From the Garden to the City,
Trees along the way
(c) Copyright 2007 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Have you ever asked yourself, why did Jesus have to die on a cross? Why did he have to die the cruellest way that the Roman empire could imagine? If we understand that he had to die for our sins, once and for all, could he not have just died of old age? Why the pain, the humiliation, the tearing of muscles and tendons, the progressive suffocation of the cross.
Scripture gives an answer to that question in Galatians 3 as we in this Lenten season notice that scripture has something profound to say about those who hand on trees. The fact that Jesus was hung on a tree makes a profound difference on our religion.
Paul highlights in his very first verse: Christ was clearly portrayed to us as crucified. Jesus was hung on a tree. And the reason Jesus was hung on a tree has everything to do with covenant - a covenant which goes all the way back to the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. You may remember that trees were witnesses to the covenant God made with Abraham. The covenant I am referring to is the covenant with Israel and Moses. The covenant was basically this. Obey all the laws and commandments I am giving you this day and you will be blessed. Disobey my commandments and a curse will come after you and hound you until you have paid the full price for your disobedience.
"All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you."
The picture we get from the scripture is that we might choose to disobey the Lord, and we might do all within our power to avoid the consequences of breaking the law of God but in time, the consequences will find us out.
People think they can get away with breaking God's laws but in truth, God's laws are just like the law of gravity we might want to break the law of gravity by stepping off of a cliff but in fact we don't break the law rather, we demonstrate the law and sooner or later we hit bottom.
Scripture uses a number of images to portray this. It tells us that as we sow seeds to unrighteousness, they will grow up and overtake us. And it seems the longer it takes, the worse the consequences tend to be.
We must first of all recognize that God's law is always enforced. We cannot sin without consequences.
Don't know about you, but I find driving one of the best illustrators in my life that teaches me about my own attitudes with regard to the law. I find in my own heart that if I can get away with it I will tend to disrespect the laws of our province. May not be your case, but I've noticed it in me. Say your driving one of British Columbia’s back highways far away from any town, the sun has just risen you know that every local police officer is probably at home sleeping the morning away, there is no one else of on the road. There is such a temptation to let the law go, speed substantially, get home a little quicker, disrespect it because you know that there is no one there to enforce it. We realized unconsciously that the law is nothing unless it is enforced in some way. And regretfully, we all too often behave as though we believe that the Law of God will not be enforced. The truth is, it will always be enforced. Jesus said not a jot or even the smallest mark of the law will disappear.
God's law too would be nothing if it was not monitored and enforced. God's law, though, set in place by God is something that we cannot afford to ignore because it is an enforced law. Galatians 3:18 says "the law was put into effect through angels by a mediator." The mediator is Moses whom God used to establish his covenant with Israel and the angels are exactly that they are the policemen of God's law, they are the ones who work out the practical dynamics of blessing those who obey and bring the curse upon those who disobey. They make sure that our misbehaviours will come back to bowl us over. Thus the angels or powers and authorities have according to scripture a very legal function they enforce the law of God. They prosecute those who disobey making sure the just punishment for breaking the law comes upon those who deserve it until the full price is paid. Thus in Deuteronomy 28, Israel is warned that if they disobey the law, the curse of the law will overcome them and it will pursue them until it catches them. That text is simply the principalities and powers doing their jobs.
Questions is what happens when by faith, we believe in Jesus Christ and our sins are forgiven what kind of transaction takes place so we are no longer under the laws prosecution or the curse of the law.
The message of this Lord's day and
Galatians chapter 3:18 is that Christ died on the cross accursed of God
so that he might be cursed in our place take on himself the full
consequences of our disobedience so that we might instead inherit God's
This passage is saying to us that he took upon himself all the judgement, the consequences of breaking God's law, he bore the full extend of the curse on our behalf and the very fact that he, the faultless son of God died on a tree is evidence to the fact that he was accursed because he bore the curse for us.
Martin Luther in his commentary on Galatians says this truth very well.
"Our most merciful
father, seeing that we were oppressed and overwhelmed with the curse of
the law, the consequences of our disobedience, and knowing at the same
time that we could never be set free from that curse in our own power,
sent his only Son into the world and laid on him the sins of all men
We could make Luther’s
list much longer...
And so he died on a cross to prove to us that he bore our sins on a tree. For that time, he was me, he was you, and the consequence of our sin brought his death. He paid it all for us in our place!
If you understand that this
evening, listen once again to Colossians 2:13-15
The truth is that God's law will be enforced and on the cross it was enforced against Christ on our behalf. On the cross, justice was done! All the things that the prosecution had against us, the principalities the angels that enforce his law all that they had against us was absorbed by Christ on the cross. Their charges were eliminated paid for. All their weapons against the people of God removed because Christ died on a cross accursed, the written code is cancelled.
The power of the curse against us has been broken now we by faith in Christ are free to inherit all the blessing promised to Abraham. We will look at this theme more extensively when we come to the beginnings of the new City on Pentecost Sunday.
Since Christ died condemned, since we have been joined to him by faith and thus justified, listen to Romans 8
There is therefore now no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus because through Jesus Christ, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering."
What then shall we say in
response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did
not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not
also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any
charge against those who God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who
is he that condemns. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ...
no not even the powers, demons or angels can separate us from his love.
the Garden to the City - Trees Along the Way
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.