Jesus in Eden

Romans 5: 14
… Adam, who is a pattern of the one who was to come.”
Matthew 3-4

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,[e] with whom I am well pleased.”

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’ ”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.


“What did that mean?” Jesus wondered, as he walked back up the mountain, headed home. “What does it mean to be the son of God?”

He knew needed some time to sort it out before he did anything else with his life.

The dove flew back and circled over him as he walked, closer and closer to his head. He tried to wave it away, but it kept circling. He looked up at it, bewildered. Then it stopped circling and flew in the direction of a desert mountain. He walked in that direction, and the dove came back to him, guiding him on his way. When he got to a spot with a view to the east, high above the Jordan Valley, the dove landed on a stone. “This must be the spot,” Jesus concluded, and sat down. Then the dove flew high and away to the east.

There he sat, facing the stone, for forty days and nights. “What does it mean to be the son of God?” The question haunted him from sunup to sundown, from moonrise to moonset, as he sat facing the stone, with a vista of the desert beyond it.

“Does this mean I’m omnipotent and omniscient? Am I the king of the universe? The captain of the cosmos? If I am El Shaddai, I can make that stone float in the air,” he thought. He spent a week trying to order the stone to move, but it just sat there. The more he thought about it, the less he could tell if the stone was a separate stone sitting on top of a knob on the mountain, or if it was attached to the knob, part of the mountain itself. Was that why it wouldn’t move? So for the next week, over and over, he ordered the whole mountain to rise up into the sky. That didn’t work either. Perhaps he wasn’t succeeding simply because he wasn’t acting Godlike enough. And besides, he was getting a bit thirsty. So for another week, he kept ordering the sky to produce clouds to rain so hard it would raise the level of the Jordan River high enough to reach the spot where he was sitting. Nothing happened: not a single cloud floated above him.

For most of the fourth week, he sat in despair and confusion, addled further by the searing heat of the sun. Nothing moved, nothing changed. The rock, whether it was part of the knob or not, just sat there. “What is the point of existing? Why am I here? If I’m the son of God, shouldn’t it be obvious what I should do next?” No answers, no direction, came to him.

Was he delirious? Had he gone mad from thirst and starvation? He began to stare at the rock very intently. Not to move it, for he had abandoned that goal. Not to figure out whether it was attached to the mountain or not, for he had given up his conflicting opinions about it. It dawned on him that he should do nothing more or less than stare at the rock, and let whatever happened or didn’t happen be what it was. Let the rock be what it was, not what he thought it was, or wanted it to be. Just gaze at the rock. So he gazed, for days. A judgment about the rock would arise in his mind, and he’d observe the judgment until it dissipated. A fantasy about its origins would arise, and he’d study the fantasy until it evaporated. On and on he stared, on and on he abandoned his opinions and intentions and assumptions.

Until, to his own amazement, he abandoned himself, and became one with the rock and the cosmos that surrounded it. He became one with the One, one with the Divine, one with the same “I Am” that Moses encountered in the desert. He was liberated from attachment to space and time, roaming through them freely. All the way to the land of Eden, far away and long ago.

There, he wandered in a lush and delightful garden, eating delicious fruit from its trees and plants when he was hungry, drinking pure, cool water from the streams that surrounded it. He had become one with Adam, and as Adam he knew exactly what it was like to be God’s son. He felt his divine parent’s adoring, loving presence all around him, all the time. He had no questions. No doubts. No need of goals or purposes, no need to sort out what to do with his life, because he was living it, in harmony with the nature that surrounded him and extended beyond into infinity.

For a time beyond time, he savored the bliss of Eden. Until abruptly he sensed, powerfully, that God was disturbed. It came to him as if a voice speaking: “I am lonely. I created you to be my companion, but you are a mere mortal, not my equal. I love you, but I cannot be intimate with you because I am the Almighty ruler of the universe.” Jesus, as Adam, fell into despair. The close presence he had felt now seemed far away, and he began to feel lonely himself.

