the bud. The bloom transcends the bud. It is all that the bud was promissory of.

But note something else here… and with this, we go on a brief rabbit trail. Note that Christ has connected the meal to the Passover.  And connects both the Passover meal as through the Lord’s Table to another meal… “I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” What we see here is the necessity of reading Scripture like listening to symphonies. Scripture, like Beethoven’s fifth (insert first four notes) is a movement that continues to return to familiar themes. Like symphonies Scripture develops themes, enlarging and expanding those themes as Scripture unfolds. Like symphonies, Scripture takes a theme and by way of dissonance introduces distinct developments that are later fit into the overall theme. By the means of a meal man falls. (Beethoven sound effect). By the means of a meal God gives a clear identity to His people and inaugurates a new religious civilization (sound effect). By the means of a meal, God transcends the previous meal, anchoring His people’s faith identity in Christ and so inaugurates again a new and improved religious civilization with organic links to the previous one (sound effect).  Follow the meals as a theme. Abraham’s three visitor’s share a meal. The covenant is confirmed on Sinai via a meal. Jesus’ first miracle of Cana was in the context of feasting.  The symphony rises and falls. New nuances are developed but the theme is constantly returned to.

And now we are looking forward to that promised meal that will be the glorious consummation meal where all God’s peoples of all time and all places will sit with our Lord Christ at the head of the table passing the best of the wine around (sound effect).  And every time we sit down at this meal, we sit down with the family of God — past, present, and future.

Beethoven said the first four notes of his fifth symphony was “the sound of Fate knocking at the door.” For us, as God’s people, the Lord’s table is the sound of God’s promise to deliver us beating the door down.

Because of all this, we can see that the Lord’s table is not merely the extension of the Passover but rather better said the Passover was a proleptic adumbration which anticipated the Lord’s table. It was merely the bud of the coming bloom. I can’t help but wonder when we arrive on the other side if we will think that the Lord’s table was a proleptic adumbration to the consummation meal.

Now … what do I mean that the Passover was a proleptic adumbration to the Lord’s table?

Well, proleptic is the assumption of a future act or development as if presently existing or accomplished.

And adumbration means, to outline or to sketch.

What I’m seeking to communicate with that phrase is while the Passover is not equal to the Lord’s Table it is an outline of the Lord’s Table that has in it the assumption of the future act of the Lord’s table as presently existing. Which is a fancy way of saying that the Passover is the bud. The bud is not the bloom but it has the accomplished bloom in it.

This is why the Passover meal is NOTHING to us as Christians. Why go back to the bud when you have the bloom? This idea that the reality is present in Christ is why the writer to the Hebrews could warn his readers not to go back to the shadows…. to the proleptic adumbrations. The reality of Christ was present. No going back. No partaking in Passover meals. All that Passover Promised is present in Christ and the Lord’s Table. As we eat in faith here is our deliverance.

And so we come to the table again. Covenantally gathered with the Saints who have gone before. In coming together to the Table we are reminded that we are the spiritual family of God. We come as belonging to particular families and so we come as a family of families all spiritually bonded together in Christ so that we can refer to each other as Brothers and Sisters. We come to this table understanding how it fits in a wee bit with God’s Scripture symphony of meals and looking forward to the final climax of that meal in the day to come. But until that day, and on this day, we do this in Remembrance of Him.”


We return this morning to the issue of God’s attributes and we ask ourselves why would we take time to consider the attributes of God. Why take one Sunday a month to consider God’s character?

There are several ways we could answer that.

First, we would answer that the cure for what ails the Church in the West today is to adjust how we think about God. Shallow and unworthy thoughts regarding the character of God will result in our own shallow and unworthy character.

Many are those who have rightfully complained about the lack of character or substance of modern men of the West.

C. S. Lewis wrote,

‘We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.’

T. S. Eliot similarly could say,

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

The character of modern Western man generally speaking suffers and is in rapid decline. I submit to you this morning there is only one way that can be altered. It won’t be altered by political legislation. It won’t be altered by an educational program. It won’t be altered by some kind of revolutionary call to arms. What is wrong with the character of the modern Western man will only be cured by his returning to God and so thinking right thoughts about God once again. The cure to men without chests, and to men who are hollow is to return to God.

“It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.”

A. W. Tozer
The Knowledge of the Holy — pg. 7

So, when we speak of the Character and attributes of God we are seeking to throw a life preserver to ourselves and our generation. We are seeking to rescue the perishing and to care for the dying. We are praying that the consequence will once again be that the men of the West will see God high and lifted up and in the seeing of that they themselves having been brought low in repentance will themselves be lifted up.

What we are doing then by looking at the Character of God is not some academic exercise about God as if we were putting Him under a microscope in order to dissect him as if we were the controllers of the experiment. Indeed it is we who end up under the microscope when we begin to see the character of God.

The greatest sin that man can engage in is to think wrongly about God.  This was the complaint of God as registered in Psalm 50,

“Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself.”

Similarly, God brings a charge against His people in Isaiah for the same

(You) did not remember Me Nor give Me a thought?

As we come to this matter then of the Attributes of God we are seeking to remember God and give Him a thought.

This morning we take up the Attribute of God’s Transcendence. By doing so we are continuing to consider God’s Uncommunicable Attributes. That is, we are considering those attributes of God which God has as being and distinct and unique from us.  This stands in contrast to God’s communicable attributes which are those attributes that we might share with God.

When we consider God’s Transcendence we are considering God’s otherness.  God’s Transcendence refers God’s quality of being that supersedes any attempt on our part to define and describe. It is why God speaks of Himself in Isaiah as,

“Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity.” (57:15)

 For you, LORD, are high above all the earth: you are exalted far above all gods. (Psalm 97:9)

God sits upon the rim of the earth. Its inhabitants are but grasshoppers.

God’s otherness does not allow us to think of the grandness of God in terms of comparative statements. God’s Transcendence is not a matter of God being the being who is the highest in ascending order as if there might be some other beings who are closer to God in otherness or loftiness than other beings. We are not merely speaking of God being the being who has the most eminence and so is preeminent. We are talking about God as a being who is in the category of Transcendent. Because of God’s Transcendence, God is as Other over an Archangel as He is over a worm. The worm and the archangel have much more in common with each other, being created beings, than either of them have in common with God since God is uncreated and dwells in unapproachable light.

The hymn writes Isaac Watts tried to capture some of this when he inked,

How shall polluted mortals dare
to sing Thy glory or Thy grace?
Beneath Thy feet we lie afar,
And see but shadows of thy face

Transcendence then refers to the reality of God’s nature and power which is wholly other and so independent of the Creation He created.

It is easy to see then that when we begin to talk about God’s Transcendence we stumble into the reality of His Majesty… His splendor … His Supremacy and Sovereignty. It is what Isaiah saw in Isaiah 6 when He cried out,

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

The fact that we are no longer conversant with the idea of God’s Transcendence is proven by our casual dismissal and disregard for God’s Law which is tightly bound to His character. The fact that we are no longer conversant with the idea of God’s Transcendence is proven by our lack of awe in our worship … by our profaning and desacralizing the very life and bodies that God has given us. The fact that we are no longer conversant with the idea of God’s Transcendence is seen that we no longer walk with the fear of the Lord before our eyes. There is no sense of awe…. no sense of respect … no sense of being humbled before God.

And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
And yeah, yeah, yeah-yeah-yeah
What if God was one of us?

Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?

Just tryin’ to make his way home
Like back up to heaven all alone
Nobody callin’ on the phone
‘Cept for the Pope maybe in Rome

The irreverence of modern man is shocking. The lack of any sense of God’s Transcendence colors nearly everything the modern Chruch does.

God’s Transcendence means that we can’t guess at God. Man cannot, by his philosophical musings or his artistic intuition arrive at God. Instead this Transcendent God must make Himself known before we can have any beginning idea of who He is. God, because Transcendent is inscrutable… His ways past tracing out if we were left to ourselves to try and trace out His Transcendent ways. It is why first, Isaiah, and then Paul could write,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” for “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9). 

 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who
has known the mind of the Lord?” (Rom 11:33-34).

Job discovered God’s Transcendence when God interviewed Job from the whirlwind.

J. I. Packer speaking of God’s Transcendence could write,

God is not the sort of person that we are; his wisdom, his aims, his scale of values, his mode of procedure differ so vastly from our own that we cannot possibly guess our way to them by intuition or infer them by analogy from our notion of ideal manhood. We cannot know him unless he speaks and tells us about himself.

God’s Transcendence here is the idea that God exists both above and independently from all creation.

This idea of God Transcendent weaves its way through all the Scripture from Genesis 1:1 where we find the Transcendent God creating ex-nihilo to the book of Revelation where there is no need of the sun because the presence of the Transcendent God provides light for His community. Because the Transcendence of God permeating the Scriptures the people of God were permeating with the truth of God’s transcendence. This truth gave the people of God gravitas, weightiness, character in the old sense of the word. They had walked with God and had been in the presence of His otherness, His bigness, His Majesty and the result is that it sprinkled itself upon them and they began to reflect His majesty.

How do I know that the Church has lost the Transcendence of God? How do I know that we have little understanding of God’s Holy Otherness?

We sing nursery rhymes about God or even worse we seek to place His character in anti-music and then perform it in Church. A people who understood God’s Transcendence would not do this.

We come to meet with God looking like we are going to the beach or worse like we are going to the quarry to hew rock and stone. A people who understood God’s Transcendence would not do this.

We put forward men for the ministry who have no awe of God before their eyes as seen in their casual approach in the pulpit as in seen in their glorying in their scarrified bodies. A people who understood God’s Transcendence would not do this.

We no longer instruct our children in the Catechism choosing instead to entrust them to pagans who have no fear of God before their eyes. A people who understood God’s Transcendence would not do this.

We divorce God from His work of creation talking about exploding eggs of possibility bringing all creation forth. We suggest that God’s Word might have mistakes so that we have to adjudicate whether the Word of God is taken as spoken by God or as spoken as myth or spiritual history. A people who understood God’s Transcendence would not do this.

Concretely considered here are some examples of God’s Transcendence

First, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).  Only a God who is Other than His creation … who is Transcendent over His creation could be the creator.

Secondly, we would note that God’s Transcendence is of such a nature that all of His other attributes are riven with that Transcendence. For example, God’s Holiness…

Exodus 33:20 the Lord told Moses, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” His holiness was so Transcendent that no human could withstand it.

Another example is God’s Transcendence in His Love

 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Fourth, God is transcendent in the sense that He is eternal. No other person or thing includes this property or attribute of eternality; only God. His eternal nature is higher than all others.

Fifth, God is transcendent in His power. He not only created all things, He is more powerful than any other thing. Job noted many of the ways God is more powerful than creation, asking, “But the thunder of his power who can understand?” (Job 26:14).

Sixth, the transcendence of God is closely related to his sovereignty. It means that God is above, other than, and distinct from all he has made – he transcends it all.

Paul says that there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:6). Scripture says elsewhere, “For you, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods (Psalms 97:9; cf. 108:5).

Dangers of an unbiblical Transcendence,

1.) Too much Transcendence without the corresponding truth of God’s Immanence gives us the God of Deism.

When the reality of God’s Transcendence is surrendered a created immanent replaces the creator Transcendent.

The created subjective is idolatrously objectivized so that a subjective objective is embraced as an objective objective and thus becomes God walking on the earth.

Thus demonstrating that God and Transcendence are inescapable concepts.

To much Immanence without the corresponding Transcendence of God gives us Pantheism.

2.) A wrong-headed view of God’s Transcendence has been the bane of neo-orthodox Christianity.  Their unbiblical view of transcendence, one that teaches that God is so “wholly other” and it is impossible for His creation to communicate with Him at all leaves us in the place where once again man becomes God. If God is this kind of Transcendent so that it is impossible to apprehend Him then we are left to mystical encounters and artificial Jesus-talk.

Where no transcendental meaning exists (and the only truly transcendental meaning comes from the sovereign and triune God and the fact that He is maker of heaven and earth), man’s recourse then is to create a private meaning and read it onto and into the world and events. This is simply superstition, which is an irrational feeling or belief which is projected on to reality. Superstition becomes the recourse of men who reject the ontological trinity, and the more pronounced their rejection, the more pronounced their superstition.

