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Two Men in the Garden
I find myself there too.
Sam O'Neal | posted 4/12/2011
 2 of 2

An Ancient Garden

The events recorded in Matthew 26:36-56 also highlight this duality present in human nature. It's the story of the garden called Gethsemane.

Jesus was in that garden, of course, and was the most important person in the history of the world; the best person who has ever lived. In his perfection he poured out his soul to God the Father—preparing himself for his harrowing journey through the thorns, the whips, the beatings, the nails, the cross, the sins of the world.

Peter was in the garden, too, as well as James and John. But it's Peter that I focus on when I think about that moment. Peter, with his ambitions of greatness and buffoonish pride. Peter, who three times failed to pray with Jesus and take part in that glorious moment because he fell asleep. Peter, who in just a few hours would deny the man he had dedicated his life to follow, even though he'd been warned it was going to happen.

There were two men in the garden. One represented what human beings were meant to be, created in the image of a perfect God. The other represented what all of us have become.

A Gift for Everyone

We know what happened to Jesus after he was dragged away from that garden. He was slandered publically. He suffered terribly. He was drowned in our sin and cut off from his Father. He died. He endured all of this willingly, even though he had the power to walk away.

And then he lived again, bursting back into the world and offering all of us a chance to get rid of our sin and be clean, like him—a chance to choose life over death and join him in that White City called the kingdom of God.

The wonderful news is that we also know what happened to Peter after he left the garden. Yes, he denied Jesus three times, hitting rock bottom with a thud (as we all do). But he recognized it. He wept. He understood the difference between Jesus and himself.

And when Jesus came back, Peter was one of the first people to understand what kind of gift the Savior was offering. Peter was one of the first people to accept that gift—"Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you"—and he became something new. Someone new.

For me, Peter's story is the beauty of Easter. That scene in the garden reminds me of what I used to be—a total failure in terms of what God created me to be, and totally unaware of it. To use Erik Larson's words, I was "a harbinger of a human archetype, the sinner."

But the resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter morning—and what it meant for someone like Peter—reminds me of what I have since become. I am changed. I am new. And I am so grateful.

—Sam O'Neal is Managing Editor of

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