Category Archives: Plants in Christ’ Ministry in Perea & Judea

A Diabolical Herb

Bible Reference: Luke 11.42.

Although used by Old Testament Israelites, the herb rue was never mentioned by Old Testament writers. Luke is the only New Testament writer who told a story about Jesus naming rue: “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs; but, you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone” (Luke 11.42 NIV).

In Old Testament time, rue grew wild in fields. When Israelites harvested rue, they weren’t required by Levitical law to tithe on it. By the New Testament era, rue grew in home gardens or was bought in markets; thus, growers and sellers were required to tithe on the plant’s value. The tithe on rue was miniscule, which was a point that Jesus was making to Pharisees.

The primary rue species that grew in Israel was Ruta chalepensis know as African rue and fringe rue. When I researched rue, I learned that R. graveolens is the more common rue, grown world-wide to include in the United States.27 Many characteristics of these two species overlap; however, leaves on the graveolens species appear less dense than on the chalepensis species. Some commentators speculated that the group of three rue leaves was the source for the club suit in decks of English and American playing cards.

Rue chalepensis (2)

Rue leaves taste bitter and when bruised smell pungent. Today, rule is primarily grown for ornamental purposes. Rue is rarely used by United States chefs because of its bitter taste. Not only does rue taste bitter, it can lead to gastric pain and vomiting. Individuals who consumed large quantities died. Exposure to common rue, or herbal preparations derived from it, can results in burn-like blisters on skin.

During the Middle Ages, rue was a common ingredient in witchcraft and spell-making. Rue was a sign of recognition among witches. At one time, the Catholic Church used a rue branch to sprinkle holy water on followers; thus, rue was known as the “Herb of Grace.” Historically, rue was regarded as a protective substance. It was an ingredient in mithridate, a substance used in ancient medicine and folklore. Mithridate was an antidote for every poison and a cure for every disease.

The genus name, Ruta, may be derived from “rhutos,” a Greek word meaning “shield” in view of its history as an antidote. Alternatively, Ruta may come from the Latin word meaning bitterness or unpleasantness. The bitter taste of  leaves led to the rue plant being associated with the verb “ruewhich means “to regret.” Pharisees’ teachings were to act as a shield for common citizens of Judea to protect them from any blasphemy against God. Instead, Pharisees’ man-made laws often made the Jews rue or regret their presence in society.

Pharisees missed the point of God’s laws and actions. They had their priorities and their interpretations of God’s laws upside down and inside out. By this time in Jewish history, Pharisees had teachings of Torah and Old Testament prophets. They were aware that God didn’t require 1,000 rams, or 10,000 rivers of oil, or their first-born child as a sacrifice. God wanted men and women to act justly, to extend mercy toward their brothers and sisters, and to love God.

Reflection: Repeatedly, the Bible identified that God is our shield. A shield is defensive armor or someone who protects and defends. Paul instructed Christians to take up the shield of faith, a deep abiding confidence in God. Paul said that with the shield of faith, Christians extinguish the Devil’s flaming arrows.  Name defensive and offensive weapons you have to fight back against  Satan’s fiery darts. If you used each one of these weapons would they be sufficient to protect you from Satan’s wiles and temptations? Any weapons that you don’t need? Name weapons that you need to defend yourself against Satan that God didn’t give you?

To get more information about plants, visit http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Beauty with an Ugly Name

Bible Reference: Matthew 7.16.

The Plant

One of the beautiful spiny plants in nature (in my opinion) is the bear’s breech (Acanthus syriacus). My view is based on a combination of the plant’s large leaves and stunning flowers. The name bear’s breech came from the large size and distinctive hairy leaf. Supposedly, Acanthus syriacus leaves were the inspiration for the Corinthian column capitals in Greek architecture.

The bear’s breech flower is even more attractive than leaves. Bear breech produces white and purple flowers on spikes up to about seven-feet tall. The flower spike is so gorgeous, that I wanted to touch what I thought were soft flowers. Wrong! When I wrapped my hand around a flower spike, I discovered that flower tips were sharp and pointed. I planted bear’s breech in the church Bible garden and never had to worry about children trying to pick flowers despite their beautiful appearance. Bear’s breech is a perennial and drought-tolerant. Gardeners don’t have to water it unless the climate is very dry. Over winter plant buds are located just below soil surface.

