I love trees. Every year we go for a walk in the woods in the Spring time and I love looking a the trees. I love to see how they stand there completely naked, tall, reaching up to the skies, soaking up every little ray of sunshine. I love seeing the buds and the new life springing and filling each single branch with new green leaves.
I never knew how many shades of green existed in nature until I moved to the UK and watched in amazement the lush display of the vegetation in this country. So many different shades of green from the lightest hint to the darkest one. So beautiful.
The last time we were walking in the woods, I noticed some trees were down. We had some very windy storms that year and they did not survive the battering. They were probably already dead and hollow. These trees will probably just be left there to rot as their wood is crumbly and not of much use. There were some that might have been struck by lightning and the wood can still be repurposed. Somewhere a nice table or maybe a lovely rocking chair will be fashioned. They might be cut for fire wood or made into floor boards. In the past, in some cultures, they were made into crosses.
Today is Good Friday and we spent some time thinking about a tree. Well, it was referred to as a tree in the Bible (1 Peter 2:24). This particular one wasn’t a tree we would have liked to contemplate, paint, take photos of, or even write about. This was a cursed tree.
The Jewish people would know that anyone who died on a tree (cross) would be under God’s curse. They would have been familiar with Deuteronomy 21:22-23
22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
So when Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 9:34-35), the promised King (John 4:24-25), the Creator of all things (John 1:1-5), died on a cross (tree) for you and for me, all those who were watching knew, as they hurled insults at Him, that He was dying a criminal’s death.
The most amazing thing about this death, this tree, is that Jesus himself knew, exactly what was happening and why it needed to happen.
This story did not begin with this cursed tree. It began a long time before this very sad day in the history of humanity. It took place in a garden by another tree when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s word (Genesis 2:15-17). In rebellion they took the fruit of the tree God had told them not to eat (Genesis 3:1-7) and in doing so, they were sent away from God’s presence. Their lives, and the lives of every human, ever since, were tarnished by sin. The perfect relationship with God had been broken and no matter how hard they tried and we tried, nothing could make a way for us to get back to God.
But there in the same garden, God revealed to Adam and Eve His perfect plan to save them and bring His children back to Him. When God cursed the Serpent He said in Genesis 3:15
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[e] and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
A descendant of Adam and Eve would be victorious over the Serpent and would bring mankind back to God. Jesus is that man. God sent His Son to live among humans. Not as a “divine being” but as fully human. Jesus experienced every thing a human does. He lived the perfect life that Adam could not live, the perfect life that I cannot live. None of us can. Jesus did. There was no sin in Him. No wrong. Not only that, He died the death that all of us deserve. Every human being rejects God and rebels against Him. Even the “good” ones (according to human standards). See Romans 3:9-18. We all want to rule over our own lives (and other people’s). We all want to be the god in our hearts. Jesus did not. He chose to die for us. He knew He was going to experience the cursed tree and, in deed the curse of being separated from His Father (Mark 15:33-35).
That cursed tree should have been mine. But Jesus took it instead. He hung there, so I could live. Have you ever thought about this tree? This cross? Yes, the one that was supposed to be yours? Have you ever thought about how much love Jesus must have for you to choose to die your death (John 3:16)?
As we reflect this weekend about Jesus and his death on this cursed tree, do not let it pass you buy. Pay great attention to all you hear about Jesus and the salvation He offers you (Hebrews 2:1-4). Consider Jesus. He loves you. He died for you and for those who believe He gives the right to be children of God (John 1:12).
God bless and don’t forget: the story of this cursed tree does not finish on the Friday. Sunday is coming!