Paradise Found

“Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  (Luke 23:43)

Expulsion and restoration: these are the bookends of Scripture.

Like Adam and Eve, we are cast out of the Garden.  Rather than rejoicing at what we have, we are tempted to be satisfied only when we obtain what we crave.  We pursue the one thing we should leave alone and our lives are made miserable.  We are expelled from Eden.  Paradise lost.  We are outside the Garden and we yearn to be restored to its blissful splendor.

Once we are on the other side — the outside — looking in, we see what we miss.  We want to return, but we cannot find the way.  Grief overtakes us.  Anger blinds us.  Discouragement crushes us.

On the brink of giving up all hope, we then hear someone say, “Follow me.”

Jesus comes to show us the Way back to Paradise.  “Follow me,” he says at the beginning of his ministry.  “Follow me,” he says at the end.  Jesus is the Way.

There is at least one person who believes him unequivocally.  When Jesus is on the Cross, one of the criminals being executed alongside him says, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus responds by saying, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”   

The culmination of Jesus’ ministry is the return to Paradise.  Jesus will lead us back to the Garden.

Is it any wonder that Mary Magdalene, when she encounters the Risen Lord, presumes him to be the gardener!  Jesus is the Gardener.  He wants to show us how to re-enter the Garden.  His desire is to show us the Way back to Paradise.

All we have to do is follow.

Laurie A. McNeill is a member of Hudson River Presbytery and she serves as the Pastor of yoked congregations in Highland and Marlboro, New York.

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