In the beginning, it was placed in the garden. No one knew where it came from, but, like all of creation, it was sourced in God Himself. Perhaps it was more truly of Himself than any of them realized then. It was there, in the centre, right at the heart of all things, the only companion, in that holy place, to the tree which was forbidden. And its beauty was something beyond their understanding, something they were not yet ready for. It was too subtle, too complex for their dawning minds to grasp, and somehow just a little frightening.
But the other tree, ah, that was different. God had spoken His ‘No!” into the very fabric of creation, but there was a beguiling ‘Yes!” speaking louder and louder in their minds. And, in the end, they took of the fruit, and they ate, and the world was broken. Their hearts were shattered by their own doing, and God’s pronouncement when it came was confirmation of the death they had already accomplished. And they were sent forth from the garden, and the cherubim descended, sword aflame, and the way to the tree of Life was barred from humanity. Yet the very action of their being sent forth invoked promise as much as penalty, for it was said that there would be a life beyond this death, and a hope beyond this hopelessness.
Centuries passed. Men laboured and men fell. Some looked upward, and beheld the beauty of God and put their trust in the One whose promises outlast the stars; but others looked around at the heaving world, or inward to the clamour of their own desires and embraced death by the very means they sought to defy it. And finally, while men looked the other way, the tree returned. It was no longer a thing of beauty, it was stark and dead and terrible. As it had to be, for the way to life leads now through death, and it could appear no other way within this world. It was no longer living wood planted by the hand of God, but old, dry boards, pushed back forcibly into the ground by human hands. Its only fruit was the body of a dying man, and it was blood, rather than the sap of Life that flowed from it. It no longer grew in holy sunlight, but stood under the descent of a terrible darkness. Men cried and wept at its presence, but many were so inured to death that they mocked instead. And by the planting of that terrible tree, Life returned to the broken human race.
It has not wholly vanished since, though the world sees only the symbol and not the substance. The eyes of faith see the life that is given to them in this death, they eat and drink of its fruit and find His life flows into their present body of death.
But even this is not the end of the story. One day the whole creation shall be reborn, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth and the city of God, fair as a bride, shall be revealed. And in the midst of her the Tree of Life shall stand, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain. There will be no more death.