The Dogwood

There is a legend about the dogwood tree. It’s a lovely little story with absolutely no basis in fact about the role of the dogwood tree in the crucifixion of Jesus. The flowers form a cross, the central portions represent a crown, and each petal is pierced and stained red. The spring blooms come near Easter, so, legend notwithstanding, the dogwood tree can be a visual reminder of Jesus’ death on our behalf.

I did a series of posts using images I took form the dogwood trees in my neighborhood. I have compiled them here in honor of Orthodox Holy Week.

The Law of the Old Covenant only illuminated the hopeless sinfulness of humanity. The blood sacrifices required for sin offerings and for atonement under the Levitical practices could only offer ritualistic purification that had to be repeated endlessly because no one could remain pure in a fallen state.

Christ, however, entered the world to provide for the purification that ritual sacrifices could not, a once for all and for all time putting away of sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9). In Jesus, the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled and we can walk according to the Spirit by His grace.

The God who spoke the universe into existence became part of his own creation. Not for glory, but to reconcile us to him. Human nature does not naturally drift toward holiness, but pursues the things it finds pleasurable. That self-centered pursuit means we turn our faces from the only source of true joy and seek after happiness on our own terms. There is none righteous. Only the perfect can see God. Jesus was and is the perfect in our stead, making a way for us to approach the Holy One with boldness. The love of the Father was made manifest in the Son and completes us through the Spirit.

Jesus, the Incarnate God, came to this earth to accomplish one thing: fulfill the requirements of holiness so that humans might walk in fellowship with their Creator.

The Law of the Old Covenant only illuminated the hopeless sinfulness of humanity. The blood sacrifices required for sin offerings and for atonement under the Levitical practices could only offer ritualistic purification that had to be repeated endlessly because no one could remain pure in a fallen state.

Christ, however, entered the world to provide for the purification that ritual sacrifices could not, a once for all and for all time putting away of sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9). In Jesus, the righteous requirement of the Law is fulfilled and we can walk according to the Spirit by His grace.

Sin is serious. Paul taught that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Every human that lives on this earth sins (Romans 3:23) and no person, no matter how many good things they do, can claim to be righteous (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:23; Luke 18:18; Ecclesiastes 7:20). To question the notion that a loving God would inflict judgement on generations because of ancestral sin forget that the descendants of that one sinner have sins of their own. Sin is a perpetual cycle that no one can break. And the guilty will not be unpunished.

And THAT, my friends, is why this day is GOOD Friday. After celebrating the Passover meal, Jesus withdrew to the Mount of Olives to pray. He knew what came next. He knew that the punishment for every human sin of all time was about to land squarely on his shoulders. He knew crucifixion was the most vile, most tortuous, and most painful way to die, but he was willing to humble himself in obedience even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). What is good about that death? That death was TEMPORARY. That death offered to all who believe HOPE and Salvation and RECONCILIATION with the Holy God who created us for fellowship.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious. He is so slow to anger that he gave himself in the form of Jesus to ensure a path back to Him. His faithful love to a thousand generations extends to us. His faithful love forgives iniquity, rebellion, and sin (Exodus 34:6) to a thousand generations, including us. “All we like sheep have gone astray;we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

That Passover Friday was horrific and violent and necessary. BUT GOD knew Sunday was coming, and the evil done to Jesus was made good on our behalf.

In accordance with the Scriptures. Paul is clear that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah who fulfilled all the requirements of the first covenant. The covenant between Adam and God was one of works: Tend the earth and enjoy fellowship with the Creator. There was one caveat: do not eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 1). One thing. And Adam did not restrain himself, setting off permanent separation from God and death. God, in his mercy and grace called up Abram, whom he called Abraham, to father a nation of holy people. There is no reason given for choosing Abram, just a note that God called him (Genesis 12). Abram has obedience issues of his own: telling people that his wife was actually his sister and trying to force God’s hand regarding his progeny. God, is his grace, still set a formal covenant with him and his descendants.

Still, people could not (cannot) live such holy lives that they can enter the presence of God. That’s the reason God sent a Messiah. He lived according to the Law and fulfilled every iota of it. When Jesus died, it was not for his own sin, but as a substitution for ours. His resurrection completed the reign of death. Without the Resurrection we have no hope. The Resurrection is the lynchpin of Christianity. Without it, we are still fools condemned by our sins.

Don’t let anyone convince you that the resurrection isn’t the foundation of Christianity. Without the resurrection, there is no hope for reconciliation with God. Full stop. How great a love it is that Jesus died for us AND defeated death so that we might be reconciled with our Creator. Amazing love! How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me!

Happy Easter to my Orthodox friends. He is risen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.