The Message

The origin of the name akanthos is Greek. The Greek word akantha comes from ake which mean a sharp point. Most Gospel references to thorns or thorn bushes use the word akanthos, i.e.:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grape from thornbushes, or figs from thistles” (Matthew 7.16 NIV)?

“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants” (Matthew 13.7 NIV).

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13.22 NIV).

“Then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” (Matthew 27.29 NIV).

Although I love this plant, I really dislike the name “bear’s breech.” When I explored possible origins of the name, I learned that at one time breeches were short pants that covered hips and thighs and fitted snuggly at lower edges just below knees.3  Perhaps, the parallel is the tight fit of flowers to the plant stem soon after flowers bloom. As summer progresses; however, flowers loosening from the stem (leg) and fall away (laterally) from the stem.

The lesson from bear’s breech goes back to Jesus’s parable of the sower and the seed. Although some individuals enthusiastically embraced Jesus’s message, worldly cares and troubles (exemplified by spines) sprouted and spread in their lives. Also, these individuals fell away from God the same way that individual flower blossoms on bear’s breech stems fell away from the stem as summer progresses and temperatures rise (in adversity).

I entered a personal relationship with Jesus Christ when I was about eleven-year-old. My relationship was fairly steady and grew in my high-school years. Everything changed during college. For about two decades, I lived far away from God. Worldly cares/spines weren’t the cause of my falling away. Rather, I wanted to participate in the seeming “fun, excitement” that the world offered.

Reflection: In retrospect, I own my decision. The decision to abandon God and subsequent actions were mine. The Devil didn’t make me do it. Similar to an individual flower on a bear’s breech stem, I loosened my grip on the stem, which in my case was God.  Have you even loosened your grip on God or stopped holding onto him altogether? How did that work out?  Will you repeat that behavior?

Copyright July 2, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth

Reputation of Fruit

Bible Reference:  Matthew 7.15-20.

This teaching is labeled “A Tree and Its Fruit” (NIV). Jesus began with “Watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7.15 NIV). Then, he told hearers the reason for his warning: false prophets were ferocious wolves that acted like gentle sheep. The good news was that people could recognize false prophets by their fruit—by looking at both their words and  actions. Just as a man can’t pick figs from a thistle, neither can a false prophet produce good fruit. False prophets could appear humble and mild like Jesus, or even blunt and rough like John the Baptist; yet, their words are filled with lies.

When Jesus compared words of false prophets to thistles, he was teaching in Galilee. Primarily, his listeners were from rural areas and small towns. They had experience growing and picking figs and grapes. They knew about productive and non-productive trees and plants, including thistles. They were well aware that thistles could be attractive to the eye, but had little value.

The plant associated with the thistle in Matthew 7.15-20 is the Centaurea iberica, known as the Spanish thistle or Iberian star thistle. The Spanish thistle grows in Israel from the northern Golan and Hermon areas, through the central mountains and plains including the Mediterranean coast, to the northern Negev Desert area. Spanish star thistle is an invasive plant that replaces pasture lands and displaces forage for livestock. The plant’s sharp spines impede recreational use and restrict access by wildlife. Seeds are spread by livestock, vehicles, equipment, and contaminated hay and seed crop. Seeds can be transported on clothes.

Jesus told followers that both plants and prophets could be recognized by what they produce. When we recognize someone, we are familiar with them, distinguish them from others, and comprehend what they do and say. God gave some guiding principles to differentiate between a true versus a false prophet.

1. A true prophet acknowledges that the historic Jesus is the son of God.  When prophets, pastors, or theologians say that it isn’t important whether Jesus was truly God or in some way deny the deity of Jesus, they are false prophets.

2. True prophets read and obey God’s word. They preach the Bible because it contains God’s truths for personal salvation and for successful everyday life. Believers need to discerningly read the scriptures so they don’t get taken in by words of false prophets.

3. False prophets are recognized by sin in their lives. A prophet who breaks God’s commandments consistently and without repentance is a false prophet.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined expectations for followers. Today’s false prophets contend that these standards are unrealistic; they are so high that people can’t meet them. False prophets argue these moral-ethical standards that Jesus described will only be achieved when Jesus returns to earth the second time. Prophets or pastors who advocate this view are denying Jesus’s teachings. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined how individuals should live now, not in the new heaven and the new earth. False prophets commit sin, then and now, when they deny God’s word.

Reflection: List at least four activities/behaviors in your life that you could or will change so others more consistently recognize Jesus’s teachings in your life.

http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com

Miracle with Barley

Bible Reference: John 6.1-15

My favorite miracle was Jesus feeding the 5000 plus individuals with a child’s offering of five barley loaves and two fishes. This miracle was the only one described in all four gospels; however, John’s gospel has the most detail (John 6.1-15). Another miracle in which Jesus fed 4000 plus individuals with bread and fish shouldn’t be confused with this one. That miracle didn’t name the type of bread. This miracle identified that loaves of bread were made from barley.

Right before this Bible story, Jesus learned that King Herod murdered his cousin, John the Baptist.  In response Jesus attempted to get away from the crowds and go into an isolated area. Perhaps, Jesus wanted to mourn his cousin or just reflect on how the devil attempts to thwart God’s purpose. In a boat, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee to a remote area.

Jesus’s plan to get away didn’t work. Crowds followed him to this isolated area. I would have responded, “Go away! Go away! I need a break! Can’t you see that I’m sad?” Instead of being annoyed by the people’s persistence, Jesus felt compassion for them. He healed the sick among them and continued to teach them by word and deed.

Near day’s end, Jesus’s disciples suggested that he send the crowd into surrounding villages, so they could purchase food (John 6.1-15). I imagine the disciples were hungry after all day in the open country. Perhaps, they projected their hunger onto the crowd. Jesus told his disciples to feed the crowd. The disciples looking at each other, thinking “How?” Courageously, Philip responded that it would take more than half a year’s wages to buy sufficient bread for each person to have one bite. Essentially, Philip said that disciples didn’t have funds to buy bread to feed the crowd. Andrew added that there was a boy who had fivebarley loaves and two fishes, and asked, “What are they for so many? (John 6.9 ESV).

Jesus directed the crowd to sit down on the grass and thanked God for the five barley loaves and two fishes. His disciples distributed the food. When all finished eating, bits and pieces of food not eaten were collected. The leftovers filled 12 baskets. The total number of people who miraculously ate could have been up to about 20,000 people. John counted only men, not women or children

Was Jesus God?

Because this blog is about Jesus’s interactions with plants, I am going to focus on barley rather than fish. Before the Israelites entered the promised land, Moses told them that they were entering a land where barley grew (Deuteronomy 8.8). Primarily, ancient barley was made into bread. So close was the association between Israelites and barley, that Midianites referred to Israelites as “cakes of barley” (Judges 7.13-14). Barley was a dependable, disease-resistant crop,  less expensive to grow than wheat. Barley could be grown in less fertile soil than wheat, i.e. on hillsides. Further, barley had a shorter sow-to-harvest cycle than wheat.

Israelites planted barley (and wheat) in autumn, about the time of first rains. Barley seeds were planted by one of two methods. Sometimes, farmers broadcast (strewed, threw) seeds onto unplowed ground and allowed them to germinate where they landed. A more reliable way to get a good barley crop was for the farmer to plow the top 3-4 inches of soil with an ox-drawn plow. Then, broadcast barley seeds by hand. Finally, the farmer plowed a second time, forcing seeds under the soil. Seeds stayed in the soil over winter, sprouted in the spring, and barley was harvested in April.

A  boy offered Jesus the meal his mother packed for him. The boy, perhaps 8-11 years-of-age, could have taken his food, slipped over a hill, and eaten it.  The boy and his family were poor; barley was the bread of the poor in 1st century Palestine. Instead, this boy embraced Jesus’s message to the point that he was willing to give all he had to Jesus.

Reflection: Are you embracing Jesus’s message? How is it changing your behavior?

Copyright 8/17/2018; Carolyn Adams Roth

Grape, Vine, Vineyards

Bible References: John 2.1-12; Mark 12.1-12.

Jesus was familiar with symbolism of vines and vineyards. He knew that often when the Old Testament prophets referenced vine or vineyard, they spoke about judgment that God would bring upon disobedient Israelites. The grapevine didn’t elicit positive images to first-century Jews. The first time Gospel writers recorded an interaction with Jesus and the grapevine, he performed a miracle at Cana in Galilee.  Subsequently, several of Jesus’s teachings used grapevines, vineyards, and wine.

