Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Monday, December 1, 2014

That Which Burns

For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?  -- Luke 23:31

As Jesus was led to the Place of the Skull not all cried out for His death.  Some followed weeping and mourning.  It was to these that Jesus spoke telling them they should mourn for themselves and foreshadowing the great tribulation that came during the siege and fall of Jerusalem.  The Lord Jesus is the “green wood”, the Tree of Life in which hope always flows.  As to the dry wood, Luke reflects on this image in two other passages. 

In Luke 3:9, John the Baptist says, Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.  Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Similarly, in Luke 13:6-9, Jesus gives us the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree:

 And he told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?   And he answered him, Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure.  Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.

We note that the ministry of Jesus is usually seen as covering a three or three and a half year period of time.  The coming of the Messiah to His people was a final effort to bring forth the fruit of the kingdom.  When that generation, as a whole, rejected Jesus, they doomed themselves to great suffering and destruction.

In commentary on this passage, the focus tends to be on the injustice done to the innocent Lamb of God versus righteous judgment upon the guilty.  Green wood is hard to burn and symbolizes innocence while dry kindling fires easily, representing the guilt of those who live according to the flesh.  As Jesus said the devil had no hold on Him, no place to catch (John 14:30). 

We also see that there are two kinds of suffering:  the suffering of deliverance and the suffering of destruction.  While we do not look forward to or invite either, the one is hopeful while the other is hopeless.  You can cut a limb off some varieties of trees such as willow and get a whole new tree out of it, but if you let the limb dry out, it’s just as lifeless as any other. 

Consider Daniel 9:26 -- And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.

Messiah, of course, means “anointed one”.  Jesus was indeed “cut off”, but He rose for He was that “green wood”.  His life has given life to countless millions in the intervening centuries and will give life to millions more in the future.  His suffering delivered humanity from the bondage of sin and certain destruction.  Untold numbers of Christians since that time and right up to this very hour have borne witness to the truth through persecution, tribulation, and death.  These have been counted worthy to “share in His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10) and have brought, thereby, that same deliverance to others. 

On the other hand, there is the suffering of destruction.  All our works will be tried as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13).  All of us must pass through the flames.  If we have lost hope, if we have been cut off from the Vine for unfruitfulness, all will be consumed.  This is the suffering of which Jesus warned those who mourned as He passed through the streets of Jerusalem that day.  The people who turned their backs on Him would pass through the fire and lose their temple, their holy city, and the land of their inheritance.  Everything in which they hoped would turn to dry wood and be reduced to dead ashes. 

It does not matter how close the Vine we branches are pruned.  So long as we remain in Christ, we have the hope of fruitfulness.  So long as the life of Christ flows through us, though we pass through difficulties and loss, though flames leap around us, we may be at peace for we will be delivered. 


Rick said...

Excellent post, Mush. Thank you.

mushroom said...

Thanks, Rick.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

We will be delivered indeed, and with God, the shipping is always free.

mushroom said...

Good one. God even beats Amazon Prime.

Rick said...

I thought Amazon Prime was God..

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Christianity Prime or Prime Christianity? Thankfully, membership is free.