“If people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
Today, as we reflect on Jesus’ death, some of us will think of the cross on which Jesus died, noting that it was made of wood, cut from a tree. Some may also recall that in his death Jesus fulfilled a prophecy that said, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13, NRSV; see Deuteronomy 21:23). In his death on the cross, Jesus took on himself the whole curse of sin for our sake, so that we can be forgiven and receive new life!
In our reading in Luke today, Jesus also speaks about himself as a tree. He says, “If people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Here Jesus is describing himself as a live, green tree, and he appears to be challenging people to think what it will be like when the tree is cut off (“dry”)—as he soon will be when he has died on the cross. A few words from Isaiah the prophet may help us to understand this. Isaiah describes the Savior, the Lord’s suffering servant, as a shoot that has grown “from the stump of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1), and yet the Savior is later “cut off from the land of the living” because he is punished for the people’s sins (Isaiah 53:8).
Though Jesus was cut off for our sake, we can actually be filled with joy, calling this “Good Friday”—because after he suffered, he also saw “the light of life” and rose in victory over death (Isaiah 53:11). Jesus did all of this for our sake so that we can have new life with God forever.
With Jesus, death does not have the last word, because he is the Word of life!
Lord God, we are in awe of all you have done for our salvation. May we praise your name forever. Amen.