When I am starting this it is Cross-Veneration week in my postings on A Journey through Great Fast (third week of Great Lent) and it started me thinking about the wood of the Cross, and its origin in trees. The word “tree” appears 165 times in the Bible, add another 129 times for “wood” and you have an amazing 294 times (in Greek it’s the same word – ξύλον – xylon). Trees play an important part in the message of the Bible, let’s examine some of those verses:
- Adam and Eve, before the warnings, are given “…every tree with seed in its fruit you shall have for food” as nourishment.
- The greatest of all plants, two trees, receive a prominent place in Eden, “in the midst of the garden the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
- The fall of humanity came about through the tree of knowledge.
- Noah was asked to save humanity by building a boat out of gopher wood.
- When the angels of God visited Abraham they were asked to rest for a while under a tree.
- Abraham planted a Tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba as a thanksgiving offering for granting peace between him and the Philistines.
- Joseph gains the attention of Pharaoh by predicting the release of Pharaoh’s butler, but the hanging of his baker on a tree.
- God used a tree limb (Aaron’s rod) to bring plagues upon Egypt, to part the sea for the Israelite’s to pass, and then to drown Pharaoh’s army behind them.
- We often hear of the manna the Lord provided for the Israelite’s to eat while in the desert, but we forget about the water. On the third day of traveling they came upon the water at Marah they could not drink it because it was bitter. God told Moses to uproot a tree and toss it into the water, immediately the water became sweet.
- A tree was used during the journey to heal the Israelite’s by lifting a serpent up for all to gaze upon.
If we continue through the Old Testament we find time and again when trees appear in stories, parables, and psalms. They are used to bring nourishment, life, and death. In the New Testament Jesus uses the fruit of the tree to teach us about good and bad, “every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit…”, “every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit”, Jesus even curses a fig tree for not bearing fruit.
Is it any wonder that God chose the symbol of a tree, in the form of a cross, to bring back to man that which was lost through the tree of knowledge. The sweet fruit of the cross restores what the bitter fruit of knowledge took away. The knowledge we sought is given to us by knowing the tree of the cross. The healing of the body given to the Israelite’s from the cross in the desert is replaced by the healing of the soul given to us from the cross on Gol’gotha. The Tree of Life, long ago lost to us back in Eden, restored through the eternal life of the tree of the cross.
Yes, indeed, the message of God’s love is carried to us through that oddly shaped Tree of Life and Knowledge – the cross.