The Easter Story: From tree to tree to tree
- 2005 25 Mar
I am a writer. I write books and articles such as this one. Day in and day out, I put words on paper or allow them to form in my head. I create storylines and characters.
I am also a teacher. I teach writing. I teach people who put words on paper or allow them to form in their head to create storylines and characters.
One of the things that I teach is this: all stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. They must. It’s a rule.
The Easter Story
Did you know that the Easter story, as we call it, has a beginning, middle, and an end as well? And, no, it doesn’t beginning with Jesus coming through the gates of Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the crowds shout, “Hosanna!” It doesn’t end with His resurrection and ascension, either. This is, in fact, part of the middle of the story.
It begins back in Genesis. It begins in a garden where animals roam freely and vegetation springs forth in all its glory. A place where God comes down in the cool of the day to speak to and be with His creation.
It begins with two trees. One forbidden and one for giving life.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil and The Tree of Life
Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ~~Genesis 2: 8,9
From the beginning of time, God placed before man the choice to love and obey Him. He did it by planting two trees.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” ~~Genesis 2:15-17
This scripture tells us that man was free to eat from the Tree of Life as well as the other trees, but he must choose not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The next line of scripture then tells us that God saw that man was alone and determined this was not good.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” ~~Genesis 2:18
God put man into a deep sleep, the Bible tells us, and out of his rib, God made woman. Together they inhabited the earth.
A Tree & A Snake in the Grass
The plot thickens. One day, as the woman is apparently standing too close to the tree forbidden by God, Satan enters in the form of a serpent. The Bible tells us that he is “crafty,” crafty enough to twist the words of God and to convince the woman to pluck the fruit from the tree and eat it.
“Oh,” we often say, “if Eve had only done this…or not done that.”
But, ironically, Adam was standing close by; close enough to have intervened perhaps?
She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he at it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked. ~~Genesis 3: 6b, 7
That evening, in the cool of the day the Bible says, God came down. Adam and his wife were afraid and they hid themselves. Of course, to no avail. God called out, man answered, and the handing down of the punishment for disobedience began. Yet, even in His disappointment, God granted a reprieve. To the serpent, he said:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel. ~~Genesis 3:15
The first prophecy of the Messiah’s victory over Satan was spoken. Though man would not physically live forever, there would be salvation for his soul. Another tree would enter the picture.
A Tree on A Hillside Called Calvary
Thousands of years passed. God’s story of dealing with mankind was filled with both worship and apostasy. God’s people, the Hebrew nation, had been brought into the land God had promised their ancestor, Abraham. They had conquered it and lost it, conquered it and lost it. The land was called Israel, the people were called Jews and they were both under the authority of the Roman government.
In a small Galilean village called Nazareth, a young boy had grown to be a man. He worked as a carpenter, as his father had before him. About that time, along the hillsides and in the villages the people were talking about a preacher with wild hair and strange clothes. A rabbi who shouted “Repent and be baptized!”
The carpenter, named Jesus, now knew that the time was right. It was time to lay down the tools of his earthly father and enter in to the work of His Heavenly Father. For the next three-plus years, He would walk from village to village, bringing the Good News. He would lay hands on the sick and they would recover. He would speak to demons and they would flee. He would touch the dead and they would live again.
He would claim to be the Great I Am, because He was, and is, and will always be.
When the right amount of time had passed, and He had attracted enough followers and agitated enough of the officials, He entered Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowds shouted praises to Him.
It was the week before the Passover.
The time was perfect.
From Garden to Garden
Jesus was no stranger to the events that had occurred in the Garden of Eden. As a part of the Trinity, He had been witness to it all. Now, He was in another garden, called Gethsemane. As He prayed to the Father, He waited for the officials to come and get Him. The fulfillment of the words spoken in Genesis 3:15 were about to come to fruition. During the celebration of the Passover—which reminded Israel of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt—He would be nailed to a Roman Cross and sacrifice His life for the deliverance of all men from slavery to sin. He would undo the tragedy of the first garden.
Crucifixion—an especially horrific way to die—required that the accused carry their crossbeam to the site of execution. There, typically, the crossbeam was nailed to a tree. In Jesus’ case, His tree of death became our tree of life.
The End of the Story
It’s easy to think this is the end of the story. Jesus died; He rose again, and ascended into Heaven.
But, no. That’s still the middle of the story.
The real beauty of God’s story is that He won’t be outdone. The story He began is the story He ends.
And the beginning and the ending are the same.
A look at the last chapter in Revelation tells us how:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. ~~Revelation 22:1-3a
God’s story does not change. In the beginning there was a river, which fed Eden. In the end, there is a river of life. In the beginning there was a tree of life. In the end, the tree of life remains. In the beginning there was God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In the end, it is the same.
More importantly, in the beginning was a husband and his bride.
In the end—because of the tree in the middle of the story—there is the Lamb and His Bride.
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” ~~Revelation 19: 6,7
Think About It
During the Easter season we celebrate the resurrection of the Christ from His death on the cross. A tree. We celebrate His victory over the curse brought about by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden. Simultaneously, we celebrate the Tree of Life, of which we will partake for eternity if we believe in that middle tree.
God’s story is amazing, isn’t it? Truly amazing. In fact, compared to Him, I am no writer at all.
Award-winning national speaker, Eva Marie Everson is a recent graduate of Andersonville Theological Seminary. Her work includes