The Significance of the Cross
The Tale of Two Trees
Genesis 2:15; John 19:41
 
I want us to begin turning our thoughts toward Easter this morning.  For the next three weeks I want to help us understand on a personal level the significance of the major components of our faith. 
 
This morning we’ll consider the Significance of Calvary.  Then next week, we’ll look at the Significance of the Burial. and then on Easter, obviously, we’ll see the Significance of the Resurrection. 
 
Now to consider the significance of Calvary, you have to consider the cross.  The cross is the crossroads of all that we are and believe.  Yet, I’m afraid that for those of us who are fundamental and evangelical in our faith, we’ve been around the cross so much that maybe we’ve lost the significance of it. 
 
So to help us regain that or perhaps appreciate it in a new way, I want us to travel all the way back to
 
Genesis 2:15
 
God places man in this beautiful Garden called Eden and gives him absolutely everything he needed for indescribable happiness, joy and fulfillment. But God has also designed and created these humans with will and choice.  They are not robots, so God gave him the moral opportunity of a choice. And here we learn that God created a tree and placed it in the Garden of Eden. It was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And man was absolutely forbidden to eat the fruit of that tree.
 
You may be thinking, “I thought we were going to think about the significance of Calvary, the cross.”  We are because the story of Calvary is actually the story of two trees.
 
One of those trees is the tree of death.  It is identified here in our text as the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil.  I refer to it as a tree of death because God said, If you eat of it, you’ll die.”
 
In stark contrast to that tree there is the tree upon which Jesus dies.  It’s called a cross, and it is a tree of life.  Jesus is all about life, and He said of Himself in John 12:32, “If I be lifted up (cross) I will draw all men unto Myself”.  He said, “I've come that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly.”
 
So today I want us to take a look at these two trees.  First of all, think about
 
1. The Placement of the Trees.
 
Did you notice that both of these trees were placed in a garden?
 
Genesis 2:8-9
 
Most everyone knows about the Garden of Eden and its trees.  But did you ever notice that Jesus was crucified in a garden?
 
John 19:41
 
 
Now don’t miss the significance of that little incidental:  That means the first Adam and the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, both died in a garden.
 
Now there are a lot of things that that come to my mind in regard to that, but let me just point out one in particular: 
 
Adam died in a beautiful perfect environment and surrounding. Sometimes we get the idea that man's problems are basically sociological. And that man's problems stem primarily from his environment and we're being told today that if we can just simply change man's environment that we'll be able to usher in Utopia.
 
If we can get everyone properly fed, properly clothed, properly educated, properly cultured, if we can just get man into a good environment, we've licked man's problem.
 
But here is evidence to the contrary.  You can’t conceive of a better environment than Adam and Eve had, and yet that sinned against God. 
 
I’m all for improving living conditions and helping folks.  For the last couple of weeks we looked at verses that teach us that is, in fact, the very evidence of our salvation.  Christians are to help people. 
 
But fallen man needs more than a better environment and if that's all you provide, you're missing the whole point.
 
 
 
'The Bible teaches that there is something inherently wrong in this universe called sin and because of that man needs more than a good environment. 
 
It was in the Garden of Eden that the first Adam died, and therefore the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam, had to die for our sin.
 
So there is the Placement of the Trees, but think also about
 
2.  The Purpose of the Trees
 
In a sense, both of the trees served the same purpose.  Both trees contain the knowledge of good and evil. 
 
The tree in the Garden of Eden is identified as such, but Calvary’s tree was also a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is one major difference between the two:
 
Let me explain the difference:
 
There are two ways that you can know good and evil. You can know good and evil through experimentation or you can know good and evil by  revelation.
 
God said here's a tree. It is the knowledge of good and evil, don't touch it. That should have been enough. Just leave it alone. Don't eat the fruit of the tree. That should have been enough. And they could have accepted the word of God and known the truth by revelation. 
 
 
Instead, they chose to know good and evil by experimentation.  There's something about human nature that wants to investigate and see for itself. Have you ever touched the paint when the sign says wet paint, don't touch?
 
Nod your head this way. There's something about us that says when the sign says this is wet paint, rather than just simply taking what the sign says, rather than just taking the revelation, we want the experimentation and so we touch and we have the results there on our fingertips and the wall is marred, because we cannot just simply believe the sign, obey the sign. We have to see for ourselves.
 
