Tag Archives: New Testament

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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Dandelion in Last Supper

dandelion-flower2

Christ’s celebration of a last supper with his apostles was recorded in several gospels; read 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   Dandelion, JBG

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 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, 4/11/16

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False Prophets?

Centaurea iberica

Reference:  Matthew 7:15-20.

This teaching is labeled “A Tree and Its Fruit” (NIV-SB). Jesus began with “watch out for false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). Then, he told the crowds 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 their actions. Just as a woman cannot pick grapes from thorn bushes or a man pick figs from a thistle, neither can a false prophet produce good fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Although false prophets could appear humble and mild like Christ or even blunt and rough like John the Baptist, their words are full of lies.

When Christ compared the words of false prophets to thorn bushes and thistles he was still teaching in Galilee. Primarily his listeners were from rural areas and small towns who had experience growing and picking grapes and figs. They knew about good and bad vines and productive and non-productive trees. These listeners weren’t surprised when Jesus said that trees that do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. The sooner bad trees were uprooted and destroyed the better. Although newly planted trees take 3-4 years to grow, they have the potential to produce good fruit; with bad trees there was no hope for a good crop. When Christ noted that bad trees were cut down, he was not implying that the people should kill false prophets. Rather, he was saying that the correct response to a false prophet is to stop listening to them.

Spanish Thistle Centaurea iberica, butterfly

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 is native to India, the Middle East, and southeastern Europe. Often the thistle is found in disturbed areas including over-grazed lands and construction sites. Seeds are spread by livestock, vehicles, equipment, and contaminated hay and seed crop. Seeds can be transported on clothing. The Spanish thistle grows throughout 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 displaces valuable forage species and space in pasture lands. The plants sharp spines deter grazing animals, impede recreational use, and restrict access for wildlife.

Symbolism: Recognize, Recognition           

Christ told his disciple that 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.

First, a true prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the son of God in the flesh (1 John 4:3).  In contrast, a false prophet does not acknowledge Jesus as God. When prophets, pastors, or theologians say that it is not important whether Christ was truly God or in some way deny the deity of Christ, they are false prophets.  

Second, false prophets can be recognized by how they respond to and preach the word of God.  True prophets read and obey God’s word (1 John 4:6). They preach the Bible, because it contains God’s truths for personal salvation and for successful everyday life.  In today’s society, the norm is to “spin” information. “Spin” is a form of propaganda that provides an interpretation of an event in order to persuade opinion for or against it. Often spin is disingenuous, deceptive, or manipulative. False prophets spin God’s truths. Believers need to discerningly read the scriptures so they do not get taken in by the words of false prophets.

Third, false prophets can be recognized by sin in their lives. One way to recognize sin is to compare a prophet’s life with The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments identify sins, e.g., coveting, lying, and putting career achievement before God. A prophet who breaks God’s Commandments consistently and without repentance is a false prophet.  

Finally, in the Sermon on the Mountain, Jesus outlined expectations for followers. False prophets have said that these standards are unrealistic, e.g., so high that people cannot meet them. False prophets argued that the moral-ethical standards that Christ described in the Sermon on the Mount will only be achieved when Christ returns to earth the second time. Prophets or pastors who advocate this view are denying Christ’s words. In the Sermon on the Mountain, Christ outlined how individuals should live now, not in the new heaven and the new earth. False prophets sin when they distort God’s word and they provide an instantaneous way for Christians to recognize them.

Reflection. Do you know the Bible well enough to recognize when it is being preached truthfully? If you answered “No,” what are some options?

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: June 22, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth

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Citron Wood, A Luxury Item

Citron wood fruit

Reference: Revelation 18:11-17

John wrote Revelation near the end of the first century. At that time, the Roman Empire was the dominant geographic-political entity, stretching from Britain, through Europe, and into the Middle East. In Revelation 18, John prophesied the end of Rome and the Roman Empire; however, the Roman Empire did not end for about another 375 years. In 476 A.D., Rome fell when the last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed by the Hun general, Odoacer, who then ruled Italy.

