In the beginning, God created the world. It was perfect, nothing wrong with it. And then they ate that fruit from that tree of knowledge of good and evil and ruined everything. And now there is sin in the world. What a shame. If only they had resisted that temptation. But, what was the tree doing there in the first place? Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever asked, "Why the tree, God?"
You know God had a reason - a good one. After all, it was after he had created that tree of knowledge of good and evil and after he had given the command not to eat of it, that God's infallible word says that he looked at everything he had made, and it was very good. So, why the tree?
Well, when God made us, when he made humankind, he didn't just zap us into being, he formed man like a potter molds his clay; he built the woman like a skilled craftsman applies his specific design for a specific purpose. We're not just random mutations of zapped muck. God formed each of us, as different as we may be, with one purpose - to worship him.
So why did God put the tree there in that first home for our first parents? It was an opportunity for us to fulfill our purpose - in a real way - not some manufactured, automated, zapped way. Think about that. How would Adam and Eve have been able to do anything for God, unless he asked them to do something, or not do it as the case may be? How else would they have shown him thanks and praise? That tree of knowledge of good and evil was their altar, their church. Every time they walked past it and thought, "I don't want to eat of that because my awesome God asked me not to," they were worshipping.
So why the tree? Because he loves us and wants to give us opportunities to worship. He didn't want us to burst with appreciation - we needed an outlet. Of course, we don't have access to that tree anymore - but he has given us opportunities to worship, hasn't he? "Do not give up meeting together," he tells us. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly," he says. "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices." "Bring the whole tithe into my storehouse," he says. He's given us all sorts of opportunities to worship him, and not just on Sunday mornings - but with our whole lives - putting him first in it all.
But, of course, he knew we'd fail, just like he knew Adam and Eve would fail. So, why the tree? Well, the full version of this sermon (available at www.abidinggrace.com) has all sorts of other reasons from the text, but really it all boils down to this. Why the tree? Because God loves us. And that shows itself never so clearly as on that second tree. You might call it the tree of life - no not the one in the Garden of Eden. The one on that hill, just outside Jerusalem, that wood positioned between those two criminals, where Christ gave his life for our life. Why the tree? So that our failures could be paid for by the blood of God's own son. Why the tree? So that God's love could shine through our darkness as he sacrificed everything to prove our worth in his eyes. Why the tree? As Paul says, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This is God's word.
Pastor Jonathan Scharf
Abiding Grace Lutheran Church