17 November 2013

The Leaves of His Tree Are for Your Healing

Chin up, beloved.  Do not be downcast or dismayed.  Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.  By the Cross of Christ Jesus, your Redemption is at hand; and He Himself draws near to you with His own Body of flesh and blood, crucified and risen from the dead.

For you and all the nations, He has suffered and atoned for the curse of sin and death.  Not only that, but, now then, by and with His Word and the preaching of it, He distributes and bestows the life-giving fruits of His Cross: That is to say, by the Gospel of His Cross, He forgives you all your sins; He rescues you from every evil of body and soul; and He redeems you from death and the grave.  By this Word of His, which shall never pass away, you have eternal safety, peace, and rest, in and with the Lord your God; and so do you live forever the divine Life of faith and love in the New Creation of Christ’s own glorious Body.

Receive and trust this Word of Christ and of His Cross, in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection.  He shall not disappoint you.  As He enters into Glory through His suffering, so shall you also enter into His Glory, with Him, through His Cross and Passion.

In fact, His Cross and Crucifixion are the central fulcrum upon which the whole Creation, the heavens and the earth, and your life, also, all hinge and depend.

The Cross of Christ is the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden, which, even now, bears good fruits after its own kind: both for you, and in you, unto the life everlasting.  Its leaves cover your nakedness and heal your infirmities.  Its fruits feed and nourish you, and quench your thirst, and satisfy the deepest hunger of your body and your soul.

But it is only by the Word of Christ, by the teaching and preaching of His Apostles, that you are able to discern the Truth of His Cross; and only by the Sign of His Cross that you are able to keep your bearings and endure the great tribulation which falls upon the whole earth.

For all of Creation is under the curse of sin and death, on account of man’s rebellion against God.  It has been subjected to futility; not without hope, but its hope is found only in Christ Jesus; in the sacred Sacrifice of His Body and His Blood, crucified and risen again; and in His Word of the Cross.

Every other help and hope to which man clings will pass away, from the heights of the earth and heavens, right down to the nitty-gritty details of your own life on earth.  You must be disabused of all those false hopes and perishing allurements, be they great or small; yet, without giving yourself over to doubt or despair, to disbelief, dissipation, or drunkenness.

No, do not despair, and do not be distracted by the anxieties and worries of this old world.  Neither attempt to forget your troubles nor drown your sorrows in the addictions of this life, no matter what form those cares and occupations may masquerade themselves in.  Rather, being put to death by the Word of the Cross, so shall you be raised up to newness of life.

Ironically, this Cross of Christ is the Springtime of His Love.  His Cross is the sure and certain Sign of His Resurrection, and the drawing near of His endless Summer in the Kingdom of God.  For the Resurrection of your dear Lord Jesus follows more surely upon His Crucifixion, death and burial, than the rising of the sun in the eastern sky.  The day will come when that sun shall not come up tomorrow, because there will no longer be any tomorrow.  But, by the suffering and death of Christ, the Son of God, the Sun of Righteousness now rises upon you; not with scorching heat and the burning fire of destruction, but with healing in His wings.

It does seem odd, though, doesn’t it?  As though the Lord has confused the seasons of His own Creation, or mixed His metaphors like a novice author: For He compares the shaking of the heavens and the sufferings of the whole earth to the rising of the sap, and the budding of new leaves, and the early fruits of spring.

Isn’t that strange?  Should He not, rather, have compared the destruction and death of this world to the falling of the autumn leaves, and to the onset of winter with its waning days, thick darkness, and sometimes deadly cold?  So it would seem to us, if we evaluate our life in this world by our feelings and experience.  Does not the Cross bring suffering and death?

It’s easy to consider and discuss it all dispassionately, if you are simply contemplating the trees and their leaves; especially if you do so from the comfort of your cozy living room.

But Jesus is now speaking of your life and death on earth, and of the cosmic catastrophes that you read about, and hear about, and see depicted on the news, which cause you to gasp and tremble, and, hopefully, to repent of your sins, and to call upon the Name of the Lord.

When people hate you and mistreat you, make fun of you, and take advantage of you.  When you and your loved ones get sick, suffer, and die.  When the whole world is falling apart.  When even churches burn to the ground and crumble into dust.  When towering ocean waves sweep over countries, and strong winds blow them away into the depths of the sea.

Are these not fallen leaves and barren trees, bespeaking nothing else but death and decay?

Except that your dear Lord Jesus says, “No, do not be dismayed.”  Do not lose heart or give up hope.  These tribulations are new green leaves and the budding fruits of spring.  Summer is at hand.

Because everything has been redefined by the Cross of Christ.

In His death is Redemption and newness of life.  He has made Atonement for His whole Creation, and for you, His dearly beloved.  As He is lifted up in death upon the Cross, He raises you up, and He lifts up your head to behold His Resurrection.  His crucified and risen Body is the First Fruits of the New Creation.  In His holy and precious Blood, poured out for you and for the many, is forgiveness of sins, and everlasting Life, and eternal Salvation.

The leaves of His Tree bear the sunshine of His Gospel and the waters of Life for the healing of the nations; and they are for the healing of your heart and mind, your body, soul, and spirit.

The Fruits of His Tree — His Body given, and His Blood poured out for you — these are the Feast of Paradise, with which He feeds you, even now, in the midst of sin and death.  These Fruits of His Tree strengthen you, and keep you steadfast in His Word and faith, unto the Resurrection of your body and the life everlasting of your body and your soul.

You are preserved, and you possess your life, by His Word, by His preaching of the Gospel of His Cross.  He is your Strength and your Song, for He has become your Salvation.  And He is faithful; He is steadfast and true.  He has endured all your suffering and death, and He has persevered in the faith and love of God.

He entrusted Himself, His body and life, into the hands of His own God and Father, and His Father raised this same Jesus from the dead.  So does He raise you up, day by day, with His forgiveness of your sins, and at the last, in Glory, in His own Resurrection from the dead.

So shall it be, that, by His Cross, even though you die, yet shall you live forever; and not even a hair of your head shall ever perish.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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