“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging Him on a cross.” Acts 5:30
A mere 1/2 acre is what our small home sits on. Yet, in this tiny corner of the world, we have full grown pine trees that seem to reach all the way up to Heaven. We have lilies that peek in through our bedroom window, and purple irises which light up our front yard in the early summer. Sometimes, when I walk out onto our deck, I feel as if we own our own forest. Cedar wax wing birds live here, and little yellow birds like to greet our sweet cat through the windows as they eat seed from the feeder. And as I begin to see all of these living things come back, springing green and fresh from the ground, and hatching fresh and new from their nests…I know that I can take no credit for any of it.
Mine were not the hands that planted those flower seeds, and I was not the gardener who grew those tall pines. These things, these living things, which pop back up year after year, from roots older than I am, come back new and vibrant….even though in the winter months they appear as dead.
Jesus had roots too, you know. Scripture talks about the root of Jesse, and Jesus calls Himself the vine. His Spiritual tree is rooted entirely in the Father, and His mortal family tree goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden. His human life is rooted all the way back in that tree that we chose to eat from…the tree that would someday become His cross.
Today, I’ve thought a lot about that cross. The symbolism will always blow me away. I have been thinking of how that cross made of wood was once a seed, and then how from that seed sprouted a green chute, and how after it popped up, tender and green, it grew. For years it continued to grow. Until, one day, someone came along and chopped it down. And its life seemed to have ended…but its purpose still had not.
“And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
I was thinking how that tree, the one where Jesus would be lifted high, was entirely linked to that first tree in the Garden of Eden, the one we ate from. The one we chose over the tree of life. And how fitting it seems, that through the fruit of one tree that brought into the world death…so our Savior would become the fruit of another tree, that would remove death from the world. And how He would tell us, “Take and eat. This is my body, given up for you.”
The tree that lifted Jesus high, was rooted physically in the world, like us…but its spiritual roots were tied to our sin.
We have roots too. And like the roots of a tree, ours are very often tangled and deep. Our roots grow old, and yet as we age we seem to experience new life out of them. There are parts of our roots that bring us joy, that seem to resuscitate us. And then there are parts that are too strongly knotted, and they cause other parts of us to die. This is because unlike Jesus, our roots are not always found in the Father. Instead, we find ourselves rooted in pride, in greed, in pain, in disappointment, and in sin.
When we chose to eat of that tree in the Garden of Eden, we chose to allow our roots to wander off, to grow into territory that wasn’t meant for us. And so we find ourselves looking for fertile soil in places we cannot flourish, in places our roots simply can’t hold onto. Our sin has caused our own hearts to become a tangled mess. And so when that tree that would become the cross was cut down…maybe a part of our own broken world was cut down too.
Good Friday feels like winter to our souls. It’s when the world feels at its darkest. It was when God literally withheld the sun, and turned away His face…for one brief moment. So that we would feel the magnitude of what it meant to be without Him. Our Jesus, nailed to a tree that grew from our tangled roots and that died in our tangled mess, was lifted high amidst our broken world and our tattered lives.
But in three days, friends…Jesus will rise. His body, planted low in a grave, will shoot out of it. That tree that ran red with His blood and that bore witness and an active part in His death, will become our pathway to the tree of Life. Our winter, will become spring.
Because Jesus shares His roots with us. He has weeded out our gardens. He has untangled and unknotted that which we could not undo ourselves. He has become for us a river of Life….and by His wounds we are healed.
“I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:1-4
Our roots are no longer grounded in this temporary world. Because of Jesus, who sprung up for us, our roots are now founded in the ancient and in the eternal. We get to return to the Garden of God. We get to be rejoined with our Maker. We get to walk with Him in the cool of the day. And the Lord God will be our Light.
Don’t you see, friends? Everything about our life story can be found in the Garden of God. In the Garden we lived and then we fell. In the Garden, grew our free will. And in the Garden, grew the Cross.
Jesus’ life story is rooted in the Garden too. I see it made evident in the imagery scripture uses to describe Him and in the way He portrays Himself as the vine. And as He walks through the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night He was betrayed, I see it again, all too clearly. Our sin began in a Garden…and in a Garden is where it would meet its end.
Go to dark Gethsemane, all who feel the tempter’s pow’r. Your Redeemer’s conflict see. Watch with Him one bitter hour; Turn not from His griefs away; Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.
Early hasten to the tomb, Where they laid His breathless clay; All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken him away? Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes. Savior, teach us so to rise.
Go to Dark Gethsemane, by James Montgomery (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal)