It all began in a Garden over a tree. Well, really, it began before then, but that’s the first we knew of it. Eve, she took that piece of fruit from the tree that God had forbidden, and she ate it. And from then on, we were looking . . . waiting . . . for someone to save us from sin. To save us from ourselves.
That Savior came, centuries later. But not as we would have expected. He didn’t come as a typical revolutionary, or a kingdom-heir. No, his first utterances were a baby’s cry. The only ears that heard Him were those of a simple man and a young woman whose very reputations had been scandalized by His very existence. From the beginning of His time with us, here on this wild, spinning earth, he had been ridiculed.
But that baby God kept growing (It almost sounds irreverent, doesn’t it? A baby God?). He learned to walk and then run. He learned to handle wood and how to eloquently speak with religious leaders in the Temple. He celebrated Passovers and joined in the singing in the synagogue. Later, he plunged himself into the waters of the Jordan. And the water covered Him and the Spirit hovered over Him. He healed sickness, and delivered tortured souls of evil spirits. He bellowed with anger* over death and He comforted those in mourning. He even raised some souls out of death itself. He was so compelling, so beautifully powerful, that one woman followed Him once – her only intent? To merely touch the hem of His robe, that her body would be healed from sickness.
She felt it with her fingertips.
And she was healed. His power left Him and touched her being, and the blood-life that hemorrhaged from her body, day after day, was stopped. He could have kept walking, continuing on to the emergent life-or-death situation at hand. But instead, He turned to speak to her. To know who had needed Him. He was not content to merely heal lives of the bodily devastations of sin. He turned and blessed her . . . her soul . . . with peace.
All this, and the religious leaders of His time somehow detested him. Well, truthfully, there were at least two leaders who believed in Him. But they only believed in secret, only spoke to Him in the dark, hiddenness of night.. The others despised him and looked for ways to trap him with his words and then, they sought for ways to kill him. But they couldn’t capture him in the light of day for fear of the people. They feared a mob.
So one of Jesus’ friends, he helped those crooked, religious leaders. He would tell them where and when they could find Jesus away from the crowds. 30 pieces of silver was all it took for Judas to betray the man he had followed for three years. But Jesus knew this about his friend.
As Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal, Jesus told them there would be one who would betray Him. The disciples were incredulous.
“Who, who?! Who of us would betray you?”
As they ate the Passover meal, they would be dipping bread unleavened bread in bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness of their ancestors’ slavery in Egypt. Salt water, representing the salty tears that were shed because of their enslavement. And Charoset, a mixture of apples and nuts, signifying the Israelites’ handmade mortar they used for building Pharaoh’s architectural whims.
As they ate, Jesus answered their incredulity, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.”
The bread. The bread that He would call “His body.” He dipped the bread and gave it to Judas. Judas would be the betrayer. But isn’t it me too? Isn’t it you? The Bread Body who drenched himself into our bitterness, our slavery, our dirty work, offers it for us too.
They went up from the table to a Garden to rest and pray. That is when Judas came with soldiers. It wasn’t enough for Judas to simply point out the man, the One claiming to be the Son of God. No, he went right up to Him. Face to face. And as deliberate as a person can be, kissed Jesus right on the cheek. That was the signal. And Jesus asked the soldiers, “Who are you looking for?”
“Jesus, the Nazarene,” the soldiers boldly answered.
“I AM He,” Jesus simply stated.
As He said those three words, the soldiers drew back and fell back to the ground. But even though the words from His mouth held so much power, He willingly let those easily overpowered men, arrest Him.
And for the second time, and the last, the very Word of God was betrayed in a Garden.
So they took Him, the Light of the World, and in the dead of night, they tried him and mocked him and beat His head with sticks. His friends deserted him. The religious leaders pushed and propelled their agendas and stirred up the crowds, until they all shouted in chorus,
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
So they did.
They led him to a hill. And there, the soldiers took that robe of His, the one whose hem was enough to change a life, and they wouldn’t tear it . . . it was seamless. But they gambled for it. They played games, laughing and roaring, trying to win the robe of the One who was doing all this to clothe us in garments of salvation and robes of righteousness.
And so it was that the One who is from the Beginning, was nailed to a cross. What began as a power struggle in Paradise over a tree, was triumphed when He who is all power literally adhered Himself to the genesis of sin’s entrance. A tree. He fixed Himself to sin, that we could be made whole. That we could again be with Him in Paradise. He that gives us life, died, and so, sin has begun its rapid descent into eventual nothingness. And what began with a woman, taken from the side of man, was resolved by the Son of Man, the Son of God, pierced in His side, in order to rescue His bride and bring her to Himself.*
And our joy will be full.
*Thought taken from Brian Salter, pastor of Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church.
**Thought taken from Frank Ramseur, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Chattanooga.