The Dead Garden

Recently at a conference I was attending at one of our churches, a lady from the church was telling me about an experience she had with her young granddaughter.  They were riding along on their way to church, and as so many of our churches have an adjoining cemetery nearby, the little girl said to her grandmother, “There are a lot of flowers out in the dead garden.”  The grandmother, who like me had never heard of the dead garden, wondered what she was talking about.  The little girl was pointing to the cemetery with the flowers that were out there that the people had placed around the graves; she was just commenting that there were a lot of flowers in the dead garden.  As we talked about it, the grandmother was wondering what goes through a child’s mind and I was too.  Just out of her own little mental process and connectivity with death and life and church, the little girl said it was the dead garden.  While none of us had ever heard of that, it was probably because nobody had said it.  The little girl had put it together as she perceived it to be because there were dead people who were placed out there and there were flowers around the graves and it did look like a garden in some ways.  And so there it was, right there before all us older folks, the dead garden. 

The more I thought about it over the next day or so, it became more and more vivid to me about the dead garden.  In fact, as I thought about it I realized that Jesus was familiar with the dead garden.  Some of the most memorable things that He did and said took place in, at, and around the dead garden. If you want to read the whole story, it is in John 11.  Jesus had gotten word that his friend Lazarus had died.  By the time they arrived at the funeral, it was all over, and Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were really in despair because Jesus had gotten there so late.  Finally, days later when Jesus arrived, He asked the question, “Where have you laid him” (John 11:34)? They took him out to the dead garden, and there things truly became exciting.  Just for your individual thoughts about coming to a dead garden as Jesus did, let me point out three simple, yet wonderful things about that moment in Jesus’ life. 

The first one is this – Jesus comes to the dead garden.  They thought He was getting there late, but Jesus came to their dead garden and every one of us needs to know that He will come to our dead gardens too.  I know this was Mary and Martha’s brother who died and who had been buried out there.  You too may have lost a loved one and Jesus comes.  There are other things that may have died in your life like a marriage, or a relationship, or a dream that you had about what you wanted to do and become and they all died.  And you have been disturbed by the dead gardens of your life, but He comes.  Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you, He promises that.  He comes to the good times celebrations of life and He comes to the heartbreaks and the dead gardens of life.   He comes. 

The second, and more important truth, is that Jesus changed the dead garden. He not only comes to the dead garden, but when Jesus arrives, everything can be changed.  Impossible things in your life can be changed.  The things that seem impossible to correct or to rectify can be changed.  When Jesus walked into that dead garden in John 11, He said to the folks that were there to take the stone away, the stone that covered the opening of the grave, remove it.  They said we can’t, it wouldn’t be good, he’s been dead too long, there’s nothing to be done, You don’t need to go in there, and the decay in the body has certainly been taking place.  And Jesus said, “Take away the stone” (John 11:39).  Now what they’d never seen before was about to take place, for Jesus would call Lazarus by name and that dead corpse in the dead garden came to life, walked out of the grave with his grave clothes on, and Jesus was not through with him.  He said loose him and let him go.  Let’s get those grave clothes off because life has come to prevail.  Jesus not only comes to us; Jesus changes everything in the dead garden.  He brings life where there was death; He brings gladness where there was gloom, and He turns the pain of the pitiful moments into praise and pleasure from heaven. 

Third, and ultimately the most important, Jesus closes the dead garden. Why do I say that?  Because the Scripture says that in First Corinthians 15, the great resurrection chapter, telling us about life forever.  This Scripture says that Jesus shuts down the dead garden.  Where’s that found you ask?  In First Corinthians 15:26 it is recorded that the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.  For every one of us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord have experienced the wonderful life that is ours now in abundance and ours in eternity forever.  Jesus takes the sting of death away, the dominance of death around us is destroyed, and He closes the dead garden for all of His children.  Won’t that be good?  When you and I will enter into eternity with all of those who know Him who have gone before and all of those who come after us who know Jesus, we shall be together and there will be no more dead garden.  For you see, when you come to know Jesus, the Scripture is so vivid.  What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or sword, almost an endless number of things, nothing can keep us from knowing the love of God in Christ Jesus that gives us life forever and forever.   

For me, I was blessed to hear of the view of a little girl seeing our typical cemetery and thinking it was a dead garden.  For it is, and it will be overcome and set aside and closed because death cannot keep its prey.  Jesus gives us victory over the dead garden.

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer