The Four Gardens of God – V

I Corinthians 15:13-20

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Above is a painting of the empty tomb by Joseph Juvenal. I chose this representation because it shows not just that the tomb of Jesus is empty, but also in the distance the three crosses on the hill of Calvary (see Luke 23:33). But there is another represen- tation that I like, of what it says in John 20:6 and 6: “Then Simon Peter…saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” A small detail, perhaps. But this depiction was the only one of more than a hundred others brought up on my computer that showed this truth.

Our featured Scripture is rather long. But in I Corinthians 15:13 through 20, the apostle Paul makes a persuasive argument from a negative perspective concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ:

     ...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is 
     not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching 
     is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are 
     found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of 
     God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if  
     in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, 
     then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your 
     faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those 
     who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this 
     life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most 
     pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has be-
     come the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

The Corinthian church was founded and built up by Paul who stayed for a year and a half in the city of Corinth (located on the Achaian penninsula of southern Greece). But the Achaian way of thinking was most likely quite progressive! Athens was only 40 miles away to the east, and it is said in Acts 17:21 of that city’s residents and visitors, “…all the Athenians and foreigners who where there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” It is reasonable then to assume the same fascination with…some new thing…also was evident in Corinth! And this could be why the Corinthian church members had difficulty being grounded in the basic teachings of Christianity!

One of the problem areas concerned the resurrection! Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:12, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Let’s examine the apostle’s argument in the next eight verses of I Corinthians 15, and see if we can also be persuaded of the importance of the resurrection:

I Corinthians 15:13 – “…if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

  • First of all, the resurrection of the Messiah is prophesied in the Old Testament!
     ✡   Psalm 16:9 through 11 – “...My flesh also will rest 
          in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, 
          nor allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will 
          show me the path of life...” (see Acts 2:29-32 where 
          Peter applies this prophesy to Jesus).

     ✡   Psalm 49:15 – “...God will redeem my soul from the 
          power of the grave, for He shall receive me.”

     ✡   Psalm 71:20 – “You, who have shown me great and se-
          vere troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me 
          up from the depths of the earth.”

     ✡   Isaiah 53:10 – “ pleased the LORD to bruise Him; 
          He has put Him to grief; when You make His soul an 
          offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall pro-
          long His days....”

     ✡   See also I Kings 17:17-24; II Kings 4:18–20, 32–37; 
          Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19, 20; Daniel 12:2, 3; 
          Hosea 6:1, 2.
  • Jesus prophesied numerous times of His resurrection!
     Matthew 12:40 – “ Jonah was three days and three 
         nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son 
         of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of 
         the earth.Matthew 16:21 – “...Jesus began to show His disciples 
         that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things...
         and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” 
         (see also Mark 8:31; 10:33, 34).

     Matthew 17:22, 23 – “The Son of Man is about to be 
         betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill 
         Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” (see 
         also Mark 9:31).

     John 10:17 and 18 – “Therefore My Father loves Me, 
         because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 
         No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. 
         I have power to lay it down, and...power to take it 
         again.Matthew 27:63 and 64 – So well-known was Jesus’ own 
         prophesy of His resurrection, that the chief priests 
         and Pharisees went to Pilate with this request: “...
         we that deceiver said, ‘After three 
         days, I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb 
         be made secure...lest His disciples...steal Him away, 
         and say...‘He has risen from the dead.’
  • The apostles, and other disciples of Jesus, certainly believed in, and preached forth the fact of the resurrection! It was because they themselves had experienced the risen Jesus! In I Corinthians 3 through 8, Paul gave this summation of the appearances of the resurrected Christ:
     Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and
     ...He was buried, and that He rose again the third day ac-
     cording to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, 
     then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five 
     hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain 
     to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He 
     was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of 
     all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
  • Although there are several New Testament passages that imply the preaching of the resurrection, here is what is recorded in the book of Acts concerning the testimony that directly emphasizes the rising again of Jessus Christ from the dead:
     Acts 2:22 through 36 – In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, 
         he emphasizes that Jesus rose from the dead by the 
         power of God!

     Acts 3:26 – Peter, after healing the lame man in 
         the name of Jesus, said this in his second sermon: 
         “To you [Israelites] first, God, having raised up 
         His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turn-
         ing away every one of you from your iniquities.Acts 4:10 – Having been arrested by the Sanhedrin, 
         Peter testified about the lame man’s healing: “...
         let it be known to you all...that by the name of 
         Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom 
         God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands 
         here before you whole.Acts 10:38 through 40 – When the Lord sent Peter 
         to open the gospel to the Gentiles, this is what 
         he emphasized in to Cornelius and his family and 
         guests: “...Jesus of Nazareth...they killed by 
         hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third 
         day, and showed Him openly....Acts 13:27 through 30 – Paul and Barnabas, on their 
         first missionary journey, preached in Antioch of 
         Pisidia (in Asia Minor): “...those in Jerusalem, 
         and their rulers...asked Pilate that He [Jesus] 
         should be put to death. [After He was crucified] 
         they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a 
         tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.Acts 17:18 – In Athens, Paul encountered “...cer-
         tain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers...[who] said, 
         ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ be-
         cause he preached to them Jesus and the resurrec-
         tion.” (see also Acts 17:31, 32).

