The G-Word occurs most often in Genesis, but 12 of the 13 times ‘garden’ is used in that book, the text is referring to Eden. After Genesis, the two books that use the G-Word the most are Song of Songs and the Gospel of John. Song of Songs is a love poem full of steamy symbolism and confusing allegory that still sometimes seems out of place in Scripture to me – so let’s concentrate on John.
Before Jesus called him, John was a fisherman, not a farmer.
For instance, Matthew and Mark both refer to Gethsemane as ‘a place’, while John doesn’t mention Gethsemane at all, but talks about Jesus and his disciples visiting a garden in the hours following the Last Supper. (Interestingly, none of the Gospels ever refer specifically to the ‘Garden of Gethsemane‘.)
Similarly, all four Gospels talk about Jesus being buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, but only John mentions anything about the location of the tomb:
At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. – John 19:41
And that, of course, sets the stage for the garden-related surprise of a lifetime for Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday morning:
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). – John 20:11-16
Mary thought Jesus was the gardener.
If she’d been present and paying attention five chapters earlier, she might have known how right she really was …
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And if we go straight to Verse 5a in this passage, that sounds pretty warm and fuzzy: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…’
But if you look at this whole passage in context, it becomes a little scary:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. – John 15:1-6
Sounds pretty harsh for a God that 1 John 4:8 tells us is love. But remember that this passage begins talking about God the Father as the gardener, and nobody accuses gardeners of being cruel to their gardens when they pull weeds or prune off unproductive branches.
Remember also that in God’s garden, time is not a limiting factor. God will indeed cut off branches that bear no fruit, but God gives us our whole lives to become fruitful branches. There will undoubtedly be some pruning along the way, to either enhance or initiate growth – but God is a patient gardener.
And what kind of fruit does God want us to bear, again? Glad you asked.
‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’ – Galatians 5:22-23
Simple stuff. Not always easy, but simple. So let’s get out there and bear some fruit already.
Peace be with you.