And so, when the devil came to Eve, he begins at the point of attacking the revelation of the Word of God. 
 
Genesis 3:1
 
God didn’t say that at all.  The devil is simply twisting the word of God. God had said enjoy the Garden and stay away from this one tree. 
 
So Eve responds by saying, "There's a tree in the midst of the garden. God said you'll not eat of it (so far so good), but then she adds to the Word of God, “and neither shall you touch it."
 
Then Satan responds by flatly refuting the revelation of God.  "You shall not surely die."
 
Now, the appeal was Eve, you become your own little God and you choose for yourself what is good and what is evil. You will be as God, try it Eve.
 
 
In essence, his appeal was, You can’t trust the revelation of God, you must experience it for yourself.”
 
Therefore, the thing for you to do is to taste this fruit for yourself. And then if it's good you can have some more. And if it's bad, don't eat anymore. But you'll never know whether it's good or whether it's bad until you taste it.
 
So the appeal is to know good and to know evil through experience rather than by revelation.
 
And Eve listened to the devil and she and Adam ate, and sure enough, there came a knowledge of good and evil. But, it was not the kind of knowledge that a person wants.
 
How did they know good? They knew good because of its absence.  And they knew evil because of its presence.
 
And suddenly everything about life as they knew it changed.  Everything that accompanies sin is now a part of their life.  all of its destructive powers, the anguish, the heartache, the ruin, the moan, the groan, the woe, all of these things that came through sin, they now were experiencing. 
 
It was all a reality before they experienced it.  God knew that.  That’s why He warned them not to eat.  And they could have taken Him at His word.  But they rejected revelation and chose experimentation. 
 
And it’s still happening.  We live in a world that wants to experiment.
 
Listen the prisons and beer joints and drug houses and psychiatric wards and rehab centers all stand as testimonies today to our need to experiment. 
 
And almost without exception, people tried to warn them about the knowledge of good and evil.  Parents and teachers and preachers and friends, but they were too smart.  Everyone else is an idiot.  I’ll be different.  They failed but I will succeed. 
 
But one day they wake up with the sad realization:  The revelation was right and if I had only listened rather than experimenting, I might still have a life. 
But now you have first-hand knowledge of good and evil. 
 
So that first tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil.
 
But this second tree, Calvary's tree also speaks to us of the knowledge of good and evil. Let's start with the evil first.
 
You will never see and understand evil any more clearly than it is seen at Calvary. 
 
Calvary takes away all the argument and debate over the awfulness of sin. When you see the darling son of God nailed on that cross by human men, you see the hellishness, the hurtfulness, the hatefulness, the sinfulness of sin that men nailed the Lord Jesus Christ there. And when you look at the cross, you are allowed to perceive the knowledge of evil.
 
There we see sin for what it is. We see the presence of sin and we see the power of sin.
 
Romans 1:16 says, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation." Did you ever think about what that verse means? 
 
That verse tells us that even God is powerless to do anything about sin apart from the cross. It is so powerful, sin is so hurtful that Jesus Christ himself had to die to deal with sin. It was the only way the sin problem could be dealt with. 
 
And so what I'm saying is, when you behold the cross you have a knowledge of evil that you can have no other way. You see the presence of wickedness, you see the power of wickedness, you see the penalty of wickedness.
 
It is there we discover the absolute necessity of the crucifixion.  There was no other way for the evil fo sin to be atoned for.  This Jesus, the One Who knew no sin, became sin for us and went to the corss and shed His blood and died.  Why? 
 
Because it was the only way to fix the problem.
 
Jesus took my sin, your sin, our sin, their sin, to the cross. And there God poured out his wrath. God spared him not.
 
And if you are tempted to trivialize sin and think lightly of your sin and excuse it away,  you better take a good long look at the cross and see what it did to Jesus, because there, as you witness the wrath of God being poured out, there you have a knowledge of evil that you will not discover anywhere else.  That tree, Calvary's tree was a tree of the knowledge of evil.
 
But, it was also a tree of the knowledge of good. When you see Calvary's cross, there and there alone you behold the goodness of God, the glory of God, the grace of God, the righteousness of God, the majesty of God, the glory of God as you've never beheld it before.
 
