He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.Mark 4:30-34
From a Tiny Mustard Seed
Living in first-century Palestine, Jesus frequently observed farmers sowing tiny mustard seeds, which grew to a height of ten feet or more. He also heard the ancient prophecies in Ezekiel and Daniel of a miraculous tree encompassing the whole world.1 Combining experience and prophecy, Jesus spontaneously told a parable that illustrates the wonders of God’s kingdom.
The colossal tree in Ezekiel and Daniel magnifies the image in Jesus’ parable. Birds of the air dwelt in it. Wild animals played under its branches. All nations found refuge in its shade. Rising from the center of the earth, its top touched the heavens and its fruit nourished all creatures.
A Universal Tree
From ancient times, the Hebrew prophets had foreseen “the universality of the kingdom of God.”2 Denouncing the kings of Egypt and Babylon, Ezekiel and Daniel turned to God as the source of unity. While earthly kings rise through presumptuous power and pride, the true king of kings humbled himself unto death on the cross. Jesus Christ, the tree of life sprung from a mustard seed, opened the easterly gates of paradise for all creation.
Light, Shade, and Fruit
Adam’s expulsion from paradise necessitated clothing, shelter, and food foraged by toil. Christ, the tree of life, provides all three through his abundant grace. In place of Adam’s nakedness, the new Adam robes him in glorious light.3 At home in the Father’s arms, the prodigal rests in the boughs of the Almighty.4 Fruit from the tree of life reverses the poison of forbidden fruit.5
O Christ, Tree of Life, Thou art light and shade:
Fruit for the journey eastward, unafraid.
1 Ezekiel 17:23; 31:6; Daniel 4:7-9 (4:10-12 in various translations).
2 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to Mark 4:32.
3 Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; Revelation 6:11.
4 Luke 15:11-32; Psalm 91:1.
5 Revelation 22:2.
2 Replies to “Jesus Christ, the Tree of Life”
Eastward, unfraid I go,
Rising rays of sun shine.
As a tiny mustard seed,
I soak the rays of light,
I absorb the flow of grace.
In God’s garden of love,
I have a special place.
In God’s garden of love, may you be filled with shalom!