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Green Wood

November 18, 2019

He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins . . . he is the head of the body, the church.” (Colossians 1: 13-18).

Sunday, November 24th is the last Sunday of the church year.  The year opened with the advent of the Messiah and his birth.  During the year, we followed him throughout his ministry on earth. The Scriptures close this week with his crucifixion.

On his way to be crucified, Jesus said, “For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:31).[1]   He was referencing a Jewish proverb that green wood does not burn.  While Jesus was on earth, the wood was green.  Jesus did something new.  Something occurred that had never occurred before or has occurred since: God walked the earth. He lived among men.  The irony is that while green wood doesn’t burn, Jesus set the world on fire, and it has never been the same since.

Paul confirmed Jesus’ divine nature: “He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . he is the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1: 13-18).

Jesus gave us a new viewpoint.  While the Old Testament foreshadowed Christ, it is primarily concerned with justice, judgment, and the need for repentance.  The New Testament is a message of grace—of God’s mercy, and the need for faith and hope.   Jesus told us that he was the Messiah, and showed us that he was in many ways.  He also left followers to record the events that transpired during his ministry.  Then he died and rose from the dead, ushering in a new era; Christianity was born.

As Christianity took its fledgling steps, its followers were persecuted. People who had been threatened by Jesus, the promised Messiah, continued to be threatened by his followers after his death and sought to stamp out the new religion.  But the new wood, the fledgling faith sparked by Jesus, continued to burn even more brightly as it aged.  Numerous attempts to eradicate it have occurred over the last two thousand years, and still it burns, especially where it is persecuted the most.

Luke’s carefully researched account[2] of Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection includes details that are not included in the other gospels. One such detail is that of the repentant criminal, who said to Jesus as he was dying, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23: 42).  The criminal got it. He understood that Jesus was God and that his kingdom was no earthly kingdom—a fact that even escaped his followers.  While they loved him, their hopes that Jesus would usher in a new kingdom–free from Roman rule–were shattered.  Most of them went into hiding after his death. The criminal was the only person who was ever assured of heaven by Jesus. It’s worth remembering when we are tempted to look down on others.

On the last Sunday of the church year, we also look at the last book in the Old Testament, Malachi.  As we noted last week, Malachi pointed the way to Jesus.  When we become discouraged with the seemingly unpunished wrongdoing around us, and wonder when it will end, Malachi, like Habakkuk, tells us to wait.  The ‘day of the Lord’ will come, when we will know that we have not served the Lord in vain.  John Burke’s book, Imagine Heaven, details hundreds of accounts of heaven by people who were clinically dead and then resuscitated.  He concludes, “Life is all about learning to love God and trust him while we can’t see him, because then we will forever choose to love and follow him throughout eternity when we can see him.”[3]

It’s worth the wait.  It’s worth the suffering we endure while on earth.  Our time on earth is but a grain of sand on the beach that is eternity, where God will wipe away every tear, and we will participate in a never-ending joyous celebration with God and with our loved ones.

Prayer:  Jesus, we praise and thank you for coming to earth to model perfect love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness to us. Continue to guide us through your Spirit to do your will and to follow your example.  In Your Precious Name, Amen.

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the last Sunday of the Church Year are Psalm 46; Malachi 3: 13-18; Colossians 1: 13-20; Luke 23: 27-43.  A version of this blog was originally published on November 14, 2016.

[2] See Luke 1:3.

[3] John Burke, Imagine Heaven (2015), Baker Books, p.202

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