Trees play a big part in the Bible. I have been thinking about this since hearing about Saturday’s tragic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, an awful act of hatred and violence against the Jewish community. Monday’s shooting at Butler High School in Charlotte was another frightening and sad situation this week that has many asking “Why?”
I am struck by the name of the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Tree of Life. After God exhaled into the dust and made our ancestors Adam and Eve, God gave them free reign. Nothing in all of Creation was off limits for them! Well, except one thing. There was this one tree, called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, about which God made special instructions. Do not eat it! “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die” we read in Genesis 2:17.
Talk about a powerful tree! It changed the course of history. Once Adam and Eve plucked fruit from this tree and ate it, the beautiful harmony and order that had filled the earth was shattered. Some say, “what’s the big deal about gobbling up some fruit from a tree?”
God cares because it was here that Adam and Eve first refused to obey a direct command from God. It is as if they said, “We hear you God, but we think we know better than you. Eating this fruit seems right to us!” Sin enters the picture after Adam and Eve make their decision, and now God has to keep them from eating ANOTHER tree. It’s called the Tree of Life (see Genesis 3:22, 24) Eating from the Tree of Life is what enables people to live forever. God knew that Adam and Eve, now in a sinful, fallen state, were not ready for eternity or worthy of it. None of us are.
So who or what can get us back to the Tree of Life? Jesus does. Jesus does by coming to earth and embracing ALL people with God’s love even to the point of being crucified. And it’s the cross that becomes the tree of life for all of us. The cross of Jesus is the way you and I have our sins forgiven and receive the life-giving Spirit. It’s where we find the hope of eternal life. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “Jesus personally carried our sins in his body on the tree so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.” Because of the cross, God has made a promise that good already has overcome evil, love has overturn hate, and life swallows up death.
It’s why the author of Revelation, the very last book of the Bible, sees not one but two Trees of Life in God’s Kingdom. “On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing crops of fruit…the leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations” (22:2)
While our nation grieves the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue, be reminded that Jesus has given you and me medicine for healing:
Is there someone in the Jewish community you can call or write to offer support?
Could you spend some time today praying for peace (Hebrew: Shalom)?
Who has God placed in your life that needs the medicine of God’s love today?
Jesus has opened the way to the Tree of Life again. Come and eat!
Peace, Pastor Drew