     Acts 23:6 – Paul made his defense before the Sanhe-
         drin after he had been arrested in the temple the 
         day before: “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the 
         son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrec-
         tion of the dead I am being judged.Acts 24:15 – At Caesarea, in his defense before the 
         Roman governor Felix and his Jewish accusers, Paul 
         again emphasized the resurrection: “I have hope in 
         God, which they themselves also accept, that there 
         will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just 
         and the unjust.” (see also Acts 24:21).

     Acts 25:19 – Felix, who followed Festus as governor 
         of Judea, was visited by King Agrippa. The governor 
         rehearsed Paul’s case before the king, mentioning 
         this point of a previous hearing: “When [Paul’s] ac-
         cusers stood up, they brought no accusation against 
         him I supposed, but had some questions against 
         him...about one, Jesus, who had died, whom Paul af-
         firmed to be alive.Acts 26:22 and 23 – Paul was granted a hearing before 
         Governor Felix and King Agrippa: “ this day I 
         stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying...
         that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the 
         first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light 
         to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.

If the resurrection was so prominent
in the preaching and witnessing
of the apostles and the early believers,
should we not be emphasizing this truth also,
that Jesus Christ is the living Savior
and Lord of all!

The Four Gardens of God – IV John 19:41, 42

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The photo above is of the Garden Tomb of Jesus. There is another location within the sixteenth century Turkish wall of Jerusalem, and just outside an earlier city wall built around 30 BC. This tomb is housed within the Church of the Holy Sepulcre (yes, that is the correct Catholic spelling!). But I believe (as well as many other archeologists and Bible scholars) that the Garden Tomb is where Jesus was interred after the crucifixion. I will give some reasons for this claim a bit later.

The featured Scripture is John 19:41 and 42:

     Now in the place where He [Jesus] was crucified there was a 
     garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet 
     been laid. So there they [Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus] 
     laid Jesus, because of the Jew’s Preparation Day, for the 
     tomb was nearby. 

I have been to Israel twice, in 1993 and 1996. Both times I have had the privilege of visiting the Garden Tomb. The second time the touring group was rather large, and our guide instructed us to enter into the tomb six at a time and stay for only a couple of minutes, so everyone could have the experience of seeing the tomb’s interior. I was part of the first group of six, and I found a spot out of the way beside the open wooden door which protected the tomb after hours. I stood there for about half an hour, not in the way of anyone as the small groups of six came and went, contemplating on what happened almost two thousand years before! It was a moving spiritual experience! As I stood against the wall at the open door’s edge, I ran my hand behind the door and discovered some loose sandstone bits that had dislodged and settled on the ledges of the tomb’s irregular walls. I picked up a few grains and later sealed them in a small plastic bag which I still have. To think that these sandstone grains were just four feet away from the greatest miracle ever – Jesus’ resurrection! And I wonder what amount of energy the surrounding sandstone walls (including these bits) absorbed in that momentous instant!

What are some of the evidences that this Garden Tomb is indeed the place where Jesus was buried, and where the resurrection occurred three days later?

  • Our featured Scripture tells us it was “…a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.” It was Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. What do we know about Joseph of Arimathea?
     Matthew 27:57 through 60:

           Now when evening had come, there came a rich man 
           from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also 
           become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate 
           and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate com-
           manded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had 
           taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 
           and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of 
           the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the 
           door of the tomb, and departed.Joseph was rich, and he was a disciple of 
               Jesus.He asked governor Pontius Pilate for Jesus’ 
               body, and was granted possession. 

          ➔   Although, like the rock tombs of the day, 
               Joseph’s tomb had a large circular rock doorof one to two tons weight, that 
               rolled in a groove to close the tomb. But 
               there are no known photographs of the Gar-
               den Tomb in the last century and a half of 
               modern photography with such a giant rock 
               in place!

     Mark 15:43 through 46:

           Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who 
           was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming 
           and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for 
           the body of Jesus. Pilate marveled that He was al-
           ready dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him 
           if He had been dead for some time. So when he found 
           out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 
           Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped 
           Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had 
           been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against 
           the door of the tomb.Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent and re-
               spected member of the Sanhedrin, the seventy 
               member ruling body of the Jews.

