It was late. I needed to sleep but couldn’t get my brain to agree with my body. It’s become that thing that I do. Go to bed and not sleep. Lately, my brain’s aversion to sleep has been leading me to the secret place and middle of the night sessions with the Holy Spirit. This night was that kind of night.
Suddenly, a picture showed up in my mind. A tree. Large, lush, very green, and full of fruit. It was the tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
And then I saw the cross and Jesus hanging on it. And suddenly, scriptures came across the screen of my mind.
“Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” – John 6:53
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed.” – Galatians 3:13
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” – Philippians 3:10-11
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
And these thoughts pole vaulted into my brain –
The cross is now our tree of life, and Jesus is the fruit of that tree.
We no longer have access to that original tree of life. The one that came without suffering. The one that required no death.
Ours is a different tree.
We must be reminded of this tree and what it means, beyond “Jesus died for my sins”. We must take of the fruit of this tree in order to know life. We must partake of what Jesus suffered so that we too can obtain His resurrection.
For most of us, our suffering looks different than His. None of the people in my immediate circle, or in any of the circles near me, are being killed for the gospel. But there is certainly that suffering taking place in other parts of the world, and for those ones I pray Godspeed and mercy.
But here, in my world, there are other sufferings, as the death to our flesh is called for on a daily basis. A laying down of our own will in order to fulfill the will of the Father. A death to dreams and wants and our 5-year plan for our lives. The tearing down of idols that seems unending as the light continues to expose what has been hidden in us. A giving of ourselves when we would rather keep, remaining when we would rather leave, being emptied of our own selves so that we can be continually filled with Spirit of God.
Letting mercy triumph over judgment in our own hearts toward those around us. Giving grace that hasn’t been earned. Showing compassion, not just for the least of these, but for those who are against us. Speaking mercy instead of condemnation. Dropping stones that feel like justice in our hands.
Please tell me you’re getting this, because I can on all day.
The cross is not just the place Jesus died a long, long time ago. It is where we die every single day. It is our tree of life.
And I have said all of that, to say this:
Oh, what a God! He looked through time and knew that we would go astray. Knew we would leave Him and claim our lives as our own. So He made a way before we even knew we needed one.
When He set flaming swords in front of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, He knew there would be another tree, in the fullness of time, and it would bring eternal life to all who would partake of its fruit.
To taste the suffering of the cross is to taste the redemption of the tree of life.
I find it all a little mind-blowing.