Systematic Theology pg. 1084


Garden & Resurrection

I.) Eden Ruined

The Scripture opens up in a Garden scene. We all know it. The garden of Eden. Man was placed here as God’s stewards to bring dominion to the garden by tending and keeping the garden. The garden was where God and man had fellowship. God would walk with man in the garden in the cool of the evening. The beauty of the garden matched the innocence of man.

Some scholars offer that Eden was a kind of base of operations from which Adam and Eve, operating as faithful to God, would push out the boundaries of the Eden garden so as to cover the whole earth. In other words, their mission was to turn the whole earth into the same garden that Eden was. Ths would be consistent with their calling to have dominion,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…”

However, as we know Adam, the Federal head of all humanity… the one who acted as the legal representative of all mankind turned from God’s face and so we learn from Genesis that Adam was tempted and in essence said, “Not thy will, but my will be done.” And with Adam’s fall, all mankind fell in and with him. In the choice to do his own will rather than God’s Adam was constituted a sinner and died spiritually and began to die physically.

In Romans 5, Scripture teaches that because of Adam’ sin we all die.

 “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—”

Adam’s sin in the Garden was imputed to us … put to our account.

“Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men,”

And so man’s fellowship, intimacy, and peace with God were fractured there in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden of Eden, our Covenantal Representative said, “not thy will, but my will be done.”

But God had determined there would be other Gardens and another Adam, the last Adam … and further redemptive drama to be played out in Garden settings.

Jesus Christ is that last Adam… the representative covenantal head of a new humanity placed in a new creation; the Kingdom of God. As the last Adam, come to save His people, a garden setting once again takes center stage in their restoration. The last Adam comes to another garden called Gethsemane, which in Hebrew means “oil press.”

In this Garden, Jesus begins the active penalty stage of undoing what Adam had done in the garden of Eden. Here Christ is pressed down and squeezed.

Ill. — Description of 1st century Olive Press

With the Garden of Gethsemane, we could easily argue that we have,

II.) Eden Revisited

Each gospel writer records the pressure in Gethsemane, and Jesus himself referred to this great trauma when he spoke of his impending death in John 12:27: “Now my heart is troubled. What shall I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”

 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 

Why was Jesus distressed?  We must understand that the death of Jesus Christ was unique. He may have been distressed at the horror of the content of the cup of God’s wrath which was extended for him or he may have begun to realize that for the first time that he would be separated from the Father.

Consider that in 2 Corinthians 5:21 St. Paul wrote, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,” and in Galatians 3:13 he wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.”

Here in this Gethsemane garden, the God-Man, the last Adam, is facing what the first Adam faced in the garden of Eden. Would he embrace the Father’s fellowship or would he turn from the Father, like Adam, and embrace His own will?  Adam in the garden disobeyed God by eating of the tree. The last Adam, now in the garden is asked to mount the tree of death to pay the penalty for Adam’s sin. Here in the Gethsemane garden, the Eden is being replayed. Would the last Adam, who was always about the Father’s will, and who claimed that He only did what the Father does, now bow to the will of the Father and so become accounted as a curse in order to be imputed with the sin, misery, and guilt of all of Adam’s sin for all of God’s people?

In John 8:29 Jesus said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” In the Garden of Gethsemane, He now must choose to be alone, desolate, forsaken, and abandoned by all. He must choose to bear God’s curse.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He knows He is to be forsaken especially of his Father, whose fellowship he cherished as the Son of God.

In the Gethsemane garden, Jesus considers the cup of God’s wrath and in His praying we see, and I say this with all the reverence I can muster … a Holy stutter.

All of this teaches the severity of what Adam did in the garden of Eden. We learn that story from the tenderest of ages and it becomes something of a familiar tale that we grow comfortable with. But the Garden of Gethsemane reminds us that the Garden of Eden was the greatest disaster in World History because Adam’s failure in the Garden of Eden required Christ’s agony … Christ’s sweating as great drops of blood… Christ’s heart being troubled, in order to reverse the curse. Because of the failure in Eden, He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

And the active penalty phase of all that began as where the initial failure began. In a garden.