Very early in Jesus’s ministry, he and disciples were at a marriage feast. The feast was at the bridegroom’s home. Possibly, the groom was a friend or relative of Jesus’s family. Mary, Jesus’s mother, was there; she was concerned that all went well at the feast. Servants obeyed Mary’s directions. When the wine ran out, Mary told Jesus, clearly expecting him to do something. Although a little reluctant to become involved, Jesus turn water into wine and performed his first-recorded miracle. Jesus’s miracles pointed to him as Messiah and were designed to honor God.

God told Israelites that seven plants would be available to them in the promised land (Deuteronomy 8.8) The grapevine was one a plant. Vitis vinifera is the botanical name for the grapevine that grew in Israel.  In ancient Israel, grapevines were a principle crop because grapes could be eaten fresh, dried, or made into wine. Although the Negev was a popular area for wine production in ancient times, today, grapes and wineries are present throughout Israel.

When Jewish leaders began to oppose him, Jesus started to use parables to make points. One parable focused on a vineyard (Mark 12.1-12). A man planted a vineyard. He protected the vineyard by putting a fence around it and adding a watch tower. He dug a pit for the winepress. Then, the man leased the vineyard to tenants and left the country. After a season, the owner sent a series of servants to obtain the fruit (money) the vineyard produced. Tenants beat and/or killed each servant. Not once did tenants pay the owner what was due him. Finally, the owner said to himself:  I will send my beloved son, my heir, to collect what is due me. Surely, the tenants will respect my son; but, instead of respecting the owner’s son, they killed him.

After telling this parable, Jesus asked listeners what the vineyard owner should do. He gave an answer—the owner will destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. In response to Jesus’s answer, religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus. They knew that God was the vineyard owner who sent multiple prophets to claim the fruit that Israel should have produced. The Israelites/Jews beat or killed prophets.  They knew that Jesus’s parable meant that God was going to take the spiritual vineyard from Jews and give it to another people. Perhaps these same Jewish leaders started to think of killing Jesus this early in his ministry. Did they even imagine that by killing Jesus, they were killing God’s son?

Reflection: Do you ever act in a way that God wants to take his spiritual vineyard away from you?

Copyright: August 13, 2018. Carolyn A. Roth

Visit my website at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com.

John, Unbendable Reed

 

Reference: Luke 7:19-28

John the Baptist’s public ministry lasted one-to-two years. Jesus went to John to be baptized. Baptizing Jesus was the high point of John’s ministry. Then, King Herod Antipas arrested John and imprisoned him at Machaerus, a walled fortress with special quarters for political prisoners. When King Herod arrested John, the ostensible reason was that John criticized Herod for divorcing his powerful Nabatean wife.

Although King Herod used a personal reason for imprisoning John, getting John out of circulation made political sense. John mandated that individuals, who came to him for baptism, change their behavior.  John advocated economic changes that influenced King Herod’s income. For example, John told tax collectors to collect only the amount of money required by Rome. They should stop lining their pockets and those of King Herod by over-taxing citizens. Soldiers must be content with their pay and stop extorting money from individuals. John had tremendous influence with people in Herod’s kingdom. According to the first century historian, Josephus, Herod feared that John, with his widespread support from the common people, would instigate rebellion against him.5

After John was in prison perhaps 15-18 months, he sent two disciples to Jesus. They asked Jesus if he was the expected Messiah, or if they should look for someone else (Luke 7.19). Jesus didn’t give the disciples a direct “Yes” or “No” answer.  Instead Jesus told the disciples to go back to John and report what they saw and heard, i.e., the blind received their sight, the lame walked, lepers were cured. After John’s messengers left, Jesus asked the crowd what they expected when they went to see John in the desert. Jesus contrasted John the Baptist’s behavior with a reed that blew in the wind, swaying first one way than another.

The reed that Jesus referred to when talking about John was the Arundo donax, known as the giant reed or the Cypress cane. Reed colonies were located on the banks of natural water courses, in floodplains of medium or large sized streams, and in dry river banks far from permanent water sources. Reeds grew throughout Israel from Mount Hermon to the Negev Desert.

