Revelation 22:2: “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

In the beginning God planted beautiful, fruit-bearing trees meant to be enjoyed. Sadly, one of the trees became deadly to mankind, namely, the ominous tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God issued a stern warning to stay away from that particular tree (Genesis 2:16-17):

“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.’”

We know how the story goes. The fruit of that tree was consumed anyway introducing death to creation. Thus it gained the bad reputation of a tree bearing the fruit of death.

Let’s pause here for a minute and think about what this tree stands for. Obviously it does not mean pursuing knowledge equals evil. There is a vast array of knowledge to be gained – not the least of which is getting to know people. Some English Bible translations employ the verb “know” when it comes to intimate relations between a man and a woman (Genesis 4:1):

“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord.’”* (*21st Century King James Version)

Children are born as a result of Adam “knowing” his wife. Another prominent example of knowledge pursuit in the Bible is King Solomon’s desire for wisdom and understanding. At the onset of his reign he asked God for discernment to govern the nation of Israel wisely and the Lord gladly granted his wish.

So apparently, there is good knowledge and bad knowledge. The opening chapter of the book of Proverbs, largely authored by King Solomon, says to this effect (Proverbs 1:7):

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.”* (*New Living Translation)

Fear of the Lord puts God in the middle of all aspects of life. We love Him, we walk with Him and we explore with Him. God will reveal things unknown to us. I believe that all great scientific discoveries are based on divine revelation. Although knowledge in itself does not kill us, attempting to know better than the Lord unfortunately does. 

In the book of Deuteronomy the prophet Moses talks about the death penalty, specifically execution on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23):

“If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.”

The fact that God initiated a law to ensure proper treatment for people on death row shows that He cares for criminals and intends to protect their rights. Paying last respects to an executed person by providing a grave is an act of decency. But there is more.

I believe the Law of Moses requesting to remove a dead body from the tree was also written in anticipation of Jesus’s execution. Approximately 1400 years later the Son of God was killed, His hands and feet nailed to a wooden beam. A law-abiding Jewish citizen, Joseph of Arimathea made sure that the Lord was taken off the cross and placed into his tomb. Jesus emerged from there three days later – resurrected from the dead. He would become the one and only antidote to death, saving God’s creation from corruption. Jesus turned a tree of death, the cross, into a tree of life.

Metaphorically speaking we are like trees and if our roots dig deep to get to know the Lord we turn into the tree as described in chapter 22 of John’s book of Revelation. Growing on both sides of the river, we bear fruit in and out of season and our leaves are used to bring healing to the world – which is what God’s peacemakers are called to do.

Genesis 2:15-17: “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.’”

When God placed Man in the Garden of Eden with the job description to tend and watch over it He issued a warning.  He warned him to stay clear from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Why would He do that?  Give a kid a room full of toys and mark one toy in particular as off limits.  Tell a kid: “You may play with all those toys (and I can give you even more if you like), but this little toy over there: don’t touch it!”  What is the probability that the kid will eventually reach out and touch the forbidden toy?  Do the math.  I’d say there’s a 100% chance the kid will at least be tempted.

So, what is up with this tree? Why does it kill us to know that good is good and evil is evil? Well, let’s think about that for a minute: didn’t Adam and Eve already know goodness? They were steeped in God’s goodness from the day they were created. The only thing they didn’t know was evil. Since they were innocent, evil made no sense to them at all. So they probably felt that they had to mingle with evil in order to understand it. The Knowledge Tree was so tempting because it appeared to be widening their horizon. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. With the consumption of the Tree’s fruit confusion set in.  If anything, the Tree has dumbed us down.

God is good and so used to be all of His creation. In fact, God called His creation “very good”. However, the minute we mingled with evil we got separated from each other, and a sense of overwhelming shame set in; our mindset shifted from naked “I am who I am” to shameful “Am I good enough?”. Chapter 3 of Genesis describes Adam and Eve’s reaction (Genesis 3:7-8):

“Their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.  So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves [humans hiding from each other in shame]. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees [humans hiding from the Lord in shame].”

If we separate roots from soil the uprooted plant will wither and die.  Similarly, separation from one another brings about death of relationships – with God and with people.  Even the golden rule: “Love God and love people” ultimately does not fix this issue.  To solve the problem the Trinity Himself got temporarily separated – it was of course with mutual consent – and what happened is a truly wild story:

With mankind’s fall the triune God decided to send out a member of the Trinity: Jesus. Jesus came to Earth, became human and experienced death.  In that moment, in this time window of history, God was separated from one another.  Jesus did not die an accidental death, but a sacrificial death of atonement, which He volunteered to do, not an easy thing for Him at all. Reading the gospels we hear Jesus crying out: “Your will be done, not mine!” sweating blood over His decision. Why the blood sacrifice of Innocence walking in the flesh satisfies and repairs the damage humans did to themselves, I do not know; the question is, do we need to understand this mystery to reap the benefits of being reunited with the Father?  Adam and Eve were trying to understand evil a long time ago, and it really didn’t help us to be better people. Maybe some things simply remain a mystery, and we have to learn to trust God.

When Jesus paid the death penalty of the forbidden Tree He reintroduced us back to the garden of goodness; and as Jesus was resurrected and restored to the Trinity, so believers have been resurrected and restored to everlasting communion with God.

Believe – and the effects of that deadly tree will begin to wear off. Believe – and you’ll be who you are meant to be: a spitting image of God!

Psalm 1:3: “They [Believers] are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”