But we are not yet finished with Redemptive history and Gardens for in a few short days we have,

III.) Eden Re-established

We are not finished with the Garden motif yet though.

40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

A little later we learn from John’s Gospel (Ch. 20) that Mary mistook Jesus for the Gardener. Jesus speaks to Mary

  “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Garden and Gardeners. This time in the context of the Resurrection. Man fell in the context of a Garden. Man’s temptation was re-visited in the Garden of Gethsemane, and now Eden is re-established with the resurrection of Christ happening in a Garden.

Theologians labor to demonstrate that with the Resurrection Christ brought in the new creation.  The Old Testament supports this line of thought as it anticipated that the Messiah would,

  comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody. (Is. 51:3)

The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus (Is. 35:1)

The idea here is that Christ is indeed the Gardener who brings with His resurrection the new Creation…. the garden of God. All those who are found in Christ are themselves then part of that new garden creation,

 I Cor. 5:17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!

Christ resurrects in a garden setting. He has brought in the new creation which is described as a garden in the OT and He brings that in because He is the new creation… Christ is the garden of God.  In Him, we have been translated from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of God’s dear son.

We now share in His resurrection life.  We are reconciled. We are redeemed.  We are justified. We are regenerated. We have peace with God. We are more than conquerors. We are God’s dominion men who walk in terms of God’s law-word. We work again to make everything we touch… our families, our careers, our churches, our relationships, into gardens of God in order to beautify the glory of God which can never be increased in beauty.

With the work of Christ men who trust in Christ are once again put in the garden that they were removed from in the fall and forbidden from in the shadow covenant.

The Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane had been Gardens of defeat and despair but now with the resurrection of Christ, the garden takes on a new meaning. The garden is the place of life, it is the place where there is abundance, the place where there is hope. The place that is characteristic of the new creation.

And this is emphasized with our final glimpse this morning of the Garden motif in the context of Redemptive history.

IV.) Eden Restored

Rev. 22:22 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. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.

Some of your Bibles even subhead this section as “Eden Restored.”

While the book of Revelation can speak of the new heavens and new earth as a city there is also talk in Revelation of the Garden of God. Here in Revelation 22 the description sounds very garden-like. In Rev. 2:7 it is even more explicit

Rev. 2:7 — To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’

Paradise Παράδεισος [Paradeisos] was originally a Persian word, denoting an enclosed garden, especially a royal park.

So, the new heavens and the new earth can be rightly described as a garden. And it is there that we will live the resurrection with the resurrected one. In that Garden, the nations will be healed, the curse will be obliterated, life will pulsate as the river flows, the curse we struggle with so mightly here will be gone and the presence of God will be our delight. We will still do the bidding of God. We will still be builders of Godly culture and social order, for in the aggregate that is what we were created to be. We will still keep and tend the Garden and this time without failure. Our resurrection will know no end.

And keeping garden will be our project.


Seven Observations for Maundy Thursday

1.) Christ’s “mandate” is commemorated on Maundy Thursday—“maundy” being a shortened form of mandatum (Latin), which means “command.” It was on the Thursday of Christ’s final week before being crucified and resurrected that He said these words to his disciples:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

The modern Church has fallen down here because they have cut the word “love” loose from its Biblical moorings. If God’s people are to love one another then that love must have content and the only place it can find definitional content is God’s law. The only way I can know if I am loving someone is if I act in concert with what God’s law requires of me in relation to others. Apart from that reality, we can only blaspheme Christ in our Maundy Thursday celebrations.

Even Christ’s love to us was of a nature that was defined by God’s law. God’s law required blood atonement. If Christ was to love His people as consistent with God’s law then He must offer Himself up for an atonement for their sin. Christ demonstrated His love for His people in a way that was defined by God’s law.

2.) 1When he had said this, Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered.

On Maundy Thursday Christ overcame temptation in the garden. It was in a garden where the 1st Adam succumbed to the temptation to not be submissive to the Father’s will by taking of the fruit of the forbidden tree of life. In the Gethsemane garden, the last Adam overcomes the temptation to not be submissive to the Father’s will and yields to the Father’s will to mount the tree of death to be the fruit of life to the world.

