One of the books I have been enjoying on my journey through Lent is, Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard John Neuhaus. This book is a meditation on the last words of Jesus from the cross. Mr. Neuhaus provoked me to think on the concept of Adam and Eve “reaching” for the tree of knowledge, reaching for autonomy, reaching to be like God. But they find that by trying to be “like God” they lose him. Contrasting this with the One….
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…” Philippinas 2:6 NIV
Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden.
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:2 NIV
Adam and Eve could not go back and partake of the tree of life once they partook of the tree of knowledge. There was no simple solution. There never is when we turn away from the community of love in the Godhead. Our vision, our seeing, our paradigm, our course had been permanently and irrevocably altered. Only through the cross of Christ can we get our vision back because the cross was always the vision.
In the New Testament we are reintroduced to the tree of life. With our damaged glasses and our broken humanity this seems to us to be the tree of death.
“…..but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in humane likeness. And being found as an appearance man humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8
We reached for autonomy. We reached to be like God, only to find out that who God is, is not at all who we thought he was. God is the crucified one, he is the one that lays down his life for the brethren, he is the one who is a servant of all.
“….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:43-45
At the cross, the new tree of life, our vision becomes starkly clear. The tree of life is the tree of love poured out through servanthood. It is the tree of life that Adam and Eve forsook in the Garden.
I never understood the scripture that said, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I always thought I should be last so really I can be “first.” Or thinking to myself I want to be “great” in Gods Kingdom so I better serve to achieve this. Servanthood was a means to be “great,” and being “last” was a means to be “first.” I finally understand, though dimly, that Jesus was not saying there is some heavenly ranking system of “greatness” or “first-ness.” This competition simply does not exist in Gods Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is about love, servanthood, and cruciformity. They are not a means to an ends. They are the end. The Kingdom of God is so overflowing with love through servanthood that it even overflows to our enemies.
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35
Lord, may I only wear the glasses of servanthood, not to be great, not to be first, not to be “equal with you.” But by living in love I may join in the dance of the Trinity and walk in sweet communion and fellowship with my brothers and sisters and in some way be source of healing for those who have not known such love.