Monday, March 22, 2021
What topic shall I blog about next? Writers sometimes find themselves inexplicably incapable of writing anything worthwhile. Tedious spells of doubt and indecision sideline a wanna-be writer. Any attempt at writing languishes. Although the cursor pulses away on the screen, its expectations go unmet, in spite of valiant efforts, and even more valiant, vain efforts. Writer’s block can paralyze productivity for days — can and does. Frustration nibbles and gnaws, nibbles and gnaws some more.
But then, and all of a sudden, the clouds clear. The sun shines. Inspiration occurs. The way ahead appears. Now I know. Yet strangely, I cannot explain how I know. I just do. I know the way ahead now. And I will gratefully take it. ‘Tis enough. I am grateful for the mysterious infusion of inspiration.
And without further ado or segue:
Be uprooted and replanted in the sea, black mulberry tree! Be uprooted and replanted in the sea, black mulberry tree! Be uprooted and replanted in the sea, black mulberry tree!
Jesus told his disciples — his apostles — that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed, they could command “this mulberry tree” to be uprooted and replanted in the sea. If only the apostles had the tiniest speck of mustard-seed faith, it would straightaway occur.
The black mulberry tree is native to the land Jesus once walked. A noticeable and vexing characteristic of the black mulberry tree is its highly aggressive root system. Its roots grow quickly and spread out just beneath the surface, where they can push up against and displace cobblestones, retaining walls, and foundation blocks. Once established, black mulberry trees are next to impossible to uproot. The root system has too much of a grip, too strong of a hold. These stubborn trees are simply not going to be uprooted.
Jesus was using the black mulberry tree and its expansive root system as a metaphor. The black mulberry tree and its aggressively growing, tenacious root system symbolized something.
What did it symbolize? Rather than speculate, it is best to go read and re-read the passage in context (see Luke 17:1-6). The apostles had just asked Jesus to increase their faith — to increase their faith in… what? The apostles needed to be able to believe in the eventuality of justice, since Jesus had just slammed the door on vindictiveness and vengeance. Consequently, the flabbergasted apostles needed to be able to believe that God would someday bring about justice. Until then and more immediately, they needed to believe that God would give them the fortitude and wherewithal to forgive their enemies, including the Roman occupiers, the tax collectors, their acquaintances, so-called friends, prying relatives, and nagging spouses. Forgive not just a few times, but over and over. They needed a faith booster because Jesus had insisted upon the absolute necessity of offering forgiveness, as often as asked. Seriously, Jesus? Seriously.
Therefore, the black mulberry tree and its roots served as a readily available object lesson. It represented whatever their offenses were and the memories of those offenses. It represented unforgiveness. It represented grudges. It represented repressed resentment. It represented all the negativity that results from being wronged.
God can and will help you with all that. With just a tiny speck of faith (in God), you can tell your roots of resentment to be extracted and replanted in the salty sea. That is what Jesus meant.
Wow. It seems impossible; doesn’t it? That was the point, though. It seems impossible, but is not. What is impossible for us is possible with God. God can give you the fortitude and the wherewithal to forgive, and forgive, and forgive. In practice, it requires a lot of prayer and repeated prayer, I have found.
Here you have an example of just such a prayer:
Like the flabbergasted apostles, we pray that you increase our faith, o Lord. Help us believe that you will eventually right these awful wrongs and vindicate the victim, even me. Until then and more immediately, give us the wherewithal within ourselves to let go of any offenses, forego any vindictiveness, reconcile with the offender (if possible and where abuse no longer continues), and uproot recurring resentful thoughts. In your powerful name and for your soon-to-be evident glory, we pray. Amen.
7 thoughts on “Into the Sea, Mulberry Tree”
Great insight! I’ve been trying to reread some of Jesus’ teachings/parables in light of the surrounding context, because I’ve missed insights like this. thanks for pointing out this one, which I had not recognized before!
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Jesus was very particular about the sort of tree that could be uprooted and replanted in the sea. His specificity caught my attention. Why a mulberry tree? I did some research online and quickly came to the conclusion it had everything to do with the mulberry’s roots. Elsewhere in the New Testament bitterness is also likened to roots. I think Jesus was the origin of the comparison.
Interesting why he chose the sea for the replant. Would have to do some study.
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Good question, Ryan. I am thinking about doing a follow up post about Mark 11:22-25.
Again, why the sea?! Interesting.
If they were in Galilee, it could be that the Sea of Galilee was simply right there, and that Jesus was using both the mulberry tree and the sea/lake as a readily visible message illustration. Or it could be a reference to the sea as a place where sin is cast and forgotten, as in Micah 7:19. Or it could be that the sea is no place for trees to survive, with the point being that God can put an end to our offenses and resentment.
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I like the reference Micah 7:19.