          ➔   Apparently Joseph was very cautious of the                
               Sanhedrin’s threat of excommunication (see 
               John 18:38-42 below). So he took courage 
               when he openly approached Pilate and asked 
               for Jesus’ body!He was also waiting for the full manifesta-
               tion of the kingdom of God. (see Isaiah 
               chapters 11, 60, and 61 to catch a glimpse 
               of the future kingdom).

     Luke 23:50 through 54:

           Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council 
           member, a good and just man. He had not consented 
           to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, 
           a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for 
           the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked 
           for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped 
           it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out 
           of the rock, where no one had ever lain before. That 
           day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near.Joseph of Arimathea was a good and just man 
               who had not consented to the Sanhedrin’s de-
               cision and deed – that of falsely condemning 
               Jesus to torture and crucifixion! 

          ➔   He was from Arimathea, located about 20 miles 
               northwest of Jerusalem.

     John 19:38 through 42:

           After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of 
           Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pi-
           late that he might take away the body of Jesus; and 
           Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the 
           body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to 
           Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh 
           and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the 
           body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with 
           the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now 
           in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, 
           and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet 
           been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the 
           Jews' Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.Although Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, he 
               kept it a secret for fear of the Jews! The 
               fear was...that if anyone confessed that 
               He [Jesus] was Christ, he would be put out 
               of the synagogue [excommunicated from the 
               center of Jewish life].” (John 9:22). 

          ➔   John is the only gospel that tells us Joseph 
               was joined by Nicodemus, another member of 
               the Sanhedrin! (see John 3:1-10; 7:50-52). 

          ➔   They hastily prepared Jesus’ body for burial 
               by wrapping it in linen cloth with a large 
               amount of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred 
               pounds! The worth of that large amount of 
               myrrh and aloes would be in the range of a 
               quarter of a million dollars!Why the haste? The Preparation Day for the 
               Jewish Passover was about to begin at sun-
               down! Jesus died at three in the afternoon! 
               (see Mark 15:34-37).
  • If indeed the Garden Tomb was Joseph’s, he would have been a much shorter man than Jesus! How do we know? The foot-end of the burial platform was hastily dug out and extended by about twelve inches to accommodate a taller body! You can readily see the rough excavation at the foot of the body platform, obviously rougher and more hastily dug compared with a much finer quarrying in the rest of the tomb! Joseph probably told a servant to quickly go and dig out that space so the taller body of Jesus could be laid out properly!
  • There is archeological evidence that a church or chapel was built adjoining the tomb!
     Notice in the photo above there is a hole excavated 
         into the rock a few feet above the tomb door and a bit 
         to the left. It is thought that this is evidence of a 
         support for a roof beam for a church (chapel) that was 
         built honoring the burial and resurrection place of 
         Jesus the Christ!

        Not seen in the photo is a depression in the stone in 
         front of the tomb that could have been used to hold 
         water for foot washing! Some say it is the base of a 
         baptismal font, but it does not seem large enough for 
         that use.

     Also, one can plainly see the stonework blocking up 
         part of the tomb wall. Why was that wall broken down? 
         Perhaps it was so that worshipers could see directly 
         into the tomb.........the empty tomb!

We will stop here. In the next Gem we will explore the significance of the empty tomb!

The Four Gardens of God – III Matthew 26:36-39

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The second garden of the four gardens of God is called Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32). In the gospel of John it is simply identified as a garden (see John 18:1 and 26). Matthew’s description of what happened in Gethsemane runs from verse 36 to verse 57 – too long to quote here. So I will relate only the first four verses, 36 to 39, upon which I feel we should concentrate:

     Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, 
     and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray 
     over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons 
     of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply dis-
     tressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly 
     sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” 
     He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, 
     saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass 
     from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

I believe the battle that Jesus Christ fought for the souls of mankind was not won on the cross as much as it was in Gethsemane! For it was there that…

  • …the humanity of Jesus (yes, He was fully human as well as fully divine) recoiled from the horrible suffering and mistreatment He was about to endure over the next 24 hours! He also was repulsed by being made sin for all mankind!
  • …the battle was won! For it is recorded in verse 39 of our featured Scripture, He… prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’”
     I contend that this is the most important prayer a 
         Christian can pray!

         ➔   Some would say that the most important prayer 
              would be what the tax collector prayed in the 
              temple complex, recorded in Luke 18:13, “God 
              be merciful to me a sinner.This (or some form 
              of such a prayer) is the most important prayer 
              that a non-Christian can accept 
              Jesus as Savior!

         ➔   But the most important prayer a Christian can 
              pray is, “ Father...not as I will, but as 
              you will.” Now it can be in other words, such 
              as, “God, whatever You want I will do it, even 
              if I don’t want to!But we must pray this kind 
              of prayer in every situation we face!

     But here is an amazing truth I have learned, and it is 
         found in Philippians 2:13: “...for it is God who works 
         in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

         ➔   He not only gives us the strength to ‘do’ what-
              ever it is He calls us to do! But......God also gives us the ‘will’ to do whatever 
              it is He calls us to do! And I have learned that 
              when I have the will (the want to’), then the 
              ‘do it’ becomes a lot easier, because I want to 
              do what God is directing me to do!

But let’s get back to the garden of Gethsemane. Although it is called a garden in John 18:1, Bible scholars and archeologists agree that Gethsemane was a place where olives were processed, pressing them to release the precious olive oil that was so necessary to everyday life. The very name Gethsemane means oil press.

How was olive oil produced? Olives where picked from the surrounding trees and dumped into a large round stone base. Another heavy stone was rolled over the olives to make a paste. Any oil then released was collected and saved. Then the paste was put in a low basket, and up to twelve baskets were piled on top of one another and pressed with heavy rock weights to release more oil. There were usually three pressings to extract all the available oil.

  • The first pressing produced the finest oil, for temple use and anointing.
  • The second pressing produced oil for cooking and cosmetics.
  • The third was the least pure and was used for lamp oil and soap.

Jesus waspressedto such an extreme in Gethsemane that we are told in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.” It is a rare medical condition called hematidrosis, where capillaries may rupture and blood oozes from sweat glands. This can happen under extreme stress (it has been manifested in prisoners awaiting execution), and is the probable cause of Jesus sweating blood.

It says in Deuteronomy 33:25, “As your days, so shall your strength be.” It was true in Jesus’ case! For we are told in Lule 22:43, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.We have the same assurance in I Corinthians 10:13: “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted [tried, tested] beyond what you are able, but with the temptation [trial, testing] will also make the way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The garden of Gethsemane was also the place of further happenings beyond the limited scope of our featured Scripture:

  • In Matthew 26:40 through 45 we are told that three times Jesus prayed…saying the same words.” (Matthew 26:45). And before He prayed, He told the three disciples with Him, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40). But each time the Lord prayed, He then came back to where the three were, and three times He found them sleeping! When the moment of testing came, when the mob arrived to arrest Jesus, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” (Matthew 26:56).
  • Matthew 26:47 through 50 describe the arrival of the mob, composed of “…a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came with lanterns, torches, and weapons…” (see John 18:3). Mark 14:43 describes it thus: “…a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
  • It was all led by Judas, the disciple (one of the twelve) who agreed to betray Jesus for …thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:15). In Exodus 21:32 we are told that thirty shekels (pieces) of silver was the price to be paid for the life of a slave!
Judas...was a thief...” (John 12:6).

     ➔   He is called ...the son of perdition...” (John 

     ➔   It is said in Luke 22:3 that “...Satan entered 

     ➔   The sign of betrayal with which Judas agreed to 
          identify Jesus in the darkness of the Gethsemane 
          night was “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; take 
          Him and lead Him away....” (Mark 14:44).

     ➔   Although Judas did repent (of sorts), saying to 
          “...the chief priests and elders, ‘I have sinned 
          by betraying innocent blood...’” – when the chief 
          priests and elders rejected his remorse, “...he 
          threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and 
          departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 
          27:4, 5).
  • Impulsive Peter, who had one of the two swords with which the twelve were armed (see Luke 22:28), swung his weapon, and succeeded only to cut off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest (see John 18:10), which Jesus then healed! (see Luke 22:51).
  • One of the more impressive things that happened in the garden of Gethsemane is recorded in John 18:4 through 6 (International Standard Version):
     Then Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen, 
     went forward and asked them, “Who are you looking for?” 
     They answered him, “Jesus from Nazareth.” Jesus told them, 
     “I AM.” Judas, the man who betrayed him, was standing with 
     them. When Jesus told them, “I AM,” they backed away and 
     fell to the ground.

I quoted the International Standard Version because I believe this version has the translation right! When the mob stated that they were seeking “Jesus from Nazareth,Jesus powerfully answered with the personal name of God that He revealed for Himself in Exodus 3:14 and 15, “…I AM….This is My name forever….The mob, upon hearing that divine name, “…backed away and fell to the ground…! Just speaking the mighty name of God by the Son of God knocked them flat!

  • Yes, Jesus could have called for …more than twelve legions of angels…” (Matthew 26:53 – more than 72,000 angels!) but He didn’t need them!
  • His word was (and is) so powerful, that all creation came into existence just by the spoken Word! (see John 1:3; Colossians 1:16, 17).

This second garden of God is a powerful place! Yes, in a sense it is also a tragic place.

But Gethsemane is a place of great victory!
And we share in that victory!

…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(I Corinthians 15:57)