I imagine most of America has their Christmas tree up. Some of us put up real trees, while others have the artificial ones. The sparkling tinsel, the twinkling lights and the evergreen color of the tree captures our senses. It gets us into the holiday spirit. Truly, what is Christmas without a tree? When I say this, I am referring to more than just a Christmas tree though- I’m talking about a cross that came from the wood of a tree. The cross where Jesus died for our sins.
Perhaps you’ve never stopped to think about the rich symbolism behind a tree- not just evergreen Christmas trees, but all trees. When God designed the Earth, he planned it in a way that would point to him. Every plant, animal, mountain and river contains his signature. But, there are certain things he created that have extra special meaning. One of those things is the TREE.
Jeremiah 23:5 says, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And he will reign as King and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.” This verse is speaking about Jesus, who would come through the family line of King David. He would bring righteousness to the fallen Earth.
Isaiah 11 says, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” Again, the Branch in this verse is referring to Jesus.
Zechariah 3:8 refers to Jesus, as “My Servant the Branch.” Then in Zechariah 6, it says, “Behold, here is a man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the Temple of the Lord…….he will be clothed in majesty and will sit and rule on his throne.”
And of course there’s John 15:5-6 which says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
All these verses are referring to Jesus as the Branch. One verse even states that followers of Jesus are branches as well. What’s interesting is that we know Jesus was from the town of Nazareth. In fact, we know Jesus fulfilled what was spoken of by the prophets because they said, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Jesus was often referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth.” Much of Jesus’ ministry occurred in Galilee, and Nazareth is part of this region. Well, here’s something to think about- the word Nazarene is thought to originate from the word netzer, which means BRANCH. So we can see God chose this town for a REASON- he knew his son would be the BRANCH for all people. He is the tree of life for all.
It is evident that Jesus is trying to make a point by saying he is the Branch. One of the first things that comes to my mind when I think about him being the Branch is the Menorah, or Golden Lamp stand. When most people picture a menorah, they are usually thinking of a Hanukkiah- which is used to celebrate Hanukkah. This type of menorah or lamp stand has nine branches- eight branched candles and a ninth servant candle to light the others. This type of menorah commemorates the miracle of lights that occurred when God’s holy temple was rededicated, after being desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. The oil of the lamp stand was only supposed to last for one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days.
But, the original lamp stand had seven branches on it. These branches were meant to resemble tree branches, and each branch had a lamp where oil would be placed. The oil in each branch would be lit one at a time, until all seven lights were lit. This light represented the light of God in the tabernacle and the Temple. Later, once Jesus came, we find him saying that he is “the light of the world.” He came to earth as the living, walking menorah. Even the oil in the lamp pointed to him since this refers to the Holy Spirit. Only the purest olive oil was placed in the menorah (lamp stand). The purest olive oil created the brightest light. We are only made pure by Jesus, and through his Holy Spirit in us. This Holy Spirit helps us become the light to others.
Olive oil- that makes me think of OLIVE TREES. Did you know Jesus prayed in an olive grove ( a grove of OLIVE TREES) before he was arrested, and then crucified? The olive grove he prayed in was called Gethsemane. It was in this olive grove where he said, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” This olive tree grove is where Jesus prayed and contemplated his fate, and the fate of the world. It was here that “his soul was crushed with grief to the point of death.” It was in this grove of trees that he began his ultimate trip to the cross. He prayed among the trees, knowing he would hang on a tree- a cross.
The Apostle Paul, like Jesus, was familiar with grief. He was familiar with suffering. But, he was also familiar with trees. In the book of Romans, Paul takes special care to explain a very important concept to readers of the Bible. In Romans 11 Paul says Gentiles (non-Jews) and Jews are on the SAME BRANCH of the olive tree. He says the Jewish people are the natural branches of the tree, while the Gentiles are the wild ones that have been grafted in. He goes on to say that even though many of his own people (the Jews) are blinded to who Jesus really is, this doesn’t mean the believing Gentiles are superior. He instead says that Gentile believers in Jesus should appreciate and care for their Jewish brethren. Even though many are lost right now, it is God’s intention to save them. Jesus himself is the one who broke down the wall between both groups. He is the tree that holds them both, and the people are the branches. Since both groups are part of the tree, it is important that both groups are reconciled through Christ. Disciples of Christ (whether Jewish or not) are called to pray for their unsaved brethren, and lead them to Jesus.
