Contemplating Jesus

TREES

Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

Jesus had an affiliation with trees, so much so that he chose a vine to define the terms of his ongoing relationship with his disciples.   As happens in nature, Jesus expected the seeds of faithful souls to germinate in fertile soil, then grow and mature into fruit-bearing plants.  The fruits of the self – the qualities produced by character and conviction – were to provide special nourishment to those in need.  The remaining pips, or seeds, (with future fruit embedded in their DNA) would then spread, or be stored and planted wherever God desired, to affect an even bigger yield at another time.

 Jesus’ eventful encounter with a fig tree provided an opportunity to explain more about what he meant with this natural analogy.   Hungry on his way from Bethany, he noticed the fig tree in the distance.  On approach he found it barren: without a single fig to pluck.  Mark’s gospel (11:12-14) stated that it wasn’t the season for figs, but this didn’t deter Jesus from exclaiming,  “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”  The following morning, as Jesus and his disciples passed by the tree, Peter pointed and remarked that because of Jesus’ curse upon it, it had withered away( Mark 11: 20-24).   Jesus used the incident to elaborate on the power and magnitude of unwavering faith in God.  Even a mountain, he said, could be moved by a verbal command and “thrown into the sea.”     The profound and subtle message Jesus may have been conveying could be explained by a short stanza from the book of Proverbs:

“Whoever tends the fig tree eats its figs,
whoever looks after his master will be honored.”   (Proverbs 27:18)

The tending of one’s soul is paramount.  Without the fertilization of prayer, the love of God and the waters of grace, a tree can dry up and be unable to bear any fruit.  In Matthew 3:10  John the Baptist warned, “Any tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire.”  Jesus pointed to a method of discernment necessary in recognizing a good tree from a bad.  A good person is recognized by their fruits.   “Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?” he asked (Matthew 7:16-17).    The way to discern goodness is by tasting, and benefiting from others’ fruits of character, prayer, devotion and deed.

Jesus guaranteed a constant yield of good fruit by belonging to him.  He said “As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself unless it remains part of the vine, neither you can unless you remain in me.  Whoever remains in me, bears fruit in plenty” (John 15: 4-6).

This remaining relationship requires a constant commitment in surrender to the directive of the host plant, the source of the sap of life-giving grace.   A relationship of continuing growth and yield in Jesus he explained, was also being one with “my Father.”  Jesus is the true vine, God is the vinedresser.  Even if, due to the seasonal mishaps of daily life or spiritually barren times, no fruit is offered from our particular branch of the vine, Jesus said God does what any vine-keeper would do, prune and cut back.  Then, pruned to the source, —  being God’s alone — a new shoot of self will sprout.  In its vulnerability it grows into a stronger branch than before, full of faith that God knows what is best for it.  Somehow – not of its own accord, means, purpose or desire — it bears much more fruit than it had ever done before. And it knows that all goodness didn’t stem from itself.   Jesus was, and always is, the vine for abundant fruit, not just the seasonal variety, but the kind that lasts (John 15: 1-3 & 16).

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