Because of the Lord’s great and abundant mercy, Adam and Eve did not die immediately and instantaneously. Communion in God had been broken, but the Lord graciously and mightily held back the power of death. Death now entered into the world, but not at this moment—for in this moment the Lord snatched his infantile creatures from the jaws of death and from the gates of the grave. And then Our Father devised a plan and made a way of escape. He fashioned death into His instrument for restoring life, and called on His Son, by the Spirit, to blaze the new path from the garden through the wilderness and back into paradise. This way of escape requires tasting death and meeting the grave. Yet when that path is entered upon in true faith, communion in God is fully restored.
But what about the Tree of Life? The Lord God drove man out of the garden—“lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” Does this mean that the Tree is gone, that its fruit is withered, and that the life it once offered is no longer available? By no means!
The Tree of Life still bears fruit—and that fruit is the food for our journey from this life to the life of the world to come. And now here is the great mystery. The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden is Our Lord Jesus Christ—the same Lord Jesus who speaks plainly to us in today’s Gospel. Today He says that He is the Bread of Heaven which a man must partake of in order to have true life. For He says, "My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."
And so you see—the Tree and its fruit is not gone. Rather, for our sakes it has been wondrously, mercifully transformed. The fruit it offers is the flesh and blood of Christ—which is now given for us to eat and drink in the Blessed Sacrament. So the life that the Tree promises is offered anew—but in another form.
An excerpt from the Corpus Christi sermon preached at Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit.