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

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

Wasting or Trusting????

Spikenard flowerThe story of a woman anointing Christ’s head with perfume is in Matthew 26:1-3 and Mark 14:3-11.         

All four New Testament gospel writers recounted Christ being anointed with perfume by a woman. Luke’s gospel described an event set in Galilee early in Christ’s ministry. The other gospel writers identified the location as Bethany of Judea and the time frame shortly before Passover and Christ’s crucifixion. Both Matthew and Mark described Christ eating a meal in a home.

As Jesus reclined at the table, a woman entered the room with an alabaster jar of expensive perfume made of pure nard. She broke the jar seal and poured the perfume on Christ’s head.  Some of the other guests were indignant and asked why the nard was used for this purpose.   They said, “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”  The value of the nard was worth a year’s wages, i.e., about 300 denarii, in Jesus’ time and equal to about $2,000 today.  

Aware of their indignation and questions, Jesus told the mutterers to leave the woman alone. He explained that what the woman did was beautiful. Then, Jesus said that wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, the story of the woman anointing him would be told in memory of her. The disciples only realized later that the woman anointed Jesus for his burial.

John (John 12:1-8) John’s account of the dinner occurred in Lazarus’ home with Martha serving the meal. Lazarus’ sister, Mary, poured nard on Christ’s feet, not his head, and wiped his feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume filled the entire house.  John recorded that it was Judas Iscariot who objected to Mary using the nard to anoint Christ rather than selling it.

Nard or Spikenard

Spikenard roots (Primrose Laboratories)The nard of the New Testament was Nardostachys jatamans, also known as spikenard. Nard did not and does not grow naturally in Israel.  Most likely, prepared nard was transported to Israel via trade routes with entry through the port of Elath. Nard is a perennial herb that grows from 4-24 inches tall. Each plant has a long tap root and 2-7 rhizomes however plants may have as many as 12 rhizomes.  The roots and rhizomes are used to make nard. In the Roman Empire, nard was the main ingredient in a perfume called nardinum.  Supposedly nard was an ingredient in the Israelite Temple incense. 

Oil of Spikenard

Known as the Oil of Gratitude, Spikenard essential oil is steam distilled from the roots of the plant and has been valued for centuries. One of the greatest benefits is the aroma. The calming grounding scent promotes calming and feelings of relaxation. The unique woodsy, spicy scent of Spikenard combines well with a series of oils and if commonly used in the perfumes. Diffuse with complimenting oils like Clove, Frankincense, Geranium, Lavender Myrrh, and Wild Orange, or apply to back on neck or temples, to promote feeling of calmness and relaxation.

Traditionally Spikenard was used in health practices and to anoint people of high honor. Historically, it was used to uplift mood and promote relaxation. In today’s world we also use Spikenard to support the integumentary system. Revered for its benefits for the skin, Spikenard is often used to cleanse and purify. To promote healthy glowing skin, consider adding a few drops to your daily cleaners, anti-aging or hydrating creams. Add a few drops to lotion when you want smooth soft skin. To promote youthful looking hair, add one drop to shampoo and massage into hair and scalp. Massage into nails for clean, healthy nails.

Symbolism: Trustworthy

The nard used to anoint Christ’s feet has sometimes been associated with sacrifice with authors arguing that purchase of the nard was a sacrifice on the part of the woman who anointed Christ.  Another perspective of the symbolism is “trustworthy.” The Greek word for spikenard is pistikŏs which means trustworthy in the sense of genuine or unadulterated.  In the story of the woman anointing Christ for burial, the nard was pure nard, it was unadulterated.

The woman’s love for Christ was so genuine that she bravely entered a room where a meal was served for “men only.”  She humbled herself to anoint Christ. The woman saw Christ as trustworthy. She did not expect Christ to reject her offering or expel her from the room.  Christ – God the Son — is always a trustworthy when individuals seek him.

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/

Material on Oil of Spikenard provided by Linda Sable, Wellness Advocate, DoTerra Essential oils

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 2/18

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Joyful Peppermint

Bible Reference: Luke 11:37-44. 

At the end of a day of teaching, a Pharisee invited Jesus to his house to eat. Christ entered the house and reclined at the table. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before the meal for two reasons. First, most foods were eaten with the hands. Second, although not a Mosaic Law, Jewish hierarchy advocated a procedure for hand washing before meals. Knowing what his host was thinking, Jesus admonished him, saying that Pharisees clean the outsides of dishware while they disregard the insides which are full of greed and wickedness. Pharisees’ tithe on mint, rue, and garden herbs, but neglect justice and the love of God. Christ admonished the Pharisees to practice justice and love as well as tithing.

The Book of Law required that Jews tithe. Tithing meant that they gave 10% of their money and/or crops to the Lord which usually went to the Temple (Leviticus 27:30). Mint and rue were herbs produced by farmers and other agriculturists for commerce; therefore, Mosaic Law required Jews to tithe on them. Importantly, when Christ spoke to the Pharisee, he did not tell the Pharisee that tithing on mint production was wrong. Just the opposite, Christ reinforced the need for God’s people to tithe. At the same time, Christ instructed the Pharisees that loving God and seeking justice were the greater good.

