Trees of Faith

Editor’s Note: A different post came out about a week ago with this same title. This is the post intended for that title. The other post will reappear next week at this time slot (regardless of when you read it), under its own title, Fourth Century Baptism. I apologize for any confusion caused by hitting the wrong buttons on the computer.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “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

Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”
Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.

  • John 19:17-23

”Ephrem is the leading writer of the Syriac Church. He wrote biblical commentaries, sermons, dogmatic works against heresy, and hymns. He was greatly revered as a poet and came to be known as ‘the lyre of the Holy Spirit’. His works were widely translated into Greek and Armenian.
“ ‘[Jesus], the son of a carpenter, cleverly made his cross a bridge over Sheol [the abode of the dead], that swallows everyone. and brought mankind over it into the dwelling of life. Because it was through the tree [in the Garden of Eden] that mankind had fallen into Sheol, so it was on the tree [the cross] that they passed over into the dwelling of life. Thus the tree brought not only bitterness but also sweetness — that we might learn that none of God’s creatures can resist him. Glory be to you who laid your cross as a bridge over death, that souls might pass over it from the dwelling of the dead to the dwelling of life!’ (
Homily on our Lord 4).”

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

Ephrem the Syrian (306?-373) was prolific in his writings.  He even organized an all-female choir to sing his hymns in the forum of Edessa.  While most of the church leaders and theologians that we have discussed lately were of the Alexandrian church, Ephrem came from Syria.  He became a monk.

The second paragraph in the quote is a beautiful homily.  As long as we do not worship the “tree” instead of Jesus, it is very similar to the way that the Four Spiritual Laws explains how Jesus bridged the chasm of our sin so that we can reach God.

The other concern that I have with what Ephrem says is that we lay down our crosses for people to bridge the gap.  We indeed carry our cross, metaphorically and spiritually, but it is still Jesus’ cross that bridges the gap.  Ephrem is saying, at least in my interpretation, that we lay down our cross so that others can see the cross of Jesus which bridges the gap.

This subtle change in perspective shows that the only true salvation comes through Christ alone.  We cannot save ourselves.  We can only repent and follow Jesus.  We cannot save others.  We are only a beggar showing other hungry beggars where to find food.  It is the blood of Christ and His death on the cross that washes away our sins.  Yet, we should follow Christ’s example and help those less fortunate and show others the way the Jesus.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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