The First Son

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Matthew 21:28-32 ESV

It matters far less where we’ve come from, or even where we find ourselves than where we are headed. God is in the business of reconciling lives. He rescues and redeems. He takes broken and imperfect people and restores them and uses them in the story He’s writing. I believe that this parable of Jesus illustrates that. The two sons described are then related to sinful people and religious people, but not in the way they would have expected. Jesus confronts the religious leaders of the day who refused to see the Kingdom of Heaven standing before them in the person of Jesus and continued in their spiritual blindness to operate contrary to the call of God. Then there were the tax collectors (one of the most hated in society) and prostitutes (one of the most dejected in society). They were the broken and lost who saw the Kingdom of Heaven in the person of Jesus and believed and surrendered their lives to Him.

Obviously, we have a stark contrast between these two groups of people. But I believe the point Jesus is making, is that He is the source of life and salvation, and even those of us who started off life with the worst possible choices, can still find redemption through Him. Even today, if you find yourself in a lifestyle contrary to the God’s calling on your life, you can choose Jesus and find life and restoration. No one is beyond His love. No one is beyond His grace. No one is beyond His reach.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17 ESV

The whoever means whoever. I was once living a life apart from God. Self-seeking. Pleasure-seeking. Honor-seeking. But not God-seeking. But just as the first son did, I changed my mind. I have gone to work in the vineyard where the True Vine is and where I hope to be for the rest of my days. And the grace I have been shown I hope to never take for granted. Do you know someone who is living the way I once did? Walk with them. Listen to them. Speak life to them. Pray for them. Live a life that reflects Jesus to them. They aren’t ever beyond hope. None of us are. Let’s choose life and finish strong!

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.


Jesus and the Garden: Part II

Courtesty Bible Project

In the first part of this series, I focused on how Jesus is a reflection of the living water that first appears in the Garden of Eden. Today’s post looks at another image that shows up in the Garden: The Tree of Life. You can see it introduced in Genesis 2:9. Both the river of living water and the Tree of Life also show up at the end of the text in Revelation chapter 22, specifically verses 1-14. If you’d like a little more context, check out my previous post.

The Bible uses tree imagery repeatedly. Look at Proverbs three. “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. Proverbs 3:13-18 ESV This is contrasted with the idea of seeking wisdom on our own. Essentially, that’s the choice that Adam and Eve had in the beginning. There were two trees in the middle of the Garden. One of them represented man reaching for understanding on their own, apart from God. The other led to life, and that life comes in the form of godly wisdom. Later in Proverbs eleven, we see another reference to the tree. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30 ESV. Righteousness, in simple terms, means to live rightly. How do we do that? Through godly wisdom. By not determining right and wrong on our own. By eating from the right tree.

So what does that mean for Jesus and for us? What other tree do we know of in scripture that holds great significance? How about the cross? The cross is also referred to as a tree…a tree that carried great significance. That significance is portrayed all the way back in Isaiah 53:3-6. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5 ESV. Because we continue to eat from the wrong tree, just as the first humans did, God came down and planted yet another tree that would heal our brokenness and provide the life that the original Tree of Life was meant to do.

Let’s look at this in another way. In Psalm 1:1-3 people are compared to a planted tree. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3 ESV. Perhaps this is a great description of the one who has first experienced the gift of the Tree of Life and now reflects that through their very own life.

So what’s the main idea that both of these objects, the water and the tree, are putting forward? We have the tree of LIFE and the water of LIFE. And Jesus is our source of LIFE. Remember back to Colossians chapter one?

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Colossians 1:16-17 ESV

Or back to John chapter one?

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

John 1:3-4 ESV

Jesus is the source of the Water. Jesus is the Tree. Jesus is the one who both authored and offers life. Jesus, Himself, made so many statements about this subject.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 ESV

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 ESV

In John chapter six Jesus makes several comparisons between Himself and the bread from heaven that gave life to Israel in the wilderness.

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…“I am the bread of life.”

John 6:33 & 48 ESV

We are left with the same option as the first humans. We can choose one tree or the other. We can drink from the water of life or dig our own cisterns. The results of our choice will be revealed throughout our lives. Being connected to the vine will result in bearing good fruit. Drinking from the water of life will cause life to spring forth from us. The question that the Lord is asking all of us is, “Will you take the life I offer you? Will you drink from the waters and eat from the tree that I give to you? Or will you try and find your own way? A way that doesn’t lead to life, but away from it.” Choose Him. Choose life.

Peace and Life in Christ brothers and sisters.

Jesus and the Garden: Part I

In John chapter five, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” Later in that same chapter, He says, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.” In Luke chapter 24, after His resurrection, it says, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” He explained, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” The Bible, from front to back, is a story that leads to Jesus. This is according to what Jesus testified to Himself.

In this series, we are going to look at a few themes from the Book of Genesis, the Garden of Eden specifically, and what they tell us about the character and mission of Jesus. Let’s start by seeing how these two passages, separated by 64 books, overlap.

“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.”

Genesis 2:7-10 ESV

Now look at this passage at the end of scripture.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”‬‬

Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭1‬-‭5‬ ‭ESV

What are some things that these two passages have in common? For starters we are going to look at the Water (or River) mentioned and a Tree of life. This first post will just break down significance of the waters and trace that theme through the Bible and how it relates to Jesus and us.

One of the early examples of living water in the Bible comes from Jeremiah 2:13 where God says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Later in Jeremiah 17:13, Jeremiah says of God, “Lord, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.”

Isaiah also speaks on the topic. “”Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:2-3.

Here in these passages we see that something about the water equals salvation and the source of those waters is God Himself. So what does this mean for Jesus and for us?

In John, we see Jesus at the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles). On the last day of the feast there was a tradition to pour out water as symbolism of the springs of life provided by God. Enter Jesus…

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'””‬‬

John‬ ‭7‬:‭37‬-‭38‬ ‭ESV

Jesus, here, asserts Himself as the source of living water. In an earlier passage of John, He said something similar during His conversation with the woman at the well.

“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.””

John‬ ‭4‬:‭10‬-‭14‬ ‭ESV

When mankind sinned, they were exiled from the Garden. They were separated from the living water. God continued to offer it throughout the story of Israel. But over and over again they filled to drink from the waters. They built their own cisterns. They went their own way. So God came to them, in the person of Jesus. And Jesus, being the Word of God made flesh (John 1), through whom all things were made snd hold together (Colossians 1), can offer that living to every heart surrendered to Him. Jesus brings the river to you and me and says come and drink. The water of life brings life. Jesus brings life since He is the source of that water. In Revelation it says that the waters flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb. That leaves us with the invitation. Will you come and drink? Will you take the invitation to life?

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.