Giant Reed

Giant reeds are perennials; they regrow year-after-year. Reeds  reach a height of 20 feet and may grow 10-12 feet in a single season. In frost areas, reeds are smaller. Often, they die back in winter, only to regrow in spring. Like bamboo grass, the giant reed spreads readily. Roots are thick, knobby rhizomes. In nature, this reed often propagates by rhizomes breaking from the main root stock, moving through the water, and taking root in a new location. The central reed stalk is called a culm; culms are about 1 ½ inches in diameter and hollow. Each culm has many leaves that resemble corn stalks; however, leaves have sharp edges that can cut fingers.

Culms and leaves are green in spring and early summer. As drier weather prevails, foliage turns light brown and rattles in the wind. Giant reeds bend with the wind, even when they grow in large colonies. In ancient times, reeds were used to check soil erosion and functioned as wind breaks.

Symbolism: Unbendable

Jesus asked the crowd if they expected to see a reed swaying in the wind when they went out to see John the Baptist. In New Testament times, individuals knew about reeds.  At a minimum, they saw reeds growing along the Jordan River. To them reeds elicited mainly positive thoughts. Perhaps, they remembered how Isaiah associated reeds with humility (Isaiah 58.5).

Jesus denied that John was a swaying reed. John was firm and upright, unlike a reed that swayed in the wind. Jesus averred that John’s beliefs were firm, and he lived by them. John stayed on message (repentance) and on task, (baptism). John didn’t have a politically correct bone in his body. He didn’t pander to public opinion, giving one message to common people and a second one to the rich and powerful. John called the Jerusalem elite “a brood of vipers.” Nor, was John silent when King Herod divorced his first wife, Phasaelis, to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Instead, John labeled Herod an adulterer.

Despite Jesus denying that John was a swaying reed, John’s behavior reflected how reeds were used in ancient Judea and Galilee. By his words and life, John stood against the erosion of godly living. He called ordinary citizens, tax collectors, and civil and religious leaders to a life changed to reflect God’s standards.

Like reeds used as windbreaks, John stood as a buffer between people who were righteous and the secular society of the Roman Empire. The best windbreaks lower wind chill in man, animals, and plants. Everything we know about John the Baptist showed a priest and prophet who lived close to God. As a windbreak John, lowered the chilling effects of the secular Roman society on inhabitants of Galilee and Judea.

Jesus’s comments on John the Baptist included a eulogy for John. In addition to commendatory words given at a memorial service, eulogy means “high praise.” Although John was still alive, Jesus eulogized him by saying of all men (and women) born of woman, there was none greater than John the Baptist. John wasn’t a weak reed, or as we would say in the 21 century, John the Baptist wasn’t a “shrinking violet.”

Reflection: What about you? Do you bend and sway with all types of adversity?

Copyright: 7/26/18; Carolyn A. Roth

Visit my website: CarolynRothMinistry.com

What is beauty?

Lonicera sempervirens 'Cedar Lane'

When I received my first Bible, in it was a picture of Christ. He had shoulder-length medium brown hair that was clean and combed, he was beardless, and his complexion was medium. Christ’s expression was serene and thoughtful. Recently on-line, I saw another picture of Christ surrounded by disciples. He was a vigorous, healthy-looking male with neck-length light-brown hair. He was beardless and smiling. In both representative pictures, Christ was attractive.

The Bible describes the reality of Christ this way:
• “As Christ grew and in adulthood, he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
• After the Roman soldiers were finished torturing Christ, “many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14).

Coral Honeysuckle

In contrast to the reality of Christ, the coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is described by all as attractive. It is the 2014 Virginia wildflower of the year. The honey suckle is a twining woody vine that often trails over the ground or climbs other vegetation. When cultivated, gardeners often grow this honeysuckle on trellis to display the beauty of the flowers.

Coral honeysuckle has evergreen leaves and terminal flower clusters. Flowers are produced from early to mid-spring and sporadically thereafter. The corolla is tubular with five fairly equal sized loves. From the outside coral honeysuckle looks deep pink to red; however, the inside is frequently yellow but can be red or orange.

Single flower, Lonicera sempervirens

Coral honeysuckle is famous because it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Nectar is abundant and has a floral odor. The bright red fruits are attractive to birds such as finches, thrushes and robins. The plant is host to larvae of spring azure butterflies and snowberry clearwing moths.

