Empty Garden

Scripture: Genesis 2:8-10, Genesis 3:15-24, Romans 5:12
Two important gardens are mentioned in Scripture. The first is our parents first home, the Garden of Eden. It was here that Adam and Eve sinned and introduced death to our world. Sin is the transgression of the law. Mankind broke God's law. The empty garden showed that God's law was not set aside. In another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to take all the sin of our world on Himself that we might be set free from sin.
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Today it's my desire to take you with me on an imaginary journey back across the centuries of time to visit two very important historic gardens. The story of each of these gardens is found in the Bible although their history is separated by four millenniums. Each has important memories of the past that speak to us today with important lessons for our own lives.

The first garden is brought to our attention in Genesis 2:8, where it is recorded that God planted a garden in the midst of the beautiful world He had just created. This garden, called Eden, was to be the home of Adam and Eve, our first parents. On every hand the beauties of the creative power of God were manifest. The third chapter of Genesis records the fall of Adam and Eve in sin when they listened to and followed the temptation of Satan. And suddenly the joy in the hearts of the early parents was gone. Somehow the beauty of the garden seemed dimmed. They felt alone and sad, which was a new experience for them.

Then came another experience which they had never known before. Verses 8 to 10 reveal the story. The Lord God came walking among the trees of the garden. Adam and Eve had communed daily with God face to face. The joy of these occasions is beyond man's ability to describe, but on this day Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. Surely all nature is stunned. The entire universe looks upon this scene. What will God do with the sinful pair? He has created them, thus He has the power to slay them if He will or will He wink at the sin? Will He overlook it? Will He make some change that will destroy Satan and forget about the sin of Adam and Eve?

Of course, Adam and Eve were ashamed. Already they're experiencing the promise of Satan when he told them if they would eat of the fruit, their eyes would be opened and that they would have new experiences. They feel condemned, and now their Creator is come into the garden. Will He condemn them? Suddenly the sound of the voice of God is heard calling, "Adam, where art thou?" This is the cry of the Saviour as He tenderly seeks the lost to bring them back to the fold. This is the call of God's love that was to be heard all the way to Calvary as He called to men everywhere to come, repent, and live anew in Christ. This call was to be heard down to the end of time, down to the very last moment before the door of mercy shall close eternally, calling men and women to come and accept of His love. Not in condemnation does God call, but in love and forgiveness. "Adam and Eve, come forth." Ashamed and heart-broken, they confessed their sin. God does not kill them for God is a God of mercy. Already a plan has been laid in heaven that provides a ransom for their sins. Neither does God condemn them. The Son of Man will descend in their place and will die to pay the penalty of sin which is death. But God can't excuse them either. The wages of sin is death. There must a death for the sin that has been committed but the only death that will suffice to pay the penalty once and for all would be the death of the Son of God. No other death will do. Thus the promise is made in Genesis 3:15.

One day Satan will be destroyed. One day, again, the Kingdom of Righteousness will reign throughout the Universe. All trace of evil will be gone forever. In the meantime Adam and Eve can't live in the Garden of Eden. They must leave it. We read in Genesis 3: 22-24 that God drove them out of the garden and placed an angel at the East gate to keep the way of that gate from man's eating of the tree of life and living on forever. If sinful man would be permitted to eat of this tree, then God would never be able to destroy sin, for man would live forever and sin would thus live in man forever.

Today we stand at the gate of the empty garden. We look in past the angel with the flaming sword in his hand and we ask, "What does this garden teach me?" In the first place, the empty garden reveals anew that God means exactly what He says. It seems such a little thing to eat the forbidden fruit from that tree, but oh, what trouble it caused. Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 that the single sin of Adam and Eve has caused all of us to be sinners, for all the children of Adam would be born in sin and sinful natures. But just what was it that drove Adam and Eve out of the garden? Surely, it was God that drove them out actually, but really, now, was it not sin that actually did drive them out? Sin, what a little word. But just what is sin? The Bible defines it in 1 John 3:4. "Sin is the transgression of the law." In Genesis 3:17 we read where God told Adam he had broken a direct command of God by eating of that tree. Adam transgressed the commandments, thus he sinned and was cast out of the garden.

But somebody says, "I don't believe really that there were commandments back there at that time. I believe the commandments began when God gave them to the children of Israel." Let me ask you something, friends, do you believe Adam and Eve sinned when they took the forbidden fruit? I'm sure you agree with me that they did sin; in fact, the empty garden proves that they sinned, otherwise God would not have driven them out. He wouldn't have had a right, even, to drive them out of the garden. Thus, we must admit that they surely did sin in the garden of Eden. Now listen to what Paul says in Romans 4:15. He says, "Where there is no law, there is no transgression." If there had been no law then, there would have been no transgression of the law and thus no sin and thus no empty garden. Listen again to Paul in Romans 3:20 where he says, "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." The only way man would know sin is by the existence of a law. Here he even quotes some of the Ten Commandments to illustrate his point more emphatically.

