Henri Braconnot’s name may not be one you hear very often, but the work of this 19th century chemist is something you likely experience everyday. He did not in invent or engineer any sorts of special medicines or poisons, however, Mr. Braconnot isolated a special ingredient in citrus fruits now known as pectin. The interesting thing about Braconnot’s finding is that everyone already knew the binding effects and preserving nature of this substance. Those who canned and manufactured jams and jellies were combining apples (and similar citrus fruits) to all sorts of things because of a particular reaction that transformed the original product. What the chemist did was experiment in breaking down the citrus fruits to get to the substance that imparted this necessary change: thus the discovery of pectin.
Henri Braconnot discovered and named what was already there. He identified the thing that held the substance together. He saw the effects and then searched for the source. He named the source and isolated it so that it could be used in all sorts of other creations. If a person were to search for pectin in foods they would find Henri Braconnot’s work displayed throughout the entire grocery store. Pectin is even now considered by dieticians to help move cholesterol and even unhealthy heavy metals out of the digestive system because it binds them to itself like a gel as it moves through the body.
When Paul talks about Christ being in and through all things it’s interesting to look backward in time. Sociologists and anthropologists can tell when cities began to be built, when communities started circling their camps together in order to preserve one another. They can tell when people started recording literature and making musical instruments. Despite all these verifiable facts concerning the what, we still must ask about the why. When I look at something as simple as the story of pectin it reminds me that there is a why. Everything becomes so much clearer when we see Christ as the pillar of our history. He is the chief meaning of history.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:17-20:
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Now this is a huge theological statement, but if we were to just glean the idea that Jesus holds all things together –that is certainly a sufficient thought for a full week of devotion! This term for holding together means to put parts together into one whole, it can also mean to exhibit or prove what something is composed of or to bind together.
To continue with this thought, the author of Hebrews 1:3a writes: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” That Jesus upholds, a slightly different term, means that Jesus carries something, that he bears this thing continuously; He conducts the thing or brings it to pass.
If we are to put these ideas together what we see is a picture of Jesus, the cornerstone of all things. He puts all things into their respective places and binds them to His purpose. He holds and preserves. He unites and gives meaning to even the most mundane activity. People come together because of Christ. He is the foundation of our togetherness, He preserves His people and marks the road so that we will be able to search and find Him and see that His effect has been there all along. Our Lord bears the past and the future the same today as He did on the cross.
As Henri Braconnot would point out, pectin was being used long before it was named. Christ’s work began before that Christmas morning two thousand years ago. All signs pointed to that moment when the virgin gave birth and, from that time forward to this day, we’ve been able to point backward through history to the moment of Jesus on the cross and say why it had to be so. To point to something and explain just how effective it was is one way to give glory to our God. The moment of the cross is like the church’s pectin; it binds all things together. Like pectin our Messiah enters the bloodstream and removes contaminates. But He does not stop there, He continues pulsing through His creation to make us see that in all things we can be giving Him glory by understanding our purpose in Him. It is our joy that we can point out the ways in which God is drawing us nearer. It is our joy that we can point others to see just what amazing things God has done in history by using His own creation (hospitals, physics, Alcoholic’s Anonymous, archaeology, literature, etc.), as well as what He is going to do in our future.
Lets pray this week that we will remember to point out God’s glory and share it with others.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
 Pellegrini, Amy, “What Are the Health Benefits of Modified Citrus Pectin?” Livestrong.com, 2 September 2015. Cited 23 May 2016.