Native Americans believed the coral honeysuckle had healing properties. They used leaves (dried, smoked, or steeped in water) as a tea to treat asthma, sore throats, and coughs. Chewed leaves were applied to bee stings and supposedly alleviated swelling. Native Americans were aware that in humans honeysuckle berries caused nausea and vomiting.

Application and Reflection

When I saw pictures of the coral honeysuckle and read its attraction to birds and insects, I thought about Christ. Only Christ was not necessarily physically attractive. Because he was fully man, by the end of long days, both he and his clothes smelled like perspiration. He was an itinerant rabbi (teacher). Likely, Christ did not have toilet paper, take a daily shower, or use a tooth brush or dental floss. UGH!

What attracted people of his time to Christ? In those days, 5,000 -7,000 individuals was a large number of folks to go out and listen to even the greatest teacher; but Christ drew this size crowds.

What attracts me to Christ is his message as described in the Bible, but particularly, the gospels. I still cannot comprehend an individual loving me enough to be tortured and die for me. Why would God want to do this? I am indeed a wretched creature and Christ is the Son of God and part of the Trinity.

Reflection: Reflect on Christ’s appearance. Compare it to your ideas of attractiveness.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: February 8, 2015, Carolyn A. Roth, all rights reserved.

Easter Symbols: Plant, Eggs

 

The Easter season last 50 days, from Easter morning through Pentecost eve. There are two preeminent symbols of Easter (besides the cross and empty grave): the lily and the colored egg. Here is the stories of both.

Easter Lily: On Easter morning at my church, the altar is surrounded by blooming Easter lilies. Even window sills in the sanctuary are filled with the white lilies. Many churches that decorate for the Easter service with Easter lilies allow members to buy (sponsor) the lilies as a memorial to friends and relatives or in honor of someone in the church or in their lives. After Resurrection Sunday, individuals can take the flowers home, or, as in our church, donate them to beautify the church grounds.

Although the Easter lily is the pre-eminent symbol of the resurrection of Jesus, most of us don’t know its origins and what we think we know is tradition or legend. For example, one legend is that lilies sprang up in the Garden of Gethsemane after Jesus prayed there during his final hours. Another is that after Mary died, white lilies were found at her empty tomb, despite lily flowers or bulbs not being placed there. The white petals represented Mary’s body and the golden anthers represented her soul.

Although Jesus named the lily of the field when he urged the crowd to not worry (Matthew 6:25-34), the lily of the field isn’t the resurrection lily found in our churches at Easter. A minor prophet, Hosea, identified the resurrection lily and associated it with chastity and innocence. Hosea lived in the final disastrous years of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea averred that Israel’s idol worship was spiritual adultery (Hosea chapter 14).

Through Hosea, God said that if Israel repented, God would cause Israel to blossom like a lily (Lilium candidum). The formerly adulterous kingdom would once again become innocent. The lily is the most mentioned flower in the Bible. It signified hope, purity, and life everlasting. By his death and resurrection, Jesus assured believers that they can become innocent and pure and are guaranteed eternal life with him.

Easter Eggs: The custom of Easter eggs is thought to have originated in the Mesopotamia Christian community. At times, this community stained chicken eggs red in memory of Jesus’ blood. Also, the egg is an ancient symbol of the tomb where Jesus was buried. The shell of the egg is dead, as Jesus’ body was dead in the tomb. But in that tomb as inside the dead shell of an egg, there is the potential for new life to break out. On Easter morning Jesus walked out of the tomb and left it an empty shell. When Christians die, their body is an empty shell in the grave, but their spirit lives. The spirit goes to be with God forever.

Red eggs are given to Orthodox Christians after the Easter Liturgy. They crack their eggs against each other’s. I assume that these eggs are hard boiled otherwise the church could become a mess. The cracking of the eggs symbolizes a wish to break away from the bonds of sin and misery and enter the new life issuing from Christ’s resurrection. In some Christian churches, priests bless and sprinkle eggs with holy water.

In my family home, several days before Easter, mother boiled chicken eggs in their shells until the egg yolk was hard, removed the shells, and placed the eggs in red beet juice in a large jar. The juice permeated the white layer of eggs and turned them pink (red). As children, we had no idea of the significance of these “red beet hard-boiled eggs.” We just knew that they were always served with the Easter meal and tasted good.