The Scripture takes us from Garden to Garden. From the Garden of the Fall to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Garden on that resurrection morning. The fate of man is ruined, restored, and resurrected in a garden.

3.) Only Dr. Luke records the sweating of Christ

“His sweat became like great drops of blood.”

Which Luke describes as agony. The Greek word for agony also is used for “fight” elsewhere. Medically this blood sweat is called “Hematidrosis” and is a rare medical condition. Those suffering from this condition find their capillary blood vessels which feed the sweat glands rupture thereby causing blood to exude from the pores. Such a condition is known to sometimes occur to those who are undergoing unusually significant psychological, emotional or physical stress.

Even here, we are reminded of Christ’s humanity. It is true that Jesus is very God of very God but Luke takes the time to remind us of his very real humanity on the cusp of the cross.

Some scholars believe that when Christ prays, “let this cup pass,” that the cup Jesus is asking to pass is a death that would come from the severe hematidrosis. Remember, Luke tells us that Jesus sweat became like great drops of blood.  Matthew mentions that Jesus was sorrowful even unto the point of death. These scholars suggest that Jesus is praying that He will not die before He goes to the cross.

The blood here is perhaps a prefiguring of the importance of the blood shed by Christ on the Cross for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. The blood in the garden. The blood from the scourging. The blood from the thorn crown pressed upon His brow. The blood from the nails in His feet and hands. The blood from the spear thrust in His side. Our Lord Christ goes from sweating blood to the oozing of blood. Our forgiveness is won from blood unto blood. Well, we can understand why Paul states that the church, (was) purchased with his own blood.

And why Peter can add that

it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.

4.)  37 When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?

In Matthew and Mark’s Gethsemane account Jesus returns three times to find His three most intimate disciples asleep. Three times Peter denies Christ. Three times Jesus tells Peter to “feed my sheep.”

Were it not for Luke’s account, where an angel is sent to strengthen Christ in His praying we would conclude that the Gospel accounts are emphasizing Jesus aloneness and abandonment. This is a truth that is certainly emphasized later in the accounts of the Cross. Here in Gethsemane, we find our Lord bloodied, stressed, and exhausted and even His little inner circle cannot support him during this time. Perhaps this reminds us that God’s grace is sufficient even in those times when except for the presence of God we really are alone.

5.) 36 he said, “Abba, Father,* all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.

Mark finds our Lord addressing the Father as “Abba,” and is used only in the Gospels in this text. Interestingly enough, the word in the Jewish tradition had never been used to address God. The word is never used in the Gospel except for this one place. At the very moment when Jesus is headed to the Cross, at the moment the tender filial trust between Father and Son is expressed. “Abba” is a word that communicates warm affection and filial devotion.

We find here the harmony of purpose among the members of the Trinity.  In the covenant of Redemption, the members of the Trinity entered into covenant from eternity past for the redemption of fallen mankind. The Father sent the Son to be a sin offering. The Son agrees to go the way of a sin offering. The prize given and won is a people of His own choosing.

6.) Betrayed by a Kiss

His betrayer had arranged a sign with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him.” 49 Immediately he went over to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and he kissed him.

In the near Eastern culture of the 1st century, a kiss was the traditional way to greet one another. That which was to be a sign of intimate friendship was the signal to betray one’s long-held “Rabbi.” It seems only appropriate that hell would betray heaven with a kiss.

7.) Whom are you looking for?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. 6 When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground.7So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.

John’s Gospel contains the great seven “I am” sayings of Jesus. It is a theme that John plays on. In chapter 8 of John Jesus says of himself, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Naturally enough, this claim of “I am” that runs through John in connection with Jesus is a claim of divinity since in the Old Testament God defines Himself as “I am that I am.”

Here the claim of “I am,” is a claim of dread and fear. They who have come to arrest God fall before His feet at the sound of His name. It is as if before the drama can be played out all the players have to realize their place.  The idea that man will arrest and arraign God is surreal to consider and yet in Jesus self-identifying as “I Am” that is exactly what we have.