George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Garden and the Cross
In the place where he was crucified there was a garden--Joh 19:41
The Proximity of the Cross and the Garden
To a deep-seeing eye like that of John, this proximity was more than a coincidence. John felt that there was an inward harmony between the garden and the cross. The cross was the crowning service of Christ's life. It was love going to the uttermost. It was the final and voluntary sacrifice for the salvation and service of the world. And to John it was no mere coincidence that in the place of that supreme surrender there should be the fragrance and the blossoming of flowers. One might have thought to find a desert there. One might have counted on a bleak and dreary scene. What struck the mystical eye of the apostle was that everything was the opposite of that. Christ died. He gave Himself for men. He poured out His life in full surrender--and in the place where all this happened was a garden.
There Is Always a Garden When We Share in the Self-Surrender of Our Lord
So do we touch the profound truth that John, in the spirit of poetry, is hinting at. He hints that there always is a garden when we share in the self-surrender of our Lord. Let any man deny himself, let him willingly lay down his life for others, let him surrender what is dearest to him in the self-abandonment of love, and the strange thing is that everything grows beautiful, and the flowers begin to blossom at his feet in a way they never did before. It seems to be a hard, bleak life, the life of a continuous self-denial. It seems to rob one of self-realization and of many a sweet thing which is the gift of God; but John saw it was entirely otherwise. Live for self, and you move into a wilderness. Sooner or later the scenery grows desolate. The music goes; the fragrance disappears; the world grows cold and meaningless and ugly. Live for others; give yourself for others; lose your life for the sake of those who need you; and in the place where you are crucified there is a garden.
Joy Seekers Are Unhappy
One might think of daily work a moment, for work, to many, is uncongenial drudgery. It is hard to be tied to counter or to desk when the voices of the bigger world are calling. To feel that one is missing things always brings an ache into the soul. And there are multitudes, chained to their day's drudgery, who have the restless feeling that they are missing things. What a wonderful difference it would make to them, burdened with their daily crucifixion, if they would write this text upon their hearts. I was talking to a doctor once who practices on the Riviera. Most of his patients are the kind of people who spend their lives following the sun. And when I asked him if such folk were happy, he answered in words I never can forget: "Happy! They're the most miserable people on God's earth." We are not here to follow the sun. We are here to follow Christ. We are not here to do just what we like. We are here to do just what we ought. Did not Wordsworth say of the man who does his duty, "Flowers laugh before him in their beds"? When we do our bit we never miss the best. The road to the garden always lies that way. Sometimes it seems a daily crucifixion, especially in the leafy months of summer. But sooner or later do we all discover what the eye of John was quick to note, that in the place where He was crucified there was a garden.
Cross-Bearers Find Themselves in a Garden
Or, once again, we think of cross-bearing, for cross-bearing is a universal thing. Every life has the shadow it must enter, and every life the cross that it must bear. Now sometimes it is very hard to bear the cross. There are seasons when we are tempted to rebel. If our cross were gone, how happy might we be. Life would be like "a melody in tune." Yet who can look on life and watch its issues and follow the track of patient cross-bearing without discovering that the flinty track is God's appointed road into the garden? I knew a girl who was left motherless. She had to be mother to the younger children. And sometimes she was tempted to grow bitter, for it meant stern self-surrender every day. But the children have grown up and call her blessed now, and they enfold her with loving admiration, and in the place where she was crucified there is a garden.
Self-Denial Is the Way to Joy
Lastly, one's thoughts turn to the Christian life, for the Christian life is never easy. I always distrust things that are too easy, especially a too easy Christianity. Strait is the gate and narrow is the way. If thy right hand offend thee, cut if off. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh. Is that an easy life? One might well think that such a life as that would be a desolate and dreary business, and there are many who shun it on that score. What! Surrender up my life with its freedoms and its sweet and secret pleasures? Turn my days into an arid desert where no passion-flowers can ever grow? But the strange thing is that with the great surrender there comes gladness, and birds begin to sing, and every common flower takes new beauty. Self-surrender is the road to service. Self-denial is the way to song. To be made captive by the Lord Jesus Christ is to have the freedom of the universe. Then one goes back to this quiet word of John and begins to understand the depth of it--in the place where He was crucified there was a garden.
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