Lignum Vitae Crux Christi

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. (Prov. 3.16-18)

On April 2, 1513, Juan Ponce de León, companion to Christopher Columbus and former Spanish Governor of Puerto Rico, landed on the east coast of a beautiful land he called “flowery,” or in Spanish, “La Florida.” He had hoped to find gold–as he had in Puerto Rico–and legend has it that he had also hoped to find the fabled “Fountain of Youth.” He never found either one.  And somewhere in Cuba, sometime in July, 1521, he died of a wound he received in an ambush.

In many ways, the sad story of Ponce de León is the story of mankind.  A quest for riches. Longing for immortality.  And death at the end of everything.

The story itself is as old as the world.  Created in the image of God, with every need for happiness met, Adam and Eve said “no” to God’s way of life, and chose their own way.  In doing so, they exchanged the riches of God for the ashes of sin. God Himself “drove out the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3.24).  What an unspeakable loss.  But it is our loss as well as theirs.  Their sin is our sin; their fall our fall; their ruin our ruin–for “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin” (Rom. 5.12).  The “way to the tree of life” is barred to us all as it was to Adam and Eve.

That is, until and unless we humble ourselves before God, turn from our rebellion and sin, and accept His free gift of life everlasting in Christ.  For Jesus said, “The thief comes” (as he came to the Garden of Eden) “only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10.10). Our Savior came to restore the happiness that God intended for us in the first place.  As the ancient writers put it, lignum vitae crux Christi–“the cross of Christ is the tree of life.”

Even before Jesus, almost a thousand years before, King Solomon spoke of this abundant life, this Eden restored.  The “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov.1.7), he wrote, and “She [wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her” (Prov. 3.18).  In the words of an old hymn: “When we walk with the Lord In the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds our way!”  To know God (in the words of another old hymn) is “a foretaste of glory divine.”  And heaven is yet to come.

Riches far greater than gold.  An abundant and forever fountain of youth.  That’s what it means to walk with God: “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” (Prov. 3. 16, 17). What a thing it is to be a Christian!  You are dearly, dearly loved.

Your Pastor,

Richard Wells

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