Two devotional writers today! What first fruit riches! Thank you both Barb and Nate!
We who have sown or planted something with the hope that it would produce a harvest know the longing expectation for the ripe fruit to appear. First the seed is placed in the ground, then the excitement comes as the first sprout appears pushing through the earth. Further joy follows as the leaves appear, followed by more leaves and further growth. Soon you are looking for the buds to form and the plant that has been watched produces blooms. Over time the blooms fall away leaving a miniature version of the larger fruit. Each day you check it to see it progress, noticing carefully the color and size, waiting for that first ripe fruit. After waiting and hoping, one day you check and it is ready, that first strawberry, ripe at last. With excitement you pick it and if you have any restraint, bring it to your family and show them the first fruit of the season. Perhaps you even divide up that first berry and let everyone have a taste.
In one way it is all so ridiculous; one strawberry divided (in my own family) between 7? But that is not all it is. The excitement consists in the fact that it is only the first of many to follow. It bears within it the promise of a full harvest to come. It is not just itself, it contains in it the picture of the hundreds and thousands of berries and that is exciting. I can almost taste it now, lots of strawberries warmed by the sun, picked fresh and eaten right away or maybe sliced up with a splash of cream. Each bite is savored with exclamations of delight.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20 compares Christ to the first fruits. This has more meaning than just the first harvest. God in his wisdom had given the people of Israel an annual reminder of the first fruits. They were to take that first harvest to the tabernacle and present it before the Lord and eat it in His presence. This annual feast reminded them whom it was they had to thank for the harvest. They were to go before the Lord and feast in his presence, thanking him for the good things he had given.
Paul is thinking of this when he calls Christ the first fruits. The Corinthians had taken a line from Festus, the Roman governor (Paul, your great learning is driving you insane!), and were teaching or were being tempted to believe that something as impossible as the resurrection of the dead was, well, impossible. The only things that are certain are death and taxes after all right? Paul gives them a resounding NO. There is a bodily resurrection of the dead and he uses the image of the first fruits to teach it. It is not that death isn’t certain for Paul says, as in Adam all die, but just as certain is the fact that those who are in Christ will be made alive again. The proof is in Christ. He was raised from the dead, he is at the right hand of God the Father, and he is reigning forever and ever.
As we remember the birth of our Savior this advent season, remember this little, real, human baby, born as we are yet without sin, grew up, lived as we lived, died for our sins and was raised on the third day, conquering death and hell in a real, perfect, human body and now has all rule, authority and power and wisdom and one day will return and gather the promised harvest, even us, in resurrected, perfect human bodies to reign with him forever and ever. Christ our first fruits, to him be all honor and glory forever.