Mint, the Plant

The mint that grew in the Holy Land was Mentha longifolia, sometimes known as Mentha spicata L., wild mint, and horsemint. The large mint family, Lamiaceae, has 250 genera and 6,700 species; species names are often confused and confusing. Probably, M. longifolia originated in the countries of the Mediterranean Basin; however, South Africa claims it as indigenous. Mint thrives in most soils as long as soils are moist. If mint plants are propagated to secure a specific aroma, it is best to cut a piece of the original root (rhizome) and plant it. Virtually any part of a root will grow into a new plant.   When mint is planted for its essential oils, full sun is optimal; however, it will grow in partial shade. Wild mint tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure; it is not frost tender. In Israel, wild mint is found in Galilee, the central mountains and valleys, and south into the Northern Negev Desert and Aravah Valley. 

 Symbolism: Happiness, Joyful

The Greek word for mint is hēduŏsmŏn which is derived from hēdista meaning very gladly and kauchaŏmai, which means joy and rejoice. These two Greek words denote happiness and joy. Both words are appropriate for mint which medicinally relieves headaches, aids digestion, and is used to cover unsavory tastes and smells (Plants for a Future, 2012).

King David associated righteous behavior with gladness, happiness, and joy (Psalm 68:3). When Pharisees tithed on their income to include the relatively unimportant herb mint, they acted rightly. If they lived in strict adherence to the Mosaic laws, the Pharisees could have been happy, joyful people; yet, I could find no place in the Bible where the Pharisees were described as happy or joyful. Is it possible that righteous behavior does not lead to happiness? Was David wrong to associate righteousness with joy? Or was there something wrong about the righteousness of the Pharisees?

William MacDonald (1995) succinctly summarized why Pharisees were not happy and joyful.  They were externalists; which means the Pharisees were punctilious about small details of the ceremonial law, i.e., hand washing. At the same time, they neglected the greater commandments to love God and their neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). They emphasized the subordinate and overlooked the primary laws of God. Happiness and joy cannot come when God or his primary commandments are ignored. Happiness comes from loving God and striving to please him in all things. Joy comes from doing good to others. 

Reflection. Christ said, whatever you do to the least man, woman or child, you do to me; and whatever you do not do to the least man, woman, or child you do not do to me (Matthew 25:40, 45). Christ is the “least” man, woman, or child.  

Copyright January 31, 2018; Carolyn A. Roth

Lent, A Time of Celebration

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In orthodox churches, Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Lent is a time of reflection and repentance; therefore, tends to be a solemn time for Christians.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday which in 2017 is March 1. We will get ashes as a reminder that we are repentant sinners who don’t deserve what Christ did for us. During Lent my church has a Wednesday noontime service and Wednesday evening service to help us to reflect on Lent. We tend to be more about what we can do extra in Lent than what we can give up.

When we walk into the church on Wednesday noon, seeing the blooming Lenten rose makes me smile and tends to calm me.

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This beautiful flower starts blooming about February in Roanoke, VA (Plant Zone 7) when the ground is still frozen. The Lenten rose is present during Lent, hence its name. This evergreen plant is in the Helleboros genus, and like most Helleboros grows best in a shade garden.  It is resistant to both deer and voles, long-lived, and provides exquisite blooms at a time when flowers are a scarce delight. Once established Lenten rose is drought tolerant but grow best when the soil is evenly moist. Water well during extended dry periods. I have mine on a soaker hose with a timer during the summer. Lenten rose flowers are creamy yellow as the one above or a dark magenta color.

Reflection: What do you plan to do “extra” to celebrate (and it is a celebration) of Lent?

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February 27, 2017: carolyn a. roth; all rights reserved.

 

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Climbing a Sycamore Tree

???????????????Luke recorded the episode of Christ, Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree in Luke 19:1-10.

This picture of a sycamore tree was taken in Jericho and is identified there as the actual tree that Zacchaeus climbed; however, it is much too young. It could be an offspring of the actual tree.

The setting for Christ’s interaction with Zacchaeus was Jericho, located 5 miles west of the Jordan River and about 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Herod the Great built a new city of Jericho south of the old city. Probably Jesus was entering the new city when Zacchaeus climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him. 

Zaccheaus was a Jew but functioned as the chief tax collector for the Romans. In the Roman Empire, tax collectors were responsible to collect and give so much money to Rome annually.  Money collected beyond what they turned over to Rome they kept. Many tax collectors, including Zacchaeus, were unscrupulous; they became very rich from overtaxing and defrauding the people in their tax districts. Jews assigned tax collectors to the category of “sinner” along with adulterers, prostitutes, robbers, etc.  Zaccheaus and his entire family were ostracized by Jews. 

