Larch Trees, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Photo by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr CC BY-2.0

It’s easy to categorize trees, isn’t it? Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the autumn. Coniferous trees bear cones and keep their needles throughout the year. It’s simple to tell them apart.

Case closed, right?

But what about the larch tree? It bears cones and has needles like a conifer, but the needles drop off each autumn like a deciduous tree.

So which is it, coniferous or deciduous?

The answer to this mystery is that it’s both at once. The larch tree is actually a “deciduous conifer.”

Larches fall into a special third category of tree. It’s a member of the pine family, and yet its wood is harder than pine wood; it’s more like the hardwood of deciduous trees. It has needles like a conifer, but they turn a golden yellow each autumn and drop off, like the leaves of a deciduous tree.

Larches are a rare combination of deciduous and coniferous, unique trees with characteristics of both.

You could say that larches are two things at the same time.

In the same way, you could say that Jesus was two things at once. Just as the larch is one tree with two natures, Jesus was one being with dual natures: both God and human.

He wasn’t exclusively one or the other during His time on Earth, but both at the same time. This is a bit of a mystery and is sometimes hard for us to understand, so let me try to explain it.

Is this an apple or a pear…or both?

Scripture indicates that Jesus existed before time began. He was divine all along: God the Son, the second member of the Trinity.

“In the beginning (before all time) was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.” (John 1:1, Amplified Bible)

But about two thousand years ago, Jesus also became a human being:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14a)

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem as a baby, He took on human nature. He was just like us in that he got tired and hungry; He could identify with our weaknesses. He was tempted as we are, but He never sinned. He lived and suffered as a human being, but never stopped being God as well.

The prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would have these dual natures of humanity and divinity:

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

But why was it necessary that Jesus be both God and human at the same time?

Because it had to be this way to ensure our salvation. Christ had to be a human to pay the penalty for sin. Scripture tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

But someone who was strictly a man and not divine as well couldn’t save all of humanity from their sins. No mere human has the power to do that.

Only Jesus could. As a man, he was sinless. As Deity, His death had infinite value and completely satisfied God’s demands for the atonement of sin. As the God-man, His death and resurrection could therefore redeem those who believe in Him from their sins and grant them eternal life.

The Saviour of mankind had to be that unique combination of both God and human at the same time. He had to have characteristics of both. That’s why Jesus was the only possible candidate for Saviour.

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s not forget the wonder of a mystery that goes far beyond that of the larch tree:

That of a baby being born who was both God and human united in one body. Mary delivering a Child who would become her Deliverer.

The Saviour being born in a stable; the Creator being laid in a cradle.

© 2019 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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