April 10, 2018; Copyright Carolyn A. Roth. This post is from my new book: Connecting the Church Calendar, 101 Meditations for Church Season. Check it out at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

The Last Supper

Bible Reference: Luke 22:7-23.

For Christians, the Passover meal Christ celebrated with his apostles is called the Last Supper and the Guest Room known as the Upper Room. Area maps showed that the Upper Room was south of the Temple near the Gihon Spring. A path led from the Upper Room through the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. The date for the Passover meal in 33 A.D. was Thursday, April 22 (Wallace, 2012).

The central food in the Passover meal was a one-year-old unblemished male lamb. This lamb symbolized Christ, the unblemished lamb who was sacrificed for sins. Another food in the Passover Meal was bitter herbs which were associated with the bitterness of Israelite life in Egypt. The type of bitter herb used for the Passover meal was not specified in the Bible; it could have been endive, lettuce, dandelion, etc, or another herb that grew around Jerusalem.

When Christ offered the Passover bread and the third cup of Passover wine to his apostles at the Last Supper, he initiated a Christian ritual — Holy Eucharist. The bread and wine symbolized Christ’s body which would be broken and his blood which would be shed for mankind.  In many Christian churches, the Eucharist is offered every week to congregates as a memorial of Christ’s sacrifice and to give them strength in their Christian walk.

Dandelion

Known since the time of Moses, the dandelion is used to illustrate bitter herbs in the Last Supper.  The species name of dandelion is Taraxacom officinale.  It has numerous common names to include puff ball, Irish daisy, and wine’s snout. In Israel, dandelions grow from the extreme north at Mount Hermon south to the Negev Dessert.

Dandelion is a perennial herb. Leaves grow directly from the root in a rosette pattern; often leaves grow more horizontal than upright. Flower stems are erect, smooth, and hollow.  Normally flower stems grow about 6-8 inches in length; however, a dandelion plant left un-accosted in my flower bed had a 12-inch flower stem. The flower has a golden yellow head that is 1.5-2 inches in diameter. Did you know that dandelion flowers close at night and open at daylight?

Although dandelion leaves have a bitter flavor, the plant is cultivated as a salad crop. My mother served yard (not garden) dandelion greens with hard boiled eggs, bacon, and a tangy warm dressing.  A cousin used young dandelion flowers to make wine.

Symbolism: Lion’s tooth

The word dandelion comes from the French phrase “dent de lion” which means “lion’s tooth” because of the jagged shape of leaves. The dandelion, the bane of home-owners and farmers, hardly seems to warrant a French name as grand as lion’s tooth.  “Lion’s tooth” reminds us of Christ. When Christ came to earth two millennia ago, he came as a humble suffering servant.  When he returns to earth the second time, Christ will return as a lion. He will be a military leader who will rend and tear those individuals who set themselves against him.

Reflection: Have you encountered Christ in his role of suffering servant or will you encounter him the first time as a military leader?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God 2 and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 3/18

First Passover

Bible Reference:  Exodus chapters 11:1 – 12:36.

Moses followed God’s direction and asked to allow the Israelites to go into the desert and worship God. Pharaoh’s answer was an emphatic “no”; he was not going to allow the valuable Israelite slaves leave Egypt. As a result of Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness, and manipulative behavior, God visited 10 plagues on Egypt.  Two plagues – the 7th and 10th plague — have direct relevance to plants. The seventh plague was a severe rain storm that involved thunder, lightning, and hail. The hail caused the barley and flax to be destroyed. The wheat and spelt were not destroyed because they ripened later. These plants – barley, flax, wheat, and spelt – will be described in later chapters of God as a Gardener.

The NIV Study Bible (2002) labeled the 10th, and final plague sent on Egypt as “The Plague of the Firstborn.”  The 10th plague was the death of the firstborn of every man and animal in Egypt with the exception of those of the Israelites. To keep the death angel from entering Israelite homes, God required the Israelites to slaughter a lamb or goat and place the animal’s blood on the sides and top of their door frames. That same night, the meat of the slaughtered animal was roasted.  Then, the meat, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread were eaten.