Zacchaeus was a physically short man. Because he wanted to see Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree by the side of the road where Jesus was walking. To Zacchaeus’ surprise, Jesus stopped below the sycamore tree where he was perched, looked up, and started to talk to Zacchaeus. What Jesus said was shocking not only to Zacchaeus but to the crowd who was with Jesus. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down from the tree immediately because he was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that day. The story of Zacchaeus is the only Biblical record of Jesus inviting himself to an individual’s house.  Zacchaeus climbed down from the sycamore tree and welcomed Jesus gladly.

When members of the crowd saw that Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ home, they muttered about Jesus wanting to be a guest of a known sinner; however, Jesus’ conversation with Zacchaeus brought about a radical change in Zacchaeus’ life.  Following their time together, Zacchaeus vowed that a) he would give 50% of his possessions to the poor and b) anyone he cheated, he would pay back fourfold.  Zacchaeus’ promise of restitution was more than the Hebrew law demanded (Exodus 22:4, 7; Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 5:7). Where Zacchaeus was controlled by greed, he was now controlled by love. Christ’s response to Zachaeus’ conversion was to declare that salvation came to Zacchaeus and his house.

Sycamore Tree

The sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed into was the Ficus sycamorus, also called the sycamore fig.  Some scholars argue that the Ficus sycamorus was the original fig tree in the Garden of Eden, not the Ficus carica.  In Israel, sycamore trees grow where underground water is shallow and is most prominent in the southern Israel because of construction and rapid development.     Under very favorable conditions, the sycamore tree may produce up to six crops per year.  In Bethlehem, we purchased a wrapped package of sycamore fruit at a road-side market. When unwrapped, the sycamore fruit were hard, salted, and made a tasty snack.  1-DSC00874

Symbolism: Regeneration    

In Israel, the sycamore tree symbolized regeneration.  Regeneration refers to someone who is spiritually reborn.  Zacchaeus had a spiritual rebirth thorough his discussion with Jesus in his home.  Levi, known as Matthew, was one of Christ’s original 12 apostles.  Like Zaccheaus, Levi was a tax collector (Mark 2:14).  When Christ called, Levi left his tax collector’s booth and followed Christ.  Possibly Zacchaeus knew Levi and wondered why his colleague who could become very rich collecting taxes would give it up for Christ.  After spending several hours with Christ, Zacchaeus no longer wondered because he too had a regenerated heart. Zacchaeus’ new heart did not cause him to follow Christ as did Levi’s.  Instead, Zacchaeus’ regenerated heart caused him to make restitution and change his life where he lived in Jericho. 

Reflection: I wonder if Zacchaeus did not have a harder task than Matthew???

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 10/13

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How will Christ Return?

Christ’s description of the coming Kingdom of God included an illustration of women grinding grain (Luke 17: 20-35).

In response to a direct question from the Pharisees, Christ described how the kingdom of God would come. Christ said: “Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left” (Luke 17:35). Christ provided a similar teaching on signs of the end times on the Mount of Olives (Matthew chapter 24). In the Olivet Discourse, Christ added that two women would be grinding grain with a hand mill; one would be taken and the other left behind (Matthew 24:41). The interpretation of Christ’s remarks is that a) his return to earth will be unexpected and that b) no matter how close two individuals, there is no guarantee they will have the same destiny. 

In the Bible, grains mentioned included wheat, barley, spelt, and millet. Wheat, barley, and millet were described in earlier chapters of this book. The grain spelt is arguably the grain that the women were grinding. Spelt was grown throughout the ancient world. In the Bible, it was first mentioned in the Seventh Plague that afflicted the Egyptians (Exodus 9:13-35). Writing from Jerusalem, Isaiah described the farmer planting spelt in the field (Isaiah 28:25). God directed Ezekiel who lived in Babylon to make bread from spelt as well as other grains and vegetables (Ezekiel 4:9). In Gardening with Biblical Plants, James (1984) claimed that bread from spelt was considered superior to bread from barley. Although spelt is not listed in Israeli plant databases it was a stable grain crop in biblical times. 

Spelt

Spelt FlourThe Biblical spelt was Triticum spelta also known as Triticum aestivum subspecies (variety) spelta. Despite past confusion, spelt is not emmer wheat; the two grains have different genetic structures. Spelt is winter hardy and planted in the fall for spring harvest. Spelt may yield more useable grain than wheat when both are grown at higher elevations. In biblical times, the hull was removed by hand, leaving the spelt kernel to be ground into flour. Women ground the spelt kernel into flour using a hand mill or a mortar and pestle. When stored in the husk, spelt remains fresh for a longer period of time than other grains. The spelt husk protects the kernel from pollutants and insects both in the field and during storage.   

Symbolism: Bristle, Stick Out

The Hebrew word for spelt is kuççemeth derived from kâçam which means bristle (Strong, 2010). When a person bristles, they stand up or stick out.  Christ told the Pharisees that as the people of Noah and Lot’s times did not expect destruction, neither will people expect Christ to return. Noah and Lot stood out from the people of their environments because of their righteousness (2 Peter 2:5-7).  Similarly, Christ’s followers stick out from the people on earth because of their righteousness. When Christ returns, his followers will be taken from the world. Christians will be remembered or “stick out” from individuals left in the world, because they will be absent. 

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: Carolyn A. Roth, 10/13

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