07 April 2012

The Birth of a Tree

Holy Saturday 

Jesus is entombed, like a seed in the ground. He himself said that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Fascinating, the way big things get their start from such inauspicious beginnings. Take, for example, a Redwood tree. If we were to give the seed of a Redwood to a man who had never seen the breathtaking height of the full-grown tree, he would never be able to predict just what would grow out of the little acorn he held in his hand.

So much of what we know about the world comes not by looking at the seed of things and then projecting into the future what will break out from them, but by watching things happen, and then thinking backward until we can see just how they could come from such strange beginnings.

Who would ever guess, if they had never seen a tree, what would become of the little acorn? Every arborist who ever lived, every student of the nature of trees started by looking at a fully grown specimen, and then worked back to understand how it grew from the seed.

So it is with the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No one living in Jesus’ day ever thought that God’s Messiah would be shamefully crucified, die the death of the accursed, and then, in the middle of history, be raised from the dead.

But why? Why did they not know? Because all they had was the seed. They had the acorn of this tree in the prophecies of the Old Testament, in scriptures like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. But even though they had this seed, they had never seen the tree, and so they could not picture what would grow up from the ground.

Nobody knew what would come of the seed, nobody that is, except the seed itself: the word incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ. Before this seed ever died, he knew what tree he was destined to become. This is why Jesus referred to Isaiah 53 when he said that he did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. And this is why he cried out with the opening refrain of Psalm 22 from the cross,

Eloi, Eloi... 
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

He knew that in his death, he was the seed, the same seed pictured in those prophecies, and that from his death would grow the promised tree: the kingdom of salvation.

Let us consider the words of the Scriptural seeds. Let us quiet our hearts and look back with our minds as those who have seen the tree, and wonder that it should have grown from such a disheartening inception as the death of our Lord.


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