God told the Israelites to eat bitter herbs with their meal to remind them of the bitterness they experienced in Egypt.  Common practice was for Egyptian taskmasters to whip Israelite slaves. The Israelites must have experienced terrible bitterness when their newborn sons were taken from them and thrown into the Nile River to die. They were powerless to stop these murders. The final way bitter herbs symbolized bitterness was related directly to the death of Egyptian first born sons. The death of Egyptians’ first-born sons was the price of Israelite freedom.  Pharaoh’s resolve to keep the Israelites was not shattered until his son was killed. Individual, family, and national freedom through death of children – even children not their own — would have been a source of bitterness for the Israelites.

In Egypt bitter herbs included endive, chicory, dandelion, and wild lettuce. The type of bitter herb used in the first Passover meal may have varied among families.  Exodus 10:15 recorded that “nothing green remained on tree or plant in all of Egypt” after the eighth plague, the plague of the locust. Possible some families stored one type of bitter herb, while other families had another bitter herb available to them.

The Endive Plant

 In this chapter, endive, Cichorium endivia, is used as an example of a bitter herb. In early Greek translations of the Bible, the word “endive” was used in place of “bitter herbs.”  Although the origin of endive is lost from history, the first wild species may have grown in Turkey and Syria.  Probably, endive  was native to India, China or Egypt.  Endive produces attractive light blue flowers which grow on stems that stand above the leafy foliage. Endive is used almost exclusively in raw salads. Its slightly bitter flavor is often more appreciated by Europeans than Americans. Adding a sweet or oily salad dressing can balance the bitter taste.

Symbolism: Bitterness

The symbolism of bitter herbs including endive is clear from the name – they refer to bitterness. Bitterness is something intensely distressing or disturbing to the mind (Merriam-Webster Incorporated , 2005). Bitterness is an expression of severe pain, grief, or regret.

Writing to the Ephesians (4:31), Paul told them to get rid of all bitterness.  Yet, God wanted the Israelites to eat bitter herbs at the annual Seder meal during Passover to remind the Israelites of their bitterness in Egypt.  How are we to reconcile putting off all bitterness with God’s direction to the Israelites to remember their bitterness annually?

I think there is a difference between remembering a bitter occasion as a precursor to celebration of a better life, versus remembering bitterness to the point that it leads to resentment of God, situations, and people. Certainly, God did not tell the Israelites to hate or resent the Egyptians. Rather, the Seder meal which included bitter herbs was a meal celebrated the Israelite exodus from Egypt.

Remembering bitterness (of pain, grief, and regret) disturbs our minds. Bitterness supplants the peace Christ designed to rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).  Our bitterness grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30-31).  Can we remember bitterness as an object lesson, but not allow it to control our lives? In his book Total Forgiveness, R.T. Kendell (2007) suggested that forgiveness was the answer to bitterness. He identified four parts to this forgiveness:

Step 1, we need to forgive whomever and whatever situation caused the bitterness in us. The Israelites needed to forgive the Egyptians for enslaving them.

Step 2, we need to forgive ourselves for contributing to the situation that caused bitterness. The Israelites needed to forgive themselves for remaining in Egypt for 400 years, well after the famine in Canaan was over.

Step 3, we need to forgive God.  Saying we must forgive God seems odd and almost improper. Does the created forgive the creator?  In this situation forgiveness means we need to acknowledge our bitterness toward God for letting us get in a devastatingly painful situation.

I think that some Israelites blamed their bitterness on God. After God led them out of Egypt, probably some cried “Where were you when my son was murdered? If you would have freed us sooner, my son would be alive.”  The reality is that we do blame God for some, or even much, of our bitterness. If we want to get rid of bitterness toward God, we need to tell God our feelings, tell God we forgive him, and really mean it.

Step 4, we need to ask God’s forgiveness. Without bitterness in our hearts, we can confess our sinful feelings of bitterness toward God and ask his forgiveness.

From time to time, we may still remember the bitter situation; however, the pain of it will be gone or go away over time. For years I had bitterness in my heart over a situation. I tried a number of ways to get rid of it, to no avail. Then, I read Total Forgiveness and implemented the four steps of confession and forgiveness that Kendall recommended. Now, I am free of the bitterness of this situation. Thank you, God.

Reflection: The past cannot be changed, but the future is whatever you want it to be. Is there bitterness in your life that needs attention?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God  and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright August 26, 2011; carolyn a. roth