“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”(NIV)
I love this passage of scripture. The imagery is amazing. John is giving his testimony of eating from the tree of life, Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, the apostle records the ministry of Jesus Christ. In this letter (1 John) he is testifying to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. John is eating from the tree of life and it is transforming his life!
The imagery in 1 John is strikingly similar with the account of Eve in the Garden of Eden at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can you imagine what it was like for her to be there, probably hungry, being wooed by the tempter? Can you see her handling the fruit, smelling its fragrance, feeling its texture, and eyeing its substance? Can you imagine her thoughts, wondering why something so appealing would be forbidden?
As Eve heard the voice of Satan, John heard the voice of Jesus Christ. As Satan’s voice began a process of moving Eve toward him, so Christ’s voice invited John toward him. And as Eve saw “…that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…”(NIV), John sees, eyes and looks upon the living Christ, the living, breathing word of God in Jesus Christ. To paraphrase, one might say John stared at Jesus Christ and his life, clearly discerning the dependence of Christ upon his Father for life and perceiving the intimacy Jesus had with his Father. So much so he “eyed”, figuratively envied, jealous for a similar relationship with God. John saw the fruit and it looked good!
John was awestruck by Christ, his life, his words, the authority of his words, his treatment of people, his ability to invite people from all walks of life and sin problems into relationship with God. He loved his peaceable spirit and nature, his quickness to forgive, his gentleness in correction and his kindness. He also loved the strength of his character in being true to his heart and his Father’s heart – piercing the heart of self righteous works.
As Eve caressed the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in her hands, and was overcome by its presence, so is John overcome by the fruit of the Word of God in Christ – “his presence” – caressing the Word of God in his hands.
John’s testimony goes beyond the relationship he had with Jesus when Christ walked on the earth. It is much more. His testimony is of Christ’s indwelling spirit, the Holy Spirit, bearing fruit in his (John’s) life. As Eve confirms Satan’s words of knowing good and evil by eating the fruit and her nature being changed for the worse, John confirms Christ’s words of life by eating the Word of God and having his nature transformed for the better. That is the testimony John heralds in the Epistle of 1 John – Jesus Christ has come in the flesh – I am no longer obligated to serve the lower nature!
What the Apostle John is saying in essence, “Look, I’ve eaten from the tree of life, its fruit, and I have a new life, no longer a slave to sin and condemnation. I have fellowship with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. My flesh, my lower nature, no longer separates me from intimacy with God. In fact, my lower nature is being put to death. I am being transformed. The tree of life is available each and every day in Christ, eat and be filled with its fruits! Handle, touch and eat freely of the tree of life! Eat God’s word, let its seeds be planted in your heart and it will produce fruit for you and others. I, John, am an open letter to you of my life in Christ. An open letter from Jesus.”
John’s tree is still producing seed bearing fruit! The Word of God, penned by John’s hand is living and active in our lives. We are being transformed by the Word as John was transformed by the Word.
And oh, by the way, John warns of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To remind everyone where we came from and the battle before us, he says to stay away from the world and the lusts thereof. In 1 John 2:16, John says, “…the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world…”.(NIV) In other words, don’t continue to be deceived believing the things of this world are good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
John is heralding a hidden treasure he’s found. Saying, in so many words, “You know the tree in the Garden Adam and Eve missed, the tree of life, well, I’ve found it, eaten its fruit, and it’s brought me from the darkest of darkness into the glorious light of Christ.” I believe John would also say, “As with any treasure, there is a cost my friend, a painful sacrifice, but it is well worth the price.”
Like Paul, John apprehended what he was apprehended for. His hands have handled – they’ve touched the living God. John is inviting all to come and eat of the tree of life and enter the journey of intimacy with God and his Son, Jesus Christ, being made into Christ’s likeness.