Maybe when you started reading my Notes three days back you were thinking, “what on earth is he doing writing about trees?” Well, we saw Adam and Eve hiding amongst the trees in the Garden of Eden after they fell into sin. Genesis 3 tells us what they did when God approached them after their fall … “they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” Sin prevents one from wanting anything to do with God. Then we saw Zacchaeus up in a tree to get a good view of the Lord Jesus as He passed by. He had heard about Jesus and just through hearing wanted to know about Jesus and this led to his conversion. Yesterday we saw Nathaniel under a fig tree. Most likely he was sitting in the shade reading the Law and praying. Jesus knew exactly what type of man he was, sincere and serious about the things of God. He also saw where he was. After meeting Jesus, Jesus told him He had seen him under the fig tree … resulting in him identifying Jesus as the Son of God
John 1:49 “you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel”
and leading to his salvation.
The fourth tree to consider is not often seen by us as a tree, yet it was on a tree that Jesus was crucified. In Acts chapter 5, some of the apostles were arrested for preaching Jesus (the Gospel) by the high priest and his associates (5:17-18). That night whilst in jail an angel of the Lord freed them instructing them to preach the Gospel at the temple courts (5:19-20). After being found … we read:
Ac 5:27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
To the high priest’s repeated instruction not to preach “Jesus”, the apostles not only refused to obey, they literally preached the Gospel to the high priest in verses 30-31. They preach the resurrection, death, glorification plus the promise of salvation. More … they accuse the high priest directly for Jesus’ murder … on a tree … that is on a Cross. The Cross is made of a vertical and a horizontal beam of wood. As the wooden beams came from a tree and would have been a rough cut, constructed into a Cross, it’s easy to see how it could be labeled a tree. (Just as a reminder, the Cross, though called such, was actually a vertical beam planted in the ground with a horizontal beam fitted on top of the vertical beam. Its shape was that of a “T”.)
Peter who is the only apostle to be named in this passage also wrote to his congregation in 1 Peter 2 referring to Jesus’ death of a tree.
1Pe 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
It is not unlikely that the Acts 5 reference to a tree was Peter’s words for although he was one of the apostles, in the early Church he seems to be the leader. In 1 Peter 2:24, although worded differently, we see the same message given to the high priest. Why did Jesus need to die on a tree (Cross)? It’s easy to say “For our sins” without remembering what the Cross was all about. History tells us that:
The Assyrians were the first to publicly execute people, impaling them on swords. The Romans continued the practice by adding a crossbeam and nailing people to the cross by their hands and feet. Any empire that publicly executed people—Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Roman—did so to punish criminals and insurgents and to deter others from revolting. (thebanner.org)
Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals because it was the worst form of execution. The suffering was unimaginable … Jesus’ was the worst ever because of the 40 lashes minus 1 before His crucifixion. So did Jesus die on the Cross because He was a criminal? No! His death on that tree was subsitutional. He died willingly in the place of others. He was sinless and only His sinless perfection could be the perfect offering to appease God’s righteous anger and wrath for our terrible wickedness and rebellion.
Adam’s sin was subsitutional. He was our representative head and man needed to pay the sin price but yet because of sin this was impossible. A Holy God cannot receive an imperfect, sin tainted offering for the sin of the race. This is the reason for the virgin birth. No human father and no transferring of the sinful nature. Jesus as the sinless man–or rather, the Godman–would pay the sin price on our behalf.
But more than that … though the Cross (tree) was the worst form of execution, meaning Jesus suffered excruciating agony as the wrath of God was poured out upon His beloved Son, the greatest pain was the Father turning His face away. For the first and only time in all eternal existence, the forever bond between God the Father and God the Son was broken … that was the greatest suffering, the greatest agony … and for whom was it? The great agony of the “tree” was not for all the human race but for those who God chose before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4). That choice includes God’s sacrifical love:
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
All those who believe are those God chose to be His holy subjects!
Meditate upon the extreme cost the Triune God went to, to secure your eternal salvation. Consider His extreme love for you that He would go through such pain and agony to release you from the bondage and captivity of sin so that you might enjoy all eternity with Him in His glory! How does this translate into gratitude and service in your life? Never forget, salvation is totally undeserved … that’s love … Divine Love!
Dear Lord God Almighty, I stand humbled at Your love for those You predestined for eternal salvation. As a beneficiary of such love I surrender myself completely to love and serve You with joy and thanksgiving. Amen.