Obey Me About the Tree

I’ve been rereading Timothy Keller’s Jesus the King, which is a marvelous book, and one I highly recommend. 

I want to point out an interesting passage in a chapter he entitled “The Dance.” If you recall, in Genesis 2 God placed the man and woman He had created in the Garden. Then He told them: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

God didn’t explain why He was restricting access to this particular tree, He only asked them to obey, and revealed the consequences if they should disobey. 

Well, we know what happened. The allure of the forbidden fruit, under the influence of the Serpent who called God’s benevolence and motive into question, moved Adam and Eve to disobey the command of God. Keller explains:

“God was saying, ‘Because you love me, don’t eat from the tree—just because I say so. Just to be in relationship with me. Obey me about the tree, and you will live.’ And Adam didn’t. He and Eve failed their test; and the whole human race has been failing the same test ever since.”[1]

Ah, but that’s only half the story. Thousands of years later Jesus also faced temptation. As we know, He glowingly passed the test by obeying God regardless of the consequences. 

And He was also faced with a tree. In an event the Christian church has just celebrated, Jesus went to the cross. Keller says: “God said to Jesus, ‘Obey me about the tree’—only this time the tree was a cross—‘and you will die.’ And Jesus did.”[2] Isn’t it ironic that both Adam and Eve’s disobedience and Jesus’ obedience led to death? But there’s one huge difference.

Jesus died, but His death reversed the curse of the fall. Because He died, we can live eternally. The apostle John describes how this loving God responds to us, His often-belligerent children: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

And we know too that Jesus death has eternal value for us. Because Jesus died, and because He was raised to life again, we can say with confidence:

“‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).

  1. Keller, Timothy Keller, Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition) p. 13.
  2. Ibid., p. 14.

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