Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Luke 12:27-31 The lily and me

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 15, 2018

27 Consider how the lilies grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. 28 If this is how God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith? 29 Stop searching for what you will eat or what you will drink. Do not be worried about it. 30 To be sure, the people of the world chase after all of these things, but your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, keeping searching for the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.

What is the difference between me and a krinon (κρίνoν)? A krinon is a lily, a wildflower that is pretty, and which blooms generally in the last days of March or the early days of April—precisely when the resurrection of Jesus took place. For this reason, the krinon is a Christian symbol of the resurrection; it is especially sought after for funerals even by poor, sinful subjects of allergies like me whose throats close up almost at their mere mention. Lilies adorn church architecture, especially as the decorative blossoms in our stained glass and carved stonework, in the wooden florets, crests, finials and crockets of our wooden screens, pew ends, and altar decorations, and on the borders of our banners. Lilies remind us of the victory of Christ over the grave. But when Jesus spoke these words, lilies had no such meaning. His resurrection had not yet taken place, and they were just spring flowers like any other spring flower, perhaps known at the time for their weediness and their tendency to grow in more aggressive bunches than small, more delicate blossoms. Perhaps if Jesus had said this while standing in your lawn he might have used dandelions as his example.

Another difference between me and a krinon is that I am subject to krino (κρίνω), “being judged.” A blossom is incapable of sin, even if it has thorns (Genesis 3:18), but I am not only capable of sin, I am thoroughly drenched in sin, contaminated by my birth and my descent from Adam, and compounded by my life of sin. I have a krinōn (κρίνῶν), a Judge, who awaits me on Resurrection Day, “It is God who judges” (Psalm 75:7). Knowing this, I know that while the lily basks and sways and stands proudly in the face of the sun (a “lily among thorns,” Song of Solomon 2:2), I cower and shrink and am terrified of God’s light, for it is the light that will expose every single one of my sins. I am a useless thorn among thorns, fit only for the flames (Ecclesiastes 7:6). What a wretch I am! What a coward! What a worm! “How can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot?” (Job 25:4-5). And I am not alone, cowering in fear and standing opposed to the glory of the krinos lily. Tertullian said in his Apology:

“Mock as you like, but get the demons if you can to join you in your mocking; let them deny that Christ is coming to judge every human soul which has existed from the world’s beginning, clothing it again with the body it laid aside at death; let them declare it before your tribunal… let them put away from them the least mark of ignominy and condemnation” (Chapter XXIII).

The demons know, in their terror, how real and imminent is their judgment and destruction. The sinner who knows what sin really is knows it, too.

But the lily and I, krinon (flower) and krinon (judged one), have something unexpected in common. The lily, the ancient botanist Theophrastus noted, might grow from a seed, or a root, or even from a cutting, and even more surprisingly, from a stem. And most astonishing of all is that the lily can grow from an exudation (the wet excretion or goo from a dying stem) even when it seems impossible. Theophrastus wrote: “Most peculiar is the method of growth from an exudation, for it appears that the lily (κρίνoν) grows… when the exudation that has been produced has dried up” (Plants II, 1,1). So just as the lily is reborn when it seems impossible in the extreme, when it has been cut from its life-source, left to wither, decay, and has even dried up into dust, so also it will be with me. When it seems impossible, after I have been cut off from this life, withered, decayed, and have disappeared into the dust of the earth like the long-dead Adam, I will nevertheless be reborn, remade exactly as I am, save that I will be without sin, spot or stain.

Because of the grace of God, I have a difference with the lily. In the end, fire will devour the open pasture and flames will burn up all the trees in the field (Joel 1:19). The flowers, even the krina lilies will be thrown into the furnace and will perish utterly. But by the grace of God, I will not. I have been rescued from the flames by the love and sacrifice of Christ. I was helpless in my sins, as helpless as a flower rooted in a field being overwhelmed by a wildfire. I can do nothing at all to change my condition any more than a lily can uproot itself and run away from the flames as they approach. But I have been shown the cross. There on the dead wood hung the dead Christ, sacrificed in my place. His blood was the exudation that will be my rebirth. His punishment finished the requirements of my sentence, and the whole payment for sin is payed, filled to the top by Jesus, who is at the same time judged (krinon) and Judge (krinōn).

So, Jesus assures me: If he takes care of the lilies, why do I worry? I am part of the kingdom of God, rescued by the Lamb of God. And by the grace of God, so are you.

Theophrastus the great botanist of antiquity was born in 370 BC and was a pupil and friend of Aristotle. He died, some say, in about 263 BC at the age of 107, complaining that “We die just as we are beginning to live.”

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive