Sermon: Maundy Thursday – “Two Gardens”

Kristus i Getsemane (1873) by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890)

Tonight is the night of the foot washing and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.  It is also the night of the Garden of Gethsemane.  When we think of this garden, it should remind us of another: “The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:8-9)  But we know how that all worked out: a snake, a lie, a piece of fruit, followed by exile.  God “drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)

Tonight, following the foot washing and breaking of bread, Jesus taught and prayed for his disciples and for us, and then afterward, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.” (John 18:1)

The Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane: I’m not suggesting that the two are one and the same, but we are connected to them both.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen also demonstrated that link when we wrote, “As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity.” (Source)  

In that first garden, we became burdened by the sin of Adam and Eve’s rebellion and in that second garden, Jesus took that burden upon himself.  In that first garden, we were sent into exile, an angel with a flaming sword preventing our reentry into Paradise, but in that second garden, Jesus accepted the cup of God’s wrath on our behalf and by doing so, the angels rejoice at our return. (cf. Luke 15:10)  In that first garden, there was no atonement for our sin yet in the second garden, there was, Jesus, and he submitted to the Father’s will.

In this world, there are many questions, choices, and options, but the most important question we are asked is which of these two gardens we will choose.  Will we constantly fight against that angel’s flaming sword, seeking to enter a paradise of our creation by the fulfillment of our own will and desires, or will we, like Jesus, come to the other and kneel before the Father and seek his will and desires?  My buddy, Stephen King simplifies the issue, he writes, “There’s really no question.  It always comes down to just two choices. Get busy living, or get busy dying.” (Different Seasons, p.129)  

Enter the Garden with Jesus and get busy living.

Let us pray: “Father… not my will, but yours, be done.”  Amen.

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