What a wonderful thing to take a break from the chaos and focus on the global pandemic to look at a much better storyline, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His future for us. While much of our world will be looking at how many have died from the coronavirus this weekend, the Lord's people will be singularly focused on the One that rose from the dead and lives forevermore. Sadly, the only reason the coronavirus has panicked the world is because people don't have an antidote to death. That antidote is not found in a new vaccine or anything else but faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross for them. People today are deathly afraid of being infected with this unknown virus, but the reality is that sin is a much worse infection. Right now, the death rate for all of us with or without the virus is a 100%. Just today, for example, about 150,000 people will die from just living in this world, no matter how healthy they might be. If only the world could begin to look for an everlasting cure to death itself we would be in a very different place tonight. It is hard to imagine a world like that since we are so conditioned to death being "normal" instead of an enemy of God. Once the death cure is found in the simple Gospel message, fear is gone, and faith begins to fill our lives forever.
If there is one thing we should all be thinking about on this resurrection weekend, it is not only the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but that the entire world is not only going to be resurrected, but completely and entirely restored. That thought is so amazing that it seems like "science fiction" to most. Instead of this coming resurrection and glorious restoration of the world, most people believe we are just left to global warming, deadly pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes and a host of other disasters waiting to happen. And if such things are the best the world has to offer us, no wonder people are panicking. I would panic too! How about you? Just imagine yourself with nothing to hope for except a world underwater or burning up from global climate change with millions dead from uncontrolled pandemics and starvation. Not a very happy place to live. Sadly, that is where many people are today, and the media does nothing to change that focus or future, rather they make it worse with their 24/7 cycle of gloom and doom.
Now the Bible is quite clear that if the Lord doesn't totally restore the world to the pristine and sinless glory in the Garden of Eden then God has failed. After all, if you are God and you can't fix what is broken then you are not God. It is just that simple. And that is the problem people are having today. Most people can't believe this world will be restored to its pristine and sinless glory. Such a thought seems crazy and impossible. And when people don't believe something is possible then it is not. As a wise philosopher once said, "we never argue with our own beliefs", and that is where most of the world is tonight. Hence, the idea of a total restoration of the world talked about in the Bible seems like a fairy tale for simple minded and uneducated people.
And yet, if you just take one look at the Resurrection Story in John's Gospel, the Lord tells us exactly that storyline. The Biblical accounts of the resurrection tell us that we are heading back to the Garden of Eden and that the original paradise the Lord created and intended for us will be restored. In John's account of the Lord Jesus' resurrection, our Lord comes out of tomb which is located in a garden. Does this sound like a familiar location for a restoration of everything? Not only does the resurrection take place in a garden, but there is only one woman there, Mary Magdalene, and she thinks our Risen Lord is the gardener. In John 20:14-16 we hear the story this way,
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 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." Jesus said to her, "Mary. "She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (Which means "Teacher")?
This account of our Lord's resurrection is telling us that one man, a new Adam, has been resurrected in a garden with one woman. Our Risen Lord had to be the Gardener. What else could He be? The Lord has used the Genesis 1& 2 story of creation as the template of the new creation. The Lord is telling us here that the world will be resurrected and restored. The original garden returns in a new and redeemed way, and that the one woman that was there again was now a reminder that our Lord Jesus would not be alone. The new woman is now a new people, a new Eve if you will, the Bride of Christ. So, it turns out that the Christian Gospel message and hope of new life after our death in the old Adam was the way the Lord shared the ultimate story of restoration. The storyline of the Bible is nothing more than a return to what once was in a new and everlasting way. Hence, the one thing that will last forever is the Lord Jesus and His people in a redeemed location seen in a garden.
For many people the storyline in John's Gospel is just a "coincidence" and surely not a picture of what is underway tonight or a picture of where the world is heading. But if you begin to look at the Bible's message, this return to paradise and to a garden is hardly something you just find in one resurrection account. No, it is all through the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. As an example, when our Lord Jesus died on the cross He promised the repentant criminal next to him that he would be with our Lord that very day in "paradise" as we see in Luke 23:42-43,
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."
So, it seems that our Lord is not promising to take that man to anywhere but paradise, another name in the Bible for the Garden of Eden. How fitting then that the Bible ends its redemptive story with everybody back in the Garden according to Revelation 22:1-3,
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.
With all this Biblical focus on returning to a garden and restoring the original creation, how surprising then people still resist, fight and reject the Lord's plan to restore things to a garden. What is even more shocking is that most people love nature, parks, flowers, gardens and everything else connected to God's coming plan. Is it just a coincidence that humanity loves nature and gardens? What is even stranger is that the vast majority of people of all faiths and beliefs have a hope, however vague, in a future heaven of some kind. And yet so many people today can't seem to "connect the dots" of the story of our Lord's resurrection in the garden with their love for nature and a happy future for a restored world in Christ. Instead, of that glorious and redeemed future, people are left today with the "reality" they have been told exists or one that has been created for them by a media that is convinced our world is going to end up with some virus or other disaster as our future.
It is during times like this, amidst this global pandemic that the Christian Church needs to get bold and be clear on the singular hope for this world. That singular hope is that the Lord Jesus Christ conquered sin and death on the cross and is preparing a new garden for everyone that wants to join Him. That is our message on this resurrection weekend and may each of us bring glorious Gospel to someone we know in this dramatic hour.
How wonderful to close with this eternal thought that Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed. All of us at the Carlson Report are thrilled to stand with each of you in sharing that everlasting truth.