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21st February: Grateful Shade

He bore our sins in his body on the tree. 1 Peter 2:24

'He that betaketh him to a good tree has good shade' wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1866. And all through the toilsome history ofour race mankind has sought relief and strengthening in the shade of trees that were not only good but great, having shade that was both deep and farspread. Two such were the tree of Cos, the plane tree under which the great Greek physician, Hippocrates, is said to have gathered his pupils to teach them, and the tree of Calvary, on which the Lord Jesus was lifted up to die.

Some years ago the President of the Australian Medical Association, Sir Angus Murray, referring to the tree of Cos, wrote, 'The grateful shade of this tree on the tiny sunbaked island in the Aegean Sea spread far beyond any confmes ofwhich Hippocrates and his pupils knew or even dreamt.' he was thinking, of course, of the Hippocratic tradition, which has influenced Medicine for good, both clinically and ethically, over the succeeding centuries.

Those who raised the rough wooden cross on the Hill of the Skull would not have thought ofit as a tree. To Rome it was a gibbet. But it was a tree to Peter (Acts 5:30, 10:39) and to Paul (Acts 13:29). Among the Jews, after execution by stoning, a body was sometimes hung on a tree and was regarded as accursed (Gal 3: 13. Dt 21:22-23). It was ultimate shame. Yet for the joy that was set before him Jesus endured the Cross, despising the shame (Heb 12:2). He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet 2:24).

We in medicine may well be thankful for the grateful shade ofthe tree of Cos. But the shadow of the tree of Calvary calls for inftnite gratitude as it stretches backwards and forwards, far into eternity, giving grateful healing shade to all who will come into its shelter. It is the tree oflife. How often do we say 'thank you' for it -- not only with our lips but in our lives?

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock
Within a weary land.
Elizabeth Clephane

Further reading: 1 Pet 2:20-25.

RRW

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