One of the most frequently quoted excerpts from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings comes from the lips of Sam Gamgee: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?”
Sam’s question is one of those lines that resonates with us deeply. On the one hand, we know there is enough sadness in this world to bring even the most temperamentally happy person to his/her knees in inconsolable grief (and we hate that there is!). On the other hand, we also know intuitively that a world without sadness is the way things are supposed to be. A world with orphans and orphanages, with foster children and children’s homes, with birthparents who cannot support their children because of poverty or disease, and in which family reunification most often does not or cannot happen is a world in which sadness thrives. Sadness means loss, and loss tells us that something is fundamentally and profoundly wrong with the world as it now is.
God designed the Garden of Eden to be a garden sanctuary (i.e., temple), to be the one place where God’s presence intersected with life on earth. So, when Scripture tells us that after God formed man, He placed him in the Garden of Eden, we are to understand God’s action as a really, really big deal. After God created us, He placed us in the one location on earth where His personal presence ‘set up house.’ To place humanity in Eden meant that the Triune God intended to commune with us. We were created to be loved by God and to love God, to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. It was from that Garden paradise that everything glad on earth was to flow.
Think of it this way: We were created by God to enjoy the love of the Father for His Son (in the fellowship of the Spirit) in a one-of-a-kind Paradise—the Place of all places, Eden. A place where there was no separation. No division. No in-siders or out-siders. Everyone who lived there enjoyed unbroken communion with the Triune God and with each other. Eden was, as it were, heaven on earth. To live in Eden was to live in the gladness of God.
Everything Adam and Eve did, then, was to be done within the loving presence of the Triune God. Cultivating the earth, cooking meals, gazing together at the stars, early morning strolls, the daily planting and tending of vegetation, etc., all of these activities were caught up within the outgoing love of God. Earth was the place where God would express His fatherly love for humanity and humanity would joyfully respond to it.
But rebellion broke in. What was once declared to be “very good” became spoiled by our sin and rebellion. No longer was the Garden of Eden a sanctuary or temple paradise. Rather, because of our sin, the Garden of Eden became a forbidden land and life on earth, from then until now, has been marked by sorrow and suffering. Ever since our expulsion from Eden, we have longed for everything sad to come untrue.
When the Son of God became man, everything changed: the Garden of Eden was recreated within his Person, everything that had been lost at the Fall in Eden was being restored through the Son’s incarnation, and for the very first time since the Fall, Eden had been reopened for man (that is, for one particular man, Jesus). When God became man, the gladness of God penetrated the sadness of the world. In the one Person of Jesus (who was/is both fully God and fully man), the gladness of God intersected with the sorrow of man in order to make everything sad come untrue. What this means is that Jesus became in his very Person the renewed Garden of Eden. God made Jesus to be in his very Person what the original Garden of Eden failed to be because of human sin. In the Person of Jesus (who was/is the Temple of God) was the downward flowing love of God and the upward responding obedience of man in answer to that love (see above diagram). This downward flowing love and upward responding obedience within the Person of Jesus climaxed at his death and resurrection. At the cross everything wrong with our humanity was savingly dealt with and healed. At the resurrection the new creation broke into the old.
The Apostle John writes, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). As the God/man, Jesus is the one place where God and man live in perfect, unbroken, loving communion. It is in this way that Jesus is the new and better Garden of Eden.
A new day is coming (see Romans 8:23)—a day that gives us and orphans immense hope. One day the New Garden of Eden will be revealed in its full-splendor on the earth. The result will be the renewal we’ve all been waiting for—the day when everything sad will become untrue. This Eden, the one found in Jesus, will never be lost. Jesus will sooner cease to be God and man in one Person than the New Garden of Eden will be undone. “Yes, Sam, one day everything sad will come untrue.”
Thank you for reading. Please check out Together for Adoption’s new book, which is available for purchase at Cruciform Press.
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