And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.…
A word in explanation. The green tree is Christ; the dry tree in the first judgment is the Jewish nation; and the dry tree in the last judgment is the unconverted world. By a "green tree" Christ does not mean a young and tender tree, but rather one full grown and flourishing. By "the dry," He means a tree withered, worthless, and dead. With respect to the first judgment He may mean this: "If the Romans so treat the innocent Jesus, how will they treat the guilty Jerusalem?" or He may mean, "If the Jews so punish Me, how will God punish them?" With respect to the second judgment, He surely means — "If God so bruise the innocent for the transgressions of others, how will He punish the guilty for their own iniquities?" I will now, with God's help, try to open up to you this solemn text. We bare here two trees: one green — the other dry. I will show you, first, the glory and destruction of the green tree; and then, the shame and end of the dry.
I. THE GLORY AND DESTRUCTION OF THE GREEN TREE. In meditating upon the glory of the green tree, we had better keep the substance of it and the shadow of it apart from each other. To do so, we will look first at the natural tree, and next at the Saviour, who is represented by it. In the midst of yonder wilderness, overrun with all manner of weeds and poisonous plants, there lies an humble patch of dry, bare ground. From the midst of the dry, barren ground, where nothing ever grew before, there rises up a young tree, tall and fair to look upon. Higher and higher it grows, until its shadow falls upon the tops of the loftiest trees around it; higher and higher, until all the trees in the wilderness are but weeds when compared with it. Now turn to the reality. Christ is that tree of God. In his birth, He grew out of ground that was barren. As a man, He grew in stature, and wisdom, and favour, and glory, until there was none such upon the face of the earth; until tie stood alone as the great tree of life in the midst of the perishing; until He bid fair to stretch forth His branches to the uttermost ends of the world. Look back to the green tree. How beautiful it is! It has no crooked boughs, or twisted branches. There are no worm eaten or withered leaves: every leaf is as fresh as when first unfolded from the bud. There are no weather-beaten, time-stained flowers: every flower is perfect. There are no bitter or rotten fruits: all its fruits are ripe and uninjured. From the lowest root to the highest leaf, it is without a fault. Behold in this some faint picture of Jesus. His birth was as pure as the creation of an angel. His childhood was as spotless as sunshine. His thoughts were as clear as the river of God. His heart was a well of love. His soul was a great deep of light. His life was unstained by the shadow of evil. He was the admiration of angels. He was the joy of God! Look back again to the green tree. Mark its promise. Leave that tree untouched, and what will it become? Will it not reach up to heaven, and spread till it overshadows the world? Who will it leave without a shelter? What diseases will it not cure? What hunger will it not satisfy? Will it not grow into a universal blessing? Behold in this the shadow of Jesus! Had He dwelt upon earth until now, what would He not have done for mankind! If in three years He healed such crowds of diseased persons, what multitudes would He have cured in eighteen centuries! Oh, when we think of it, the glory of that green tree of God! Wonderful, wonderful Jesus! how can we now turn from the brightness of Thy glory, to the gloom of Thy sorrow? Oh! who shall tell the tale of destruction? The axe and the flame from beneath, and the glittering arrows from above, stripped and rent, and levelled all Thy glory. Thou wast slain and buried off the face of the earth!
II. And now I pause; and turn from Christ's cross to CHRIST'S QUESTION — "What shall be done in the dry?" We have looked for a few moments at the glory and destruction of the green tree. We turn to the shame and end of the dry. Look then, O unconverted man or woman, at that dry tree. It is springtime: thousands of plants around are putting forth green leaves; but not a leaf appears upon it. It is summer: the gardens are white, and many-coloured with flowers; but it stands as bare as it stood in spring. It is autumn: the orchards are golden and red with fruit; but it remains black and dead. Sinner I thou art that dry tree. Thousands around you are fruitful trees in the garden of God; they bring forth ripe faith, and tender love, and sweet hope, and mellow peace, and the fruits of joy and humility. God gathers their fruit in its season, and rewards them an hundredfold. But you are barren, without faith, without love, without hope, without peace, without joy, without humility; you stand unmindful alike of God's commands, of God's warnings, and of God's forbearance — a withered cumberer of the ground. But the evil is still worse. You are taking up the room which others might occupy with advantage to the world, were you but removed. Look again, O unconverted man or woman, at that dry tree. The showers that soften the folded buds, and spread open the tender leaves of living trees in springtime, rain down upon it in abundance; but, alas; it only rots the more. The sunshine that ripens many a flower into fruit, and sweetens many a fruit into maturity, beams down upon it from day to day; but, alas! it only decays the faster. Sinner! thou art that dry tree. The gospel, which has softened many hard hearts, has made yours more callous. God's mercies help to make you worse. Like the cross, the chief of all His gifts to you, they are "the savour of death unto death." Before I conclude, I would give you all a word of warning, and a word of encouragement. Remember, O unconverted man or woman, that this fearful question," What shall be done in the dry?" remains still unanswered. As certain as I see the sufferings of Jesus, I see the sufferings of the lost. I can doubt no more. Penitent, a word to thee. In my bitter text there is some sweetness for thee. Penitent, if they have done these things in the green tree, why should you die? If Jesus died, why should net you live? What if He died for you!
(H. G. Guinness.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.