Listen, friends, according to the Bible principle of sin, every single sin committed by man before Mt. Sinai proved the existence of the Law of God. The empty garden standing there for perhaps centuries was mute testimony to mankind that God's law was exact and that God's law had been broken. When Cain, years after his parents had been driven from the garden, killed his brother, he committed sin. He transgressed the commandment that said, "Thou shalt not kill." When the world was consumed with evil thoughts and actions to the point that God determined to send a flood and destroy all men, they were destroyed because they had broken the Ten Commandments and turned to their own ways, away from God. Our human reasoning may lead us to wonder if God did not want to change something when Adam and Eve sinned so that He would not have to drive them from the garden. But God could change nothing, for the Ten commandments had been broken and the sin which was in the human flesh now was the sin against the very character of God. The Ten Commandments are but a revelation of the character of God and it's impossible for God to change His character. Thus, He could not change the law to accommodate sin when Adam and Eve broke the law.

But the empty garden teaches us another very vital lesson as well. God had the right to kill Adam and Eve immediately. They had sinned. The wages of sin is death. They had willfully separated themselves from God's program for their lives, and since God is life, they had chosen the opposite of life which is death. They deserved to die. Why didn't they die? Why didn't God drive them from the garden? Why did He let them live? It was because of His grace and His love. Romans 6:23 says, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." There are some who feel that men were saved by keeping commandments, by works in the Old Testament, and by faith and grace alone in the New Testament. Friends, I submit to you today that there in the Garden of Eden the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus met together. The commandments had been broken but the Lord stepped into that scene and offered His grace to Adam and Eve. He promised them that one day the Saviour, the Son of God, would come and die in their place. Romans 3:24 says that we're justified freely by His grace. Ever since the first sin, God's grace has been working to save men from their sins. God does not remove His character as a standard for a man; He doesn't lay aside His commandments; but rather reveals Himself to us through those commandments. But because we've sinned, He offers us abundantly of His grace and His love which is unearned and undeserved by us.

Come, we must hasten across four millenniums to catch a quick glimpse of the other empty garden. This one is situated outside the city of Jerusalem to the north of that ancient city. As we see it today, it is on a Thursday night in the year 31 AD. Twelve men, having just completed supper in an upper room in Jerusalem, have made their way down the steps from the room out into the darkened streets of Jerusalem. As they walk they're listening intently to the one who seems to be their leader. They make their way rather slowly to the little gate by the footpath that leads out the north wall of the city and down the pathway into the valley that leads across to the Garden of Gethsemane. Across the valley they go, climbing the little hill of the entrance of the garden. We can see that this is not the first time they have been here for they seem familiar with every detail of the garden, even in the night darkness.

The leader of the group asks eight of the men to remain near the entrance of the garden and to enter into a season of prayer with Him. The four men remaining make their way further into the garden where the leader asks that they, too, pray with Him. And now the leader goes further still and there prostrates Himself upon the ground in the garden in extreme agony of soul. "My Father," He prays, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me." This is the darkest hour for Jesus. One of His disciples has turned against Him and is even now gathering a mob to seek Him out here in this very spot. The hour of His death upon the cross is about to come and a careless world is unconcerned. The people to whom had been entrusted the message, to tell the world of the coming Messiah, are busy tonight in preparing for the Passover, all unmindful that the true Lamb of God prays alone in the garden. Even the disciples are now asleep and all concern for the great events about to take place pass from their sleepy minds.

For three hours the agony continues, and finally the quietness of the night is broken by the sound of a mob coming through the valley, up the little hill and into the garden, led by none other than the deserting disciple. The disciples waken now, ready for flight. They stand amazed and stunned as Jesus allows Himself to be taken by this mob as though some criminal has been caught in a crime. Back down the hill and through the little gate on the North wall they go, leading their prisoner, and now the garden is empty.

Like Eden four thousand years before, this garden, too, stands silent and empty, and as we look into it today we ask, "What does this empty garden teach us?" Because the commandments of God could not be set aside or abridged or changed in any detail, it was necessary that the full penalty of breaking the law be paid. Thus, it was impossible for the Father in Heaven to answer the cry of His own Son, "If it be possible, let this cup pass." Jesus, the Saviour, was to pay the penalty of the broken law. He was to become death for all who would accept Him. The commandments would stand fast forever. They had been vindicated and now the garden was empty, standing throughout the centuries of time, a vindication of the character of God and of His Ten Commandments. But Jesus' prayer had concluded with these immortal words. "Nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done." The grace of God had won again. Jesus would go all the way to Calvary. There He would give His own Precious innocent blood to pay the full eternal debt of sin. His blood has set men free.

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