Revelation Chapter 18 contains three laments; one by the kings of the earth (Revelation 18:9-10), one by the merchants of the earth (Revelation 18:11-17), and another by sea captains, sailors and all who earned their living from the sea (Revelation 18:18-20). The merchants of the earth are crying out because Romans (and its Empire) no longer buy their cargoes. These cargoes include precious metals and stones, linen and cloths, every sort of citron wood and articles of every kind made of ivory and costly wood, spices and food products, horses and carriages, and slaves.

During the Roman Republic, elite members of society were known for their sumptuous banquets. The best banquet tables were made of citron wood because the wood did not stain when wine and other food was spilled on them. The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.) recorded that a citron wood table could cost as much as 1.3 million sesterces. To put this amount of money into a New Testament framework, this citron banquet table was valued at an amount equivalent to 20 Jewish workers each laboring 45 years (assume: 1/4 of a denarius equaled 1 sesterce and a typical Jewish laborer earned  1 denarii per day).

Citron Wood

Citron wood comes from the Tetraclinis articulata tree which most of us call the sandarac gum tree, thyine wood, or the thuya. T. articulata is the sole species in this genus of plants. It was native to the western Mediterranean region particularly southern Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Malta. The expansion of agricultural activity, over grazing, urbanization, exploitation, and fires have reduced the number of sandarac trees. In Israel, the sandarac grows in Galilee and the northern valleys, central hills (Carmel) and in the entire Negev desert area. It can grow in rock fissures and rocky slopes. T. articulata is an evergreen coniferous tree in the cypress family.

Symbolism: Luxury

In the Roman Empire, citron wood was a luxury item. A luxury item is an indulgence that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease. To wealthy Romans, a citron wood banquet table provided all three of these. These wealthy Romans and their decadent ways were the same individuals that persecuted early Christians, laughing when Christians were killed in the Coliseum. Their self- indulgence  led to the downfall of Rome.

Reflection: Do you pay more attention to: acquiring luxury items or walking in the Spirit?

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: October 28, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth

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Jesus Refused Gall

Bible Reference: TPapaver somniferum,he episode of Christ refusing gall, a sedative-painkiller is recorded in Matthew 27:32-40.

When the Roman soldiers left the Praetorium with Jesus, they required him to carry the cross on which he would be crucified; however, Jesus was so weak from flogging and torture that he couldn’t carry it through the streets. The soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’s cross to Golgotha where the crucifixion occurred. At Golgotha, the soldiers offered Jesus wine mixed with gall. After tasting the drink, Jesus refused it. Then, the soldiers used nails to pound Jesus’ hands and feet into the cross. Jesus continued to wear the crown of thorns. 

By Roman law, the soldiers were required to write the charges against the accused at the top of the cross so that all who passed by would know the reason for the crucifixion. The inscription on Jesus’ cross was, “The King of the Jews.” The Roman soldiers positioned the cross up-right into a hole in the ground so that Jesus hung from the cross. Two thieves were being crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on each side of Jesus. Jesus was crucified at the third hour of the day, or about 9:00 a.m.

When Roman soldiers felt pity for a prisoner before crucifixion, they added gall, or poppy juice, to the vinegar drink offered to prisoners. The opium poppy is a narcotic that induces a high level of deep sleep and pain relief. The common Western drugs morphine and codeine are distilled from the opium poppy.  

Gall

The gall in the wine offered to Jesus was most likely distilled from the Papaver somniferum plant, commonly called the opium poppy. Most books identify the opium poppy as a Far East plant; however, it was native to the Mediterranean region and eastward to Iran. In Israel, the opium poppy produces its beautiful flower in March and April. The opium poppy petal is a soft purple that looks rumpled, like an un-ironed cotton shirt. 

When the poppy capsule is harvested for its juice, a knife is used to cut transverse or vertical incisions in the unripe capsule. So valuable poppy juice is not lost or seeds damaged, harvesters take special care not to cut through the capsule wall. The white juice seeps through the cuts and hardens into brown masses on the outside capsule wall. These brown masses are scraped off the outer capsule wall, then combined in a clay pots or large trays and kneaded to a uniform consistency. This crude poppy is shaped into balls, cakes, or sticks for marketing. In the United States, it is illegal for home gardeners to grow opium poppies. 

