Today’s reading led me down two rabbit trails about trees. I’m in Luke 13 on December 13. We’re leading up to Christmas, and here we find two trees mentioned by Jesus in the same chapter! So naturally, I had to find out more . . . I most likely discovered more than you want to know, so I’ll try stick to the basics! Feel free to do your own research, and let me know what you find.
Why on earth would I care? These two trees were common in the area where Jesus was teaching, and the people listening would have been very familiar with them. Shouldn’t we know at least something about what He was using for illustration? It just might open our eyes a little more to the truths He was sharing.
First we have the fig tree.
According to Britannica, “the fig was one of the earliest fruit trees to be cultivated,”
“In the Mediterranean region the fig is so widely used, both fresh and dried, that it is called ‘the poor man’s food.'”
“Then Jesus told this story: ‘A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down'” (Luke 13:6-9 NLT).
Jesus told this parable after warning the people that if they didn’t repent and turn to God, they would perish. Perhaps you’ve read his words from the book of Matthew:
“So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matthew 7:19-20).
Our walk with God should be lived out simultaneously in our walk with the people we rub shoulders with. We should be bearing good fruit!
There are times we may wonder why God doesn’t just strike some people dead where they stand. We see the over abundance of bad fruit hanging all over them. Be grateful that God didn’t judge you the same way before you knew him!
“He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).
“And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15).
Our Lord is the patient gardener who gives us ample opportunity to turn and follow him, which leads a plentiful crop of goodness in our lives.
The second tree is the mustard tree.
“Then Jesus said, ‘What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches'” (Luke 13:18-19).
I always thought that the mustard we use on sandwiches came from the seeds of the mustard tree, but I was wrong! It comes from the seeds of smaller plants of a different species.
The mustard tree is called a tree because of its height (between six and twenty feet tall and twenty feet wide), but is actually an evergreen bush with fleshy leaves. The leaves are edible and mustard-flavored, and the bush also produces tiny, edible fruit . . . the perfect place for a bird nest, I’d say!
The fruit is sweet and pungent, and can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried. All quite news to me!! Another interesting feature of the mustard bush is that its fibrous twigs can be chewed and used as toothbrushes in a pinch, giving it the nickname “toothbrush tree.”
So there you have it. A tiny seed becomes mighty . . .
May the Kingdom of God rule and reign in power in our hearts, and may we be identified by the fruit it bears in our lives!