Some Easter Thoughts

Here are some thoughts about God’s character that you might consider during the Easter season.

Did you ever notice the first thing God did after He created Adam? Well, He rested:

Gen 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

But if you look further down in the passage, you find this:

Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

After He made Adam, God planted a garden. God considered the effort of planting a garden not to be work, but part of his rest. I have known many people who didn’t think of gardening as work, but relaxation. As I have said elsewhere, my earliest memory is of a flower garden. God planted a garden and it was the perfect place for Adam and Eve to live, to grow, and to serve Him. So Adam became a gardener also, the first “job” in human history.

Gen 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

But when Adam and Eve sinned, God cast them out of the garden and death passed upon all men.

Gen 2:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Now, let’s look forward to the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is sharing His last Passover with His apostles (though they don’t know it), and Judas has left to betray Him. The meal is over and Jesus prays to His Father. These are the last words He spoke at the Last Supper:

John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

They leave the upper room and go into the night. But where do they go?

John 18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.

He went into a garden, the garden of Gesthemane. And here, leaving His disciples to sleep, He anticipates His final, perfect act of Redemption. While Jesus is in this agony, Judas, having collected his thirty pieces of silver, leads the mob to Jesus. But how does Judas know where He will be?

John 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. 3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.

Of course! Jesus must be in the garden, for He often went there with His disciples. It was a place that He loved to go, to rest, to pray. But this time He is taken by the soldiers, unjustly tried, mocked, scourged, and sent to Calvary, bearing His own cross. He is nailed to that cross and lifted up between heaven and earth (John 3:14-15). On the cross He enters into the darkness and completes the work of redemption, suffering the wrath of God that we deserved, so that we might be delivered from our sin and its consequences. But the darkness clears and the Savior remains! “Finished!” He cries. What happens next is fitting because in life the Lord Jesus had no place of His own, saying to the crowd at one point, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matt 8:20)” But here at last He finds the only place to rest His head: His own breast.

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

Jesus is dead. Where will He be buried?

John 19:41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

His body is laid in a new tomb which is, of course, in a garden.

Now we move ahead to Sunday, the day after the Sabbath, and the women come to the garden to anoint the body of their beloved Lord. They came early, and one can only assume that the men are still sleeping. Who is there first?

John 20:1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Peter and John run to the garden and enter the sepulchre, but they are baffled. They still do not understand that the Messiah, their crucified Lord, must rise from the dead. They leave, but Mary, completely distraught, remains behind.

John 20:10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. 11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Not recognizing the Lord through her tears, Mary nevertheless perceives someone asking her a question, and she assumes it is the gardener! God’s character has never changed since the days of creation and it never will.

The Song of Songs is the poem of the Bridegroom and the Bride. Our Bridegroom has ascended into glory. The daughters ask, “Where has He gone?”

Song 6:1 Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. 2 My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. 3 I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

I am my Beloved’s, and He is mine! He is in His heavenly garden, and for now we are away from Him. But we know He will return for us, our Savior, our Bridegroom, our Beloved, our Gardener. We will hear His voice and be caught up to meet Him, and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1Th 4:13-17).

Song 2:8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. 9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. 10 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 11 For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle [dove] is heard in our land; 13 The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away!

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Rev 22:20

ST. PAUL

No, not the St. Paul from the Bible, the greatest of the Apostles, who was converted on the road to Damascus. The city St. Paul on the Mississippi river in Minnesota. One of the Twin Cities, along with Minneapolis. That’s where I was born back in late December of 1952. So this post is just some stories of where I got started, and some early memories and influences.

So I was raised by Indians in a garden where there were huge thunderstorms and we ate White Castle hamburgers. I guess I should clarify that.

I was baby number six for my parents, after one girl, one boy, and then three girls. Since I was a baby boy (instead of one of many girls), I became my Mom’s favorite. You can just ask my siblings about that. When I came home from the hospital, my Mom now had a newborn, a one-year-old, a two-year-old, a five-year-old, a six-year-old, and a ten-year-old. It was too much. She reached out to the church and she was connected up with a home for abandoned (perhaps troubled) girls. She chose a 16-year-old Indian girl named Jeri to come and live with us and help with the children. Evidently Jeri thought I was the cutest thing and carried me everywhere, to the point that they say I didn’t walk until I was two because I didn’t have to! Incidentally, to give you an idea of what times were like in the “mid-century” era, my parents had friends who would no longer come to visit or even associate with them because we had an Indian living in our house.

The house stood on a double lot, and in the “side back” yard was a flower garden that had been started by the previous owner of the house. The flowers were peonies, but not just any peonies. These flowers had won first prize at the Minnesota State Fair several years running and they were HUGE! So my mother would go outside in the morning to weed the garden, and she would sit me down next to her under the flowers. So I was raised in a garden. My earliest memory is of that garden. I remember watching the earthworms in the black, soft dirt, and the ants on the flowers. My mother told me (probably much later) that the ants helped the peonies to open up and bloom, so we always left the ants alone.

There be four [things which are] little upon the earth, but they [are] exceeding wise:
The ants [are] a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer. (Prov 20:34-35)

My first word was “flower”. My Dad worked for 3M as an engineer making magnetic tape, so we had a tape recorder even back then. I was getting a bath in the kitchen sink, my Mom floated one of the peonies in the water, and I said, “flower”. My Dad got his tape recorder to save the event for posterity, but to add some interest he took the flower away! I immediately started to cry and didn’t stop until he put it back. Maybe he had a bit of a mean streak. Unfortunately, we lost the recording in a fire we had at our house in the mid-60s.

My Dad had an upright piano that he used to play and he’d sing old songs for us while we sat next to him on the bench to sing along. Also, our house had a big wraparound screened-in porch and we would keep a couch on it in the summer. Now if you’ve never been in the Midwest, you’ve never heard a real thunderstorm. I liked to sit out on the couch with the rain pouring out of the sky and listen to the huge peals of thunder echoing off the neighborhood houses. I wasn’t scared because my Dad told me that it was just the angels pushing a piano down the stairs. That made perfect sense to me, so to this day I love thunderstorms. I remember the first time I heard the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The first verse captures what I feel in a thunderstorm.

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Then there is White Castle, the home of the Perfect Food. After church on Sunday we would sometimes trundle off to White Castle and get a “sack” (that’s a “bag” to you non-Midwesterners) of hamburgers and head over to Gramma Wanschura’s house. I was so impressed that I could eat four hamburgers! At the time you could get them “with” or “without” (onions). I think now they just make all of them with onions. Even then you could watch them make the burgers, which was really cool. It was located at “Seven Corners” in St. Paul but I couldn’t figure out if any of the current Castles is the one I ate at. There’s not one near me now which is probably a good thing since I would weigh another 100 pounds more. I do know where the nearest ones are, though (Howell, Eatontown, and Edison near the Menlo Park Mall). So if you’re near any of them, feel free to pick me up a sack.

I was about four and a half when we left that house and moved to another one on the east side of St. Paul. But that’s a story for another day…