Because we refused to live under God’s rule, God drove humanity out of the garden of Eden. Though we lost Paradise, we’ve never lost the memory of Paradise. Every human longs to get back to the garden of Eden, whether they realize it or not. Our desires, intentions, and longings betray us. We want the world to be perfect; we ache for happiness; we weep for justice. We’ve lost it, but the secret mission of our lives is to find it.
Here’s the problem, “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden, he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). Once we refused to live under God’s rule, God drove us out of Paradise, blocking any hope of a return. I want to point out three parts of this story. First, the way back into the garden is blocked by a sword, moving back and forth. Second, we are kept from a tree. Third, when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they were naked.
With just these three simple facts, we’re able to discover the solution we’ve been waiting our whole lives to find. In order to return to Paradise, we’ve got to get through the cutting sword. Though this is impossible for us, it was not impossible for him. God sent his Son Jesus into our “east of Eden” and Jesus threw himself onto the sword, being cut down for us. Here’s what’s recorded in John’s gospel, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). It’s not just a grand historical coincidence that Jesus was cut by a sword.
Again, when Jesus was pierced by the spear, he was hanging on a tree, a euphemism for the Roman cross. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24). The cross is our tree of life, our source of healing.
Again, when Jesus was pierced by a sword on a tree, he was naked. Matthew’s gospel records, “And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him” (Matthew 27:28). In order to maximize the humiliation of the criminal, the Romans would crucify them naked. All of our pictures of Jesus on the cross wearing a white linen are most likely wrong, though well intended. Jesus was most likely naked on the cross, having been stripped by the soldiers.
Sword. Tree. Naked. God’s solution for us to get through the sword, so that we can return to the tree of life, and the innocence of Eden (for that’s what nakedness symbolizes), is Jesus.
Jesus is our solution.
© Samuel Kee, 2012