While it is true that the heavens declare the glory of God, it is the cross that declares the grace of God. You see Jesus upon that cross, there you see the goodness of God.
 
I think sometimes we mistake the grace of God.  Suppose you come to my office tomorrow and you’ve bought a beautiful gift for me.  And there you give me that gift unprompted, unmerited and undeserved.  Have you shown me grace?
 
Not really, because you’ve done it for a friend or perhaps from respect or appreciation.   It might be a gift, but it is not a grace gift. 
 
Dear friend that is not the picture of God’s giving of His Son in Scripture.  Grace is where God shows his love to his enemies.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. All of that ugliness; all that hatefulness, all that sin on that cross is us. 
 
And God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That is the marvelous, matchless, wonderful, glorious, indescribable grace of God.
 
And this second tree is a tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. Oh, the goodness of God that you see at the cross. Oh, the evil of man that you see at the cross.
One last thing, not only do I want you to see the placement of the trees, and not only do I want you to see the purpose of these trees, but, I want you to see
 
3. The Power of the Trees.
 
Both of these trees have a tremendous power wrapped up in them. This first tree had the power of spiritual death and expulsion on behalf of Adam. When Adam partook of this first tree he became a thief. You see, that fruit was not his to eat. All of the rest of it belonged to Adam. God had given it to Adam. And God said of all of this fruit you may freely eat.
 
But this one tree did not belong to Adam. It belonged to God and he was forbidden to take it. And when he did, at the moment he did, Adam became a thief. And before he ever ate he'd stolen. He'd taken that which did not belong to him. He became a sinner in the sight of a righteous God and because of that he was banished from paradise.
 
Genesis 3:23-24
 
Now with that in mind, I want you to turn with me to the book of
 
Luke 23:39-43
 
I want you to see something. This first Adam ate of the first tree, became a thief, and was driven from paradise. This thief ate of the second tree and was invited in to paradise.
 
 
Now catch the significance of that: 
 
Here is a thief, a man who didn't deserve, a man who was literally shut out even as Adam was shut out. Yet, he sees Jesus Christ there upon that cross and by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, he understands his sin.  We are here deservedly so. 
 
He understands that Jesus is sinless.  He says of Jesus, “This man hath done nothing amiss.
 
He realizes that Jesus is Lord, for he says Lord, remember me.
 
He understands Jesus to be a King for he said Lord, remember me when thou come into your kingdom.
 
And upon the revelation of the knowledge of good and evil he placed his faith in Jesus Christ and the doors of paradise swung open. 
 
Jesus said, "Today shalt thou with me in Paradise."
 
That's the power of both of these trees. One tree had the power to put a thief out of paradise. The other tree had the power to bring a thief into paradise.
 
And the difference is the grace of God.  This man was saved by grace and grace alone. And you can be also. 
 
There was a Polish astronomer whose name was Copernicus. And Copernicus, through his writings, and through his education changed the concepts of what men think about the universe, and how the universe run. He was a brilliant man.
 
But, when Copernicus came to die, this is what Copernicus wrote. He wrote a letter to the Lord. And he said Lord, I do not ask the kindness that thou didst show to Peter. I do not ask the grace that thou didst grant to Paul. But, Lord the mercy that you showed to that dying thief. That mercy, show to me. That mercy I earnestly crave.
 
Do you want that today? Do you want the mercy that God showed to that dying thief? Well, he'll show it to you and he'll save you today.
 
Now, listen to me and I'm finished.. God forbad man to eat of that first tree and the devil did everything he could do to get man to eat of it. God invites you to eat of this second tree and the devil is doing everything he can do to keep you from doing it.
 
You realize that? Even when I give this invitation today, the devil is going to put, ah, ah, thoughts and excuses, and alibi's, in your mind. Or he'll try to get you to put it off. The devil does not want you to receive the Lord Jesus Christ and say yes to him.
 
But, I want to tell you there are not enough devils in hell or out of hell to keep you from you coming if you want to come. For the bible says, "Whosoever will, may come." Taste and see that the Lord is good. And I want you men and women, boys and girls today, to turn to Jesus, to trust him, and leave this place today, a child of God, with Christ in your heart, your sins forgiven and heaven your sure destination. In a moment, we're going to have an invitation.
 
Let’s pray.
 
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