The Tree of Life
Genesis 2:8-9 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge and good and evil.
Rev. 22:1-6,12-20 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city, also on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Sixth in a Series of Six Sermons
June 1 and 2, 2019
Dear Friends of Christ,
This is the sixth in a series of six Easter season sermons which have focused on the Book of Revelation and the Apostle John’s vision of the end times and what it will be like for God’s people to live face to face with Jesus in eternity. Next Sunday will be the Festival of Pentecost, and we will focus on the World’s Best Counselor, and the Sunday after that, on Father’s Day / Trinity Sunday, we will focus on the World’s Best Father.
Today we focus on the Tree of Life, which we find first of all in the very middle of the Garden of Eden, then on a little hill outside of Jerusalem, and finally on both sides of the river flowing down the middle of the New Jerusalem.
FDR Great Plains Shelterbelt Program
Back in the depression years, my Grandpa Griffin lost the farm on which my dad grew up. And in 1939, when my dad was 19, Grandpa Griffin started over on the farm where I was raised. Just a little ways from our farmhouse was a shelterbelt that included several rows of trees, mainly cottonwoods, if my memory serves correctly. My dad told me at least once that the government had given them all kinds of little trees and that his dad, his brothers, and he had planted them.
I read up on this FDR program this week and found out that between 1935 and 1942, the federal government undertook a major program to plant trees in windbreaks on the Great Plains from North Dakota all the way down to Texas. It was known after 1935 as the Prairie States Forestry Project, and it had several purposes: 1) to put people to work planting trees, 2) to slow wind erosion, 3) to improve the attractiveness of farmsteads, and 4) to provide homes and winter shelter for wild animals and livestock.
One author writes that between 1935 and 1942, 200 million trees and shrubs were planted, and that the project’s success was mixed.
As Pastor Muther would say, I tell you all of that to tell you this – in today’s sermon, we want to focus on God planting the Tree of Life, we want to explore the original purpose of that tree, and most importantly, we look forward to life together in paradise where the tree of life will be yielding fruit every month and whose leaves will be for the healing of the nations, world without end.
Three lessons the Holy Spirit would teach us today about the Tree of Life.
Lesson #1 comes from the original paradise and is this: The Garden of Eden’s Tree of Life never fulfilled its (purpose). All trees have purposes, some more and some less, and the Garden of Eden was no exception. Right after God had breathed into Adam the breath of life, Moses records that He planted a garden, he put the man he had formed in that garden, and he made all kinds of trees to grow for two purposes – they would be pleasing to the eye and they would be good for food.
The purpose of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to give Adam the opportunity of his own free will to obey God. A scholar by the name of John Jeske writes it this way, “In so doing God realized the risk involved, that Adam might choose to disobey him. When Adam came from the hand of his Creator, he was in a state of created innocence. By giving Adam the command not to eat, God was offering him the opportunity to progress from created innocence to conscious holiness. God wanted his highest creature to be holy by choice, not just by accident.”
Martin Luther said this about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, This tree was Adam’s church, his altar, his pulpit. Here he was to yield to God the obedience he owed, to give recognition to the word and will of God, to give thanks to God, and to call upon God for aid against temptation.”
The purpose of the original tree of life was not fulfilled. The scholar Jeske suggests that it would have fulfilled its purpose if Adam and Eve had resisted Satan’s temptation. That the purpose of the tree of life was to confirm Adam and Eve in the possession of physical life. Due to the fact that Adam and Eve fell, and they fell hard into sin, God found it necessary to expel them from the Garden, to place a cherubim with a flaming sword near that tree, and to guard the way to it. If they would have eaten of that tree, it seems as though they would have been confirmed in their sinfulness and lived under the curse of the law world without end.
God’s plan of salvation, of course, was in a different direction. Paul wrote it this way to the Galatians, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Which leads us into Lesson #2.
Lesson #2 comes from Calvary’s cross and is this: The old Jerusalem’s Tree of Life means (no more curse). As you well know, it was at the cross on a little hill outside of Jerusalem that Jesus Christ undid the evil that Adam had done. It was at the cross that the Father turned every bit of his divine wrath on his only son so that our blemished records could be purged, our guilt could be gone, our debts could be cancelled, our souls could be cleansed. Christ redeemed us, as you well know, not with gold nor silver, but with holy precious blood. He paid not with a credit card or a loan at the bank, but with innocent suffering and death.
The kingdom of God is like a young lady who spent ten years plus cursed with a drinking problem. A beautiful Christian soul she was and is, but oh how her drinking in secret caused her troubles in the work place, troubles in her relationships, troubles in her body, troubles in her very soul. By the grace of God and with the help of family and treatment centers, her curse was lifted, a new heart was given, a new life rose up on the inside, and she lives in these days with the joy and the peace and the freedom only Christ can give. She knows what the preacher means when he preaches lesson #2 – “the old Jerusalem’s tree of Life means no more curse.”
Dear Friends in Christ, here and now our sins are forgiven, but in life that is to come, there is no more sin. Here and now, we must fight off the enemies of our faith, but in the life that is to come, there are no more enemies to resist. Here and now, we enjoy the shade and the fruits of trees in one or more seasons of the year, in the life that is to come, we will enjoy what the Tree of Life was intended to give in the first place.
Which brings us to Lesson #3. It comes from our text for today and is this: The New Jerusalem’s Tree of Life provides abundance (beyond imagination). In the very last chapter of the Bible, John sees not two, but only one tree, the tree of life, growing on both sides of the river. In heaven we are confirmed in holiness. We cannot sin, and therefore we cannot die. As the tree of life grows from both sides of the river, eternal life grows forever from grace. At Eden, God placed a cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life, but in heaven we will again have access to this tree.
The tree of life will produce 12 crops of fruit. The number 12 is the number of the church, and the twelve crops signify that the church in glory will be nurtured by the tree of life growing from the river of God’s grace. The tree will provide healing for the nations. All suffering caused by Adam’s fall will be ended.
Recently I read an article about health troubles and human suffering in Los Angeles. Dr. Drew Pinsky was quoted as saying that the public health situation in the nation’s second-largest city is in a complete breakdown of the basic needs of civilization.” First, he talked about tuberculosis exploding as a result of this city not having a rodent control program, and sanitation has broken down. Secondly, he noted that a police officer had contracted typhoid fever, a rare and life threatening illness that few than 350 Americans contract each year. Third, he mentioned that bubonic plague, which killed tens of millions of people during the 14th century is likely to be present in Los Angelos. Fourth he talked about homelessness, about people not wanting to leave the streets, he talked about mental illness and addiction and thousands of illegal immigrants with no health records coming their way, and finally, he declares that he feels like he is living in a Third World city and that the entire population is at risk.
One more time in this Easter season we rejoice that because Jesus Christ rose up from the grave on the third day, so also shall we be alive and well and completely healed into eternity. Together we are on our way to that place where there will be no more homelessness and no more health concerns and no more harmful habits. Together we are on our way through all the ups and downs of this life to a life where there are no more troubles, no more tribulations, and no more trials. On our way we are to a place where we shall be like Christ, we shall see him as he is, his name shall be on our foreheads, and where the Tree of Life will provide for us abundance beyond imagination.
The kingdom of God is like a little church in downtown Los Angeles where the people of God are praying this very day, Come Lord, Jesus. Come quickly. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther