The Green Tree and the Dry

(Read Luke 23)
THE wondrous story of the death of the blessed Lord Jesus stands alone in the annals of this world's history, though not alone in the pages of Holy Writ; there it is four times recorded. One short chapter suffices to tell of creation, but, when the birth of Jesus is the theme, God delights to tell it to you twice. Matt. 1 and Luke 1 and 2. are devoted to the lovely tale of the Saviour's birth, but, will once or twice suffice if His death is in question? No! Four times God blessedly tells of the Saviour's death. And why? Because on that death hangs everything, on that death hangs your eternal safety.
We have before us in this chapter one of these records which God has given us of the Saviour's death. And what do we first see?
Oh! what a dreadful thing when you come to ponder it deeply. “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together, for before they were at enmity between themselves" (v. 12). Oh, my unsaved reader, do not spend your eternity with those who were made friends over the murder of Jesus.
Herod made light of Jesus, and so have you.
Pilate would fain have let Him go, but he was under the power of this world. He looked upon Jesus as one whom he would like to shelter, but he wanted to keep in with Cæsar; and you, my friend, want to keep in with the world. You are thought much of in the circle in which you move, and you would be spoiled were you to become a Christian. Spoiled for what? For this world? Yes, but blessed for eternity.
I have often thought Pilate, in measure, must have known who Christ was. He was not a scoffer, he was a worldly man, and so are you.
You say, "You give me a dreadful character.”
Is it not a true one? The world rules you, and governs you, and you are unwise enough to risk your immortal soul for what does not even make you happy. “Does not make me happy?" you say. No! there is no real happiness without the knowledge of the Saviour, and you know you are not really, truly happy. But now, I say to you, do not be like Pilate. If Pilate could speak to you at this moment what would he say? “Oh, man! oh, woman!
Do not do as I did. I feared the frown of the world. I sided against Jesus. I delivered. Him up to His murderers.”
What was the end of Pilate's vacillating weakness? Jesus was led forth to a graveyard, and we read, “There followed him a great company of people, and of women which also bewailed and lamented him." Oh! what stories could that crowd tell of His goodness.
The women wept as they remembered how He had healed the sick, given sight to the blind, and made the lame to walk. Reader, have you ever wept for Christ? Can you say in the words of that little hymn:
“Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul,
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu'—'twas nothing to me.”
Oh! unsaved soul, weep now for thyself.
Very likely no tear has ever rolled down your cheeks for your own sake. "No," you say, “why should I weep?" Listen, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us.”
Yes, beloved friend, I feel assured, if you die in your sins, you will say, " Oh, would that my mother had never brought me forth, would I had never seen the light." You may say to the mountains, "Fall on us," and to the hills, Cover us;" but no, my reader, no mountain or hill can cover you from the face of Him whom you must meet, for Jesus now most tenderly and solemnly adds, "For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be clone in the dry?" (v. 31).
Are you a green tree? Has God had any fruit from you? No! Jesus was the only green tree. From His birth to His death He was true to God. Was there a bit of self in Jesus? Not one bit. He was the absolutely holy One, He was the only One true to God in this scene. Oh, reader, look at Him. He was the "green tree," and God saw the fruit and the sap always coming out from Him.
Was there any sin in Jesus? None! Is there any sin in us? Yes, we are full of sin. Jesus was perfectly devoted to God.
What are you? Devoted to self, and if you are honest you will own it. Christ never thought of self from first to last. “I came not to do mine own will, "I came down to" seek and to save that which was lost," He could truly say. Perfect holiness, perfect truth, perfect love, everything perfect, was in Christ, and yet what does man say? “Away with Him, away with Him," carry Him to the graveyard.
If these things happened to Christ, what will happen to you, unsaved sinner, what lies before you? "But," you say, "Christ never ought to have died." Quite true, but He did. He went into death for the glory of God, and for guilty man, but God raised Him from the dead. And now, I ask again, what will be your end? The sinner's end. Scripture tells us what this is, very plainly. "What shall be done in the dry?”
What happens when you put a dry tree into the fire? Why it is the very thing to burn, and "The wicked shall be turned into hell,” “where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." A scene where hope never enters, where joy never comes. You say you do not believe it. Very likely, but you will be converted someday. There are no infidels in hell, and no scoffers there, because it is a scene of terrible reality, but its occupants have believed too late. May God write this on your soul as you read this paper.
There are four remarkable "Ifs" in this passage. The first is Christ's, "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” The other three are the blasphemous “Ifs," of, first, the rulers, then the soldiers, and lastly, the impenitent thief hanging by Christ's side. The rulers mock Him, saying, “He saved others, let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God." But does Ire save Himself? No! Blessed be His name, because He came to save us. Then we read the soldiers mocked Him, saying, “If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself," but He will not, and lastly one of the malefactors, a bold daring blasphemous infidel “railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.''
He had no faith in the person of Jesus, nor knowledge of his own need. Friend, is this your case? Do you doubt His person? Do you doubt His love? Then listen to what He says, “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”
But what do we read now? This blasphemer's companion, as wicked hitherto as himself, speaks, and what does he say? There is no "if” in his case. He had looked on the Saviour, he had heard His prayer, " Father forgive them; for they know not what they do," and he reverses the world's decision, and he clears the person of Christ with his testimony in that dreadful hour. To the other robber he says, "Dost thou not fear God?" to the world, "This man hath done nothing amiss;" and to Jesus,” Lord, remember me when thou earnest in thy kingdom." I know you will come back one day in your kingdom, and when you come, oh remember me.
This was the cry of a true soul, a really penitent heart. But does Jesus keep him waiting? No! when Jesus saves, he saves on the spot. “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
It will not do to bless you hundreds of years hence; no, I will save you to-day. And what has Jesus got for you, my reader? A present salvation. Has the Lord Jesus heard from your heart such a word as this, “Lord remember me"? If so, His answer is "To-day." How long did it take to save that thief? Not half an hour even. He first listens, then looks, believes, repents—condemning himself—reverses the world's sentence, clears the character of Jesus, and finally simply commits himself fully to the tender mercy of the dying Saviour by his side, and receives the assurance of a present salvation on the spot. And as the Saviour passed into paradise that day, what did He take with Him as a trophy? A thief, a poor wretched robber.
But do not forget, my reader, that the Irian who was by His side, and who had an "If" in his heart, and on his lips, was the next to die, and where is he? Oh, soul! leave everything, lose everything, but do not lose Christ, do not lose your soul. Rest simply on His blood now, and then spend eternity with Jesus.
God forbid you should make a fifth in hell with Pilate, Herod, Judas, and the infidel blaspheming thief. W. T. P. W.