Did you ever notice how birds love sitting on branches? I was out walking one day and I noticed several birds, hanging out on some tree branches. One by one, they flew off the branches, soaring into the sky- “free as a bird”. It got me thinking…………….and connecting. I began to think about the day something wonderful would happen to all believers in Christ. I pictured Jesus returning for his Bride. Like birds soaring in the sky, we were flying up with him…………free as birds. What’s even more interesting is that feathers actually have BRANCHES! A typical bird feather has a middle shaft called the rachis, with paired branches on each side.
I can’t help but notice the shape of branches. They are in the shape of a Y. Go outside and take a look at your trees. I guarantee you will see Y shapes everywhere. Why is that important? The Hebrew name of Jesus is YESHUA. He is the Branch after all- it makes sense that the beginning of his name is in the shape of the branches. His name (Yeshua) literally means salvation when translated. We are only saved if we are on the tree with him.
Trees are more than just trees. They give us shade and most importantly, oxygen. Certainly we would die without oxygen. I can assure you, without Jesus, you are sure to be lifeless because there is no life without him. But, there is eternal life with him.
After Hurricane Irma plowed through my neighborhood, there were branches everywhere! I must have picked up hundreds of them! Most of them came from the big beautiful water oak tree in front of my house. The tree did not come down during the storm, but unfortunately, it had to be cut down two months later. I was so sad when the tree came down. Since the day I moved in that tree provided shade for my house and yard. I could even stand under it when it was raining, and it would keep me dry. When it was cut down, it changed the look of my home, driveway and yard. Everything looked so bare and desolate. The heat of the day now permeated my property. It made me realize something. Jesus is the Branch, and the tree. Without him, we have no protection from the wind, rain and sun. We are subject to the elements of this world.
I still count my blessings because the tree did not fall during the storm- After all, it could have fallen on my house! In fact, after the storm my husband and I realized something quite amazing. There was a large, heavy branch dangling over our house. A crack had formed in this huge branch, but somehow, it did not fall- even during 100 mph winds. We tried to figure out what kept it holding on. Then, we looked up. A small branch had become intertwined with the huge branch. This tiny branch kept the large one from falling, and smashing the front of our house. I had prayed Psalm 91 over this tree, and when the storm hit on 9-11, the tree stood its ground, thanks to THE BRANCH (Jesus). I was grateful and astounded with how a little branch held up such a large branch. But, isn’t that how Jesus is? He takes little things and makes them big. And even though my tree is now a stump, I know even that can be remade. Because Jesus can turn ashes into beauty, and stumps into trees.
This Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful time with friends and family. But, most importantly, I hope you spend time with the maker of that beautiful Christmas tree, with its evergreen BRANCHES. When you look at its sparkling lights, remember that HE is the light of the world. We are to be the light of the world as well, sharing the promise of “evergreen” life with him.
Another cool fact about branches: When lightning strikes it has branches. You will see branches of light streak across the sky. In the Bible, lightning is described as accompanying the presence of God. It is a manifestation of his power and glory. Lightning is the most powerful source of natural light on earth. Jesus is also associated with lightning. Matthew 24:27 says, “For as lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” This is describing the return of Jesus. Isn’t it amazing that the BRANCH (Jesus), who is the light of the world, is seen even in lightning? As I stated before, God planned all things so it would point to him, and his son————but some things are more obvious than others.
For those of you who read my blog on Circles, you will understand this- when you cut the trunk of a tree you will find tree rings, which are circles. You will also find stripes- this makes me think of the stripes on Jesus’back, made from the whipping he endured on the way to the cross. The BRANCH took our pain and sin to the cross, but by his stripes we are healed! (Isaiah 53)
THE FEATURE PHOTO IS A WOODEN HAND HELD CROSS MADE FROM OLIVE WOOD- FROM OLIVE TREES IN JERUSALEM. MY FRIEND WENT TO JERUSALEM AND BROUGHT ME ONE BACK. NOTE THE BEAUTIFUL STRIPES…………….