“I’m going to need some time, probably a lot of time, to sort this out, Adam. So the least I can do, in the meantime, is give you a companion, equal to yourself, to console the loneliness I have caused you.” God offered all the animals in Eden to him, one by one, to name them and to let him pick among them to be his companion. But none satisfied Adam, not even the serpent, with his smooth skin and clever conversation. Adam’s loneliness persisted. So as Adam slept, God fashioned Eve out of his body, and when he awoke, there she was – his partner. And Jesus, as Adam, was once again in bliss, the new-found bliss of human love, in its spiritual and carnal forms. They made love under the Tree of Life. They made love under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God, lonely, observing their passionate romance, felt a pang of jealousy, and from it, decided to set limits for Adam and Eve. God told them not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent, who was jealous because he had been passed over by Adam as his companion, got revenge by tempting Eve to eat from that tree, and to offer its fruit to Adam. Jesus, as Adam, had forgotten the limit that God had set, and ate the fruit. Both he and Eve suddenly gained new insight and wisdom, but with it came their eviction from the Garden of Eden by God. They had to cross the river that formed the Garden’s boundary, and in the instant that they waded to the other side, Jesus woke up and found himself in the Jordan desert again, staring at the rock.

And wrapped around the base of the rock was the serpent, its head aimed at him, its unblinking eyes staring into his.

“Oh, it’s you again, eh? We’ve been through this temptation thing already. I’m wise to your game now, so don’t bother,” said Jesus.

“Oh yeah,” said the serpent, “you ate fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, didn’t you?”

“Yes, so I know better than to listen to you now.”

“But where’s that fruit now? If you’re so smart, New Adam, you wouldn’t be so hungry now, would you? But maybe you forgot that you are the son of God, one with the All-Mighty. I’m here to help you unlock your supernatural potential. You can turn this stone to bread,” said the serpent, flicking its forked tongue at him.

“If I can’t move it, I can’t turn it into bread,” answered Jesus.

“Sick of sitting here, staring at this rock?”

“I’ve probably had enough of it.”

“Well then, I’ll give you a better view! I’ll put you on the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and you can leap from it and not be injured.”

“The view in Eden was better than anything Jerusalem has to offer,” answered Jesus. “If you wanted me to admire good scenery, why did you arrange for me to be kicked out of the Garden?”

“Well, son of God, all your efforts to move the rock and the mountain and the clouds came to nothing, eh? God sent me to you, to unleash your superpowers. Go with my program and I’ll give you all the power and all the kingdoms of the world,” said the serpent with a hiss.

“Like you say, I’m the son of God. I’m already one with God, and God is one with me. So if I don’t have supernatural power, there’s no reason a mere serpent should be able to deliver it.”

Jesus was shocked by his own words. Jesus felt overwhelming compassion and sympathy for God. He felt God’s suffering in the Garden, empathized with God’s deep loneliness. In Eden, Jesus as Adam didn’t feel his way into God’s unhappiness, but now he could. And through Jesus’ love, as he sat in the desert, God’s dilemma in the Garden of Eden was finally resolved. God’s loneliness was over. Through Jesus, the new Adam, God gave up being supernatural, gave up being omnipotent, gave up being omniscient. Because being superior to everything and everybody was the cause of God’s suffering.

Jesus’ eyes were God’s eyes, and God’s eyes were his. His compassion for God’s loneliness was God’s compassion for him. His love for God was God’s love for him. They were one. God had become no less and no more than omnipresent, unconditional, universal love.

The serpent was gone. The forty days and nights were completed. Jesus knew, down to his bones, that his life’s purpose was to spread divine love to all humankind.

Three angels, taking the form of men looking for beehives among the boulders and caves of the desert mountain, walked around the rock. Encountering Jesus, emaciated and thirsty, they offered him water and honey. He thanked them, and reinvigorated, he started his walk back over the mountain to begin his mission.




Pastor, United Church of Christ, Simi Valley CA

Executive Director, Progressive Christians Uniting/ZOE: Progressive Christian Life on Campus


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