Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lessons Of The Garden

There are some benefits to being an only child, but let me assure you, the benefits come with a cost. When you are an only child, you are the one who has to do all of the grunt work. I carried out the trash, raked the leaves, mowed the lawn, pulled weeds, fed the cows and horses, washed dishes, cleaned the stalls of manure, and every other task that didn't require any technical skills.

If you have brothers and sisters, and somebody breaks the lamp, you can always say, "He did it!" But...when you are the only child, you are also the only one whose name is on the list of suspects. Who are you going to blame? Your evil twin?

There are some benefits, though. My parents put in a garden every year. Spring was always an exciting time for me, because I knew that soon we would have good things to eat, just popping out of the ground. Especially tomatoes. I loved them, and my parents would plant some cherry tomatoes just for me. I had permission to eat all of them that I wanted, and I can remember loading up my pockets, going to my tree-house and gorging myself on those little red delights.

If you remember your Bible, you will also remember that there was a snake in the Garden of Eden. He was called the Tempter, for good reason. I discovered temptation first in my Mom and Dad's garden. One year my Dad planted a miniature apple tree, and the next year it had an apple on it. Just one. I wanted to eat that apple so badly, that my father had to warn me repeatedly to leave it alone so that it could ripen. My Dad went out to check on the garden one day, and he found that the little green apple had a bite taken out of it. It was still on the tree, but tooth marks could clearly be seen.

My name was at the head of the list of suspects. Dad said, "Stormy, I thought I told you to leave that apple alone." "Dad, you said not to pull the apple, and I didn't. I just tasted it a little bit." Well, I had to pay for that bite, and believe me, it wasn't worth the price. Some of life's hardest lessons are learned in the garden.

Jesus learned some hard lessons in the Garden of Gethsemane. First of all, He was reminded of something that we often forget. He was fully and completely human. He was also fully and completely God, but it was His humanity that was put to the test in the garden. "Since the children (God's) have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity... For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest...(Hebrews 2:14, 17)."

Jesus bore the titles "Son of God," and "Son of Man." In Biblical Greek, the word "son" is huios, and it means to have the nature or character of someone or something. Therefore, Jesus had both the nature of God and the nature of mankind. He was "...made like His brothers in every way...(Heb.2:17)."

When we read about the life of Christ, we see Him described as a man who got hungry and could be tempted (Matthew 4:1f). He became tired (John 4:46) and thirsty (John 19:28). He could feel compassion (Matthew 9:36), anger (Mark 3:5), disappointment (Mark 8:17-21), brotherly love (John 11:1-3), exasperation (Matthew 17:17), indignation Mark 10:13), astonishment (Matthew 8:10) and grief (John 11:33-35). Jesus had family (Mark 6:3) and friends (John 11:1-3,11) and close companions (Mark 13:3). Our Lord, in His humanity, was exactly like us.

There was a time in the Garden of Gethsemane, though, when His emotions became almost overwhelming. "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane...He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death' (Matthew 26:36-38)." Mark's account says that the Lord was deeply distressed (Mark 14:33). Luke records that Jesus "....being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44)."

When we look at the definitions for these Greek words, we begin to understand how difficult this time, just prior to His crucifixion, was for Jesus. He was "deeply grieved" (lupeo-extremely sorrowful), and "distressed" (ademoneo-almost overwhelmed with burden of mind), and "troubled" (ekthambeo-terrified), and "anguished" (agonia-in agony of mind; suffering severe mental struggles and emotions). All of these very human responses to mental stress contributed to His feelings of abandonment, as He cried from the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me (Matthew 27:46)?"

Now it should be clear that Jesus has also had to deal with sadness and distress and mental anguish, to the point of feeling almost completely overwhelmed. This is why our Lord so well understands how it feels for us when we are depressed. He has been there Himself. Jesus is familiar with our struggles, for He was the Son of Man, and from these examples of His humanity we draw comfort and the strength to endure our most difficult times.

It's true, friends. Jesus knows and Jesus cares.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3f)."

So, pass it on.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

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