Symbolism: Sedation

This poppy produces opium, the ingredient in the gall offered to Jesus before his crucifixion. The drug would have sedated Jesus making him sleepy and reducing his pain.  If a high concentration of opium was included in the gall, Jesus would have experienced hallucinations, further reducing his contact with reality. Jesus’ refused the sedative. He was determined to experience both the physical and mental pain associated with redeeming mankind. 

Reflection: Would it have made a difference to our redemption, if Christ drank the gall and was sedated on the cross?

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, 2/14

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Prodigal Son Eats Carob Pods

Carob Pod

The parable of the lost son eating carob tree husks is in Luke 15:11-32.       

Christ told the parable of the lost, or prodigal, son in response to the Pharisees and teachers of the law criticizing him for welcoming and eating with sinners. This parable was one of three parables that made the point that God searches for the lost, whether a lost sheep, coin, or person.  The parable of the prodigal son goes like this:

A father had two sons. The younger asked his father for his inheritance. After receiving his share of the estate, the young man went into another country and squandered the money on wild living.  After his money was spent, there was a severe famine in the entire country. With no money, the young man hired himself out to a citizen who sent him to the fields to feed pigs. The young man longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating; but no one gave him anything to eat. 

Sometime later the young man came to his senses and determined to go home to his father. He planned to tell his father that he no longer deserved to be called a son; he would gladly be treated like a hired man.

From a far distance, the father saw his son returning home. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him. The son confessed to his father that he sinned and was no longer worthy to be called a son. Before the son could asked his father to treat him like a hired hand, the father called servants to bring a robe, a ring for his son’s hand, and sandals for his feet. The father ordered a feast to celebrate the younger son’s return.

During the celebration, the older son came home from working in the field. He learned his younger brother returned home and his father ordered a celebration. The older son became angry and would not enter the house. When his father came out to him, the older son complained that he served his father year after year, never disobeying him; however, his father never gave him an animal to hold a celebration with his friends. Yet, the younger son who demanded then squandered his inheritance came home and is greeted with a party.  

The father acknowledged the older son’s value saying you are always with me and everything I have is yours. At the same time, the father averred that they must celebrate the younger son’s return because “this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Matthew 15:32).

Carob Pods

The pods that the younger son longed to eat were carob pods, the fruit of the Ceratonia siliqua.  Common names are carob tree, St. John’s bread, locust tree, and Egyptian fig.  Although the carob tree grows to 55 feet in the United States, in Israel carob trees are smaller. After pollination, long (up to 12 inches by 1 inch) pods develop.  Pods are filled with soft brown pulp and 10-13 flat, hard seeds. In May on Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Negev Desert, I gathered and ate a ripe carob pod. It tasted sweet and was fibrous. Carob pods are grounded into flour and used to make a cocoa (chocolate) substitute.  

Symbolism: Substitute

The carob plant can be associated with several concepts. The genus name of the carob tree, Ceratonia, is comes from the Greek word keras (κερας) meaning “horn,” the shape of the carob pod. Called poor man’s bread, carob pods and flour are also associated with humility. Certainly both horn and humility make sense in the parable of the lost son; however, so does “substitute.” 

As a noun substitute means a person or thing that takes the place or function of another. Used as a verb, substitute means to exchange, switch, and replace with.

Substitute is what the younger son did in this parable. He substituted his life as a valued son for a short life of flagrant living followed by feeding pigs. He replaced eating the best foods money could buy with longing to have carob pods to eat. He planned to ask his father to substitute life as a hired hand for life as a younger son.  From a Kingdom of God perspective, Christ substituted his perfection for our sin.  Christ was the perfect substitute for each of us, who would be lost and starving without him.

Have you thought about what you are substituting in your life for time with God? Is it your kids, spouse, career, or even activities at church. I look at celebrities and pundits — many have no discernible relationship with God. They are substituting glory here on earth for the glory of spending time with God in heaven.

Reflection.  Do you want the real thing or are you content with substitutes in your life?

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/

September 2, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth