First Taste

“… For those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4,5).
In early March I was privileged to visit Makaibari Tea Estate in the hills of Darjeeling district of India. Makaibari is the oldest tea plantation in this region of India, having been established in 1859. I toured the processing plant, then was invited in to meet the owner, Mr. Rajah Banerjee, and was given a cup of the plantation’s product. After drinking it, I asked for a brief lesson in tea (I am what is considered a typical American over here ? I don’t know much about the subtleties of hot tea) and asked what precisely we had just drunk. Mr. Banerjee informed me that it was the “first flush” of the season’s harvest, brewed from the very first leaves picked from the tea bushes after their winter’s dormancy. He obviously prized this brewing as a special treat, and it was excellent, with a very light, delicate flavor.
Taste is a sense from which we derive great pleasure. We enjoy the rich flavor of meat, the sweetness of dessert, or the light taste of a crisp pastry. It is interesting that taste is used in the New Testament of the Christian experience. We taste “the heavenly gift” and “the good word of God and the powers to come.” Our participation in and enjoyment of spiritual blessings in Christ is described in terms of the pleasures of the palate. This is particularly true of eternal life.
Jesus is described as the “first fruits of the resurrection” (1 Corinthians 15:20,23). Though there are other implications of this phrase, it is difficult to ignore the great desirability of the first harvest of a season. Food that has been absent for a time is now restored. The danger of famine and starvation is removed. And in addition there is the great pleasure of the flavor of the fresh “first fruits”. In Alabama we look forward all winter and spring for the first “new potatoes” and the produce from the summer garden ? fresh green beans, tomatoes and corn. After a long season with only dried or frozen vegetables, they taste especially good.
Jesus’ resurrection is the Heavenly sign that our separation from God has ended. Spiritual life is renewed. Hope is restored. The harvest is underway and a time of plenty is upon us. We do not have to wait until our own entrance into Heaven to begin to enjoy its pleasures or to have assurance of them. The harvest has begun. Separation from God has ended (Ephesians 2:13). Spiritual renewal and blessedness is ours (2 Peter 1:3,4). Notice the explicit description in the text that follows:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Jesus has been raised from the dead as the first fruits, and we have already experienced a spiritual resurrection with him, resulting in spiritual fellowship (“sitting together in the heavenly places”). This fellowship is our assurance of the even greater blessings (“the exceeding riches of his grace”) that God will bestow in the ages to come.
This means that it is not just Jesus’ bodily resurrection in the first century that is the first fruits of the eternal resurrection to come. Rather, our own entrance into the Christian life “in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:5) is in every sense the beginning of the riches of eternal life. Fellowship with God, spiritual blessedness, and all other God-bestowed gifts promised through Christ, begin with our fellowship with Christ, in his death and resurrection. The famine has ended. The harvest is underway. Let us taste and enjoy.

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