Wednesday, April 30, 2014
THE UNFINISHED PARABLE
Fruitful Tree, Internet Domain
Times of crisis when the storms of life arrive is when we need to have trust in God and not other humans. Then we’ll have deep roots in a solid bedrock of strength and spiritual will to not only stand firm against the winds, but also possess the resolve to share with others. Jeremiah reveals that “I will bless those who trust me, the Lord. They will be like trees growing beside a stream—trees with roots that reach down to the water, and with leaves that are always green. They bear fruit every year and are never worried by a lack of rain”.
A fruitful tree was seen as a sign of godly living in early times, compared to one that bore no fruit for the patient gardener. In his parable of the four soils, Jesus teaches that seed which falls on good soil matures and produces a good and noble heart that hears the Word, retains it, and perseveres to produce a good crop. When we store goodness in our hearts, then good will be raised up out of our hearts. Jesus describes himself as a vine giving sustenance and strength and we humans are likened to the branches receiving it as we bear fruit for God. And he characterizes God as the patient vineyard gardener. The gardener will prune back productive branches to promote growth, which means sometimes we must endure storms and consequences to strengthen our character and faith. But the gardener’s patience has limits when no fruit is produced and those branches are eventually cut off from God’s life-giving power at the trunk.
Jesus mentioned that when teaching in parables, only those who had taken the time to study the Word of the Kingdom of God would understand the secrets of their meaning—“Others, though seeing, may not see: though hearing, may not understand”. He tells the story of a fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 in which we could consider God to be the master and Jesus to be the gardener; “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard. One day he went out to pick some figs, but he didn't find any. So he said to the gardener, ‘For three years I have come looking for figs on this tree, and I haven't found any yet. Chop it down! Why should it take up space?’ The gardener answered, ‘Master, leave it for another year. I'll dig around it and put some manure on it to make it grow. Maybe it will have figs on it next year. If it doesn't, you can have it cut down.’” This parable is sometimes called the unfinished parable because we don’t know “the rest of the story” like Paul Harvey used to report. The end of the story is still being written for many folks who enjoy God’s providence but do not share or give back anything in return.
And it may not have been a coincidence that when Jesus was raised from death in a garden on that first morning of Easter hope, the disciple Mary at first saw him as the gardener--a gardener and an intercessor for all of those branches of the tree of life that sprang from the Garden of Eden.