Last week as I was driving back and forth to Sneedville on Hwy. 31, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the Earth being reborn from a long, cold — and very wet and nasty — winter.
The hills and valleys were alive with color — mainly, the pinkish-lavender blooms of the Eastern redbud. In Hawkins County, which sits at a lower altitude, the redbuds peaked a couple of weeks ago and now the dogwoods are in all their glory.
Easter is this Sunday and if you have a dogwood in your yard, be sure to check out the flowers. Also, if you have a certain breed of donkey on your farm, or know someone who does, take a look at its back.
Those things may be “legends”, but one thing is for certain, the TRUTH of the Easter season is no legend. We not only have Biblical sources who witnessed events surrounding the life, death, and ressurection of our Lord, but a number of non-Biblical folks, too, including the historian Josephus, who by his own admission was not a follower of Christ but who documented many of the very same Biblical events and miracles that we know today.
Death, you see, did not take Jesus by surprise. The Son of God knew from birth that his purpose in human form was to live a sinless life so that He could be nailed to that cross and become the ultimate sacrificial Lamb for the sins of all mankind.
To put it in modern terminology, Jesus could have called the “Delta Force” of heaven — angelic Rambos, Green Berets and Navy Seals unlike any ever unleashed on the bad guys of the world — to come and rescue Him from that situation, but had He allowed Himself that luxury, a lost world would have no hope of eternal life.
And, contrary to what some believe, when Jesus paid that sin debt on the cross, it was paid in full … forever.
We read in the Gospels where Jesus, in His last words, cried out in a loud voice, “IT IS FINISHED!” Those words, as translated in English, come from a Greek phrase, tetelestai, which means: “the debt has been settled, nothing more is owed.”
That, my friends was no wimpy whisper. It was a cry of victory of good over evil. Those words from the parched, bleeding, torn lips of a suffering man, hanging nearly naked on a cross, having been beaten and tortured to within an inch of his human life, were the most powerful ever spoken.
With those words, I believe that Jesus looked Satan in the eye and conveyed this message: “Guess what Boogeyman? God won, you lost, and my children will be with me forever in paradise!”
He took the sin of the world on His shoulders, dumped it in the deepest part of the ocean, and placed a “no fishing allowed here” buoy over its burial tomb.
Now, about those legends.
Look at the white flowers of the dogwood which represent Christ’s sinless purity. Notice the reddish-brown color representing the “blood stains”. Notice the “thorny crown” in the center, and the “torn flesh” at the top where that mocking crown of briars dug into His scalp. Notice to the left, right, and bottom of the bloom the scars of where the “nails” dug deep into His hands and feet.
Legend has it that Jesus was crucified on timbers cut from a dogwood, which at that time was said to be a much larger and thicker-trunked tree than the one we know today.
The Bible does not go into detail about the type of wood that was used, but we know that death by crucifixion was one of the cruelest forms of torture ever devised in the minds of men, and therein lies the “golden nugget” of truth of what our Lord and Savior did for us.
The redbud is often referred to as The Judas Tree because a species of that tree from the Mediterranean region is said to be that upon which the betrayer of Jesus hanged himself.
Legend, and some historical sources, say that prior to that time the tree’s blooms were white, but that afterward, God turned them a bright pinkish-lavender to represent blood, or the shame of what Judas had done.
And finally, the humble donkey.
On Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter when faithful Jewish pilgrims were pouring into Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, Jesus entered the city riding on the back on a borrowed, unbroken donkey, which was a fulfillment of a centuries-old prophecy foretold by Zechariah.
I grew up in the country, and some of my kinfolks had horses and donkeys, and, let me tell you, anybody who has ever tried to ride an unbroken horse or other four-footed ride-able critter can testify to the riskiness of trying to get on (and stay on!) the back of such an animal. The Bible does not indicate that Jesus had any difficulty mounting the animal, and that, as a way for people to recognize the lowly donkey’s submissiveness to God’s will, He forever marked it with a “sign”.
If you have ever seen one of the breed called the “Jesus Donkey” you know what I’m talking about … on the animals’ backs are clearly defined markings in their coats of a cross, a cross which, close to Easter each year, becomes darker and more pronounced.
Fact or fiction? We can’t say for sure, but it sure makes for an interesting story.
Springtime is one of my favorite times of the year, and I think that in this season of “rebirth” … grass turning from brown to green, leafless trees suddenly alive with 40 shades of green, and the beauty in the dogwoods, redbuds, azaleas, rhododendrons, daffodils, tulips and other spring flowers … God is sending us a message through nature that we should pay closer attention to His Word and to the high price that His Son paid for our sins, and that a spiritual “rebirth” is free and readily available to all who will receive it.
I am grateful that Jesus paid the debt for all of my own faults, failures, sins and shortcomings … past, present and future.
I may not know what my future holds, but I know without a doubt whose capable, loving hands hold my future because 2000 years ago He signed that promise with the ink of His own blood. That’s my view.
What say you?