Ever since I was a little girl, my favorite part of spring has been the thrill that comes over me when I see those first little shoots of green poking up through the soil. The contrast of green above brown is just so beautiful don’t you think? All is dead and brittle except for the shapely shoots poking their way up, reaching for the sunlight, announcing that the time of dry, cold, death has passed.
I’ve always thought that flowers were so brave for doing that. We’ve been known to have snow as late as May or June here in Colorado yet the flowers still make their way out in the early spring, green stems poking out like soldiers climbing out of their foxholes, defeating winter as they take ground.
Garden’s are the battleground of the seasons, constantly under siege by the armies of frost or flowers. Every year, at this time though, flowers march out in victory. Their colors announce their triumph, their fragrance announces their presence and I bask in the defeat of winter’s death.
Gardens remind us that to everything there is a season but in the end, all will be made new again.
Maybe that’s why the story of grace started and ended in a garden.
Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. It was God’s masterpiece for them to enjoy, filled with all that the earth had to offer. They were the first to enjoy a flowers fragrance but the first to see it wilt in the shadow of their sin. There, in the garden they chose death over life, disobedience over obedience, and set into motion the grandest gesture of grace that mankind will ever know.
Their sin separated them from the perfection of God. It separated them from the garden, and mankind was sentenced to toil in pain and death. (Genesis 3:16-23).
This first garden was tainted, separated from its masters just as man was separated from God. Through the decision of sin, mankind entered a long winter of striving. For centuries, the people of God were governed by rules and regulation, sacrifice and sin and like the green grass dries out under the chill of snow, their hearts became hard and brittle.
There was another garden though, one called Gethsemane where Jesus went right before his crucifixion.
“ When He had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it…So Judas came to the garden guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the Chief Priests and Pharisees… Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander arrested Jesus.” John 18:1, 3, 12 (NIV)
And so began the work of redemption that Jesus did for us on the cross.
This second garden was left behind just like the first but with Adam and Eve’s exit came death. With Jesus, there would be life.
Isn’t it interesting how both gardens were overrun by evil? How amidst the beauty of God’s creation, the devil tried to take a foothold and spread his plan like wildfire. The first time, it seemed like he was successful, the beauty of what God had intended was dulled and faded a little bit. The second time though, he was not so lucky.
The second garden, Gethsemane, was where spring began. That’s where God began to pull back the curtain and say to his people that He had given us the grace to come back to Him. It was through Jesus that the exile from the garden that began with Adam was ended. It was through Him that we were restored and returned to our rightful place among the flowers.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on the earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 (NIV)
What Satan intended that day in the first garden was to destroy the beauty of the relationship between God and man. He ruined the garden for them and for us. But God doesn’t stand for ruins. He wouldn’t sit by and watch his children stand at the gate of the beautiful life he intended for them, locked out and stuck on the other side of grace. So He sent Jesus to undo what had been done, to make a way for us to come back to the garden of his presence and to bask in the defeat of death.
Each flower that blooms and each tree that takes leaf is a ringing declaration of what was done in the garden. Where there was death there is now life! Where we once toiled and strived we can now find rest. Grace has fallen like rain and love has shone like sunlight and the garden has been won back. For us.
There’s a third garden though that I can’t forget to tell you about and it’s more alive than any other.
“The LORD says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
my love will know no bounds,
for my anger will be gone forever.
I will be to Israel
like a refreshing dew from heaven.
Israel will blossom like the lily;
it will send roots deep into the soil
like the cedars in Lebanon.
Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,
as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.
My people will again live under my shade.
They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines.
They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.” Hosea 14:4-7 (NLT)
We are the last garden, the flowers that fight through the dry and weary land. We are the fragrance of Christ to the world, the life that proclaims his death and resurrection. Our lives, our growth, our transformation by grace is the proclamation that where we once were dead, we are alive through him. Like spring, the gospel has come and taken back the garden and we are the harbingers of that news. We get to say, “No more” to the winter of the world and thaw frozen hearts with his love.
So this Easter, as you watch the flowers poke their way out of the earth, decidedly taking back the ground, remember that because Jesus took back the garden, and we get to hold His ground. Bloom where you are planted and fill your space with the fragrance, the color, the presence of grace. It is your job, sweet flower, to blossom and spread. Do all that you can to live in the confidence that Jesus has made you new and through us, His church, the world will be filled with Him. Like flowers in a garden. Winter ended when He rose from the grave and spring has come!