Reflections - Jesus as Gardener

Eleanor Deckert

Jesus is regarded by seekers of many faiths as the Master Teacher. Summed up, his teachings can be simplified: “Love God. Love your neighbour.”

How does he convey all he wants to share with the ordinary working people who are following him? How does he give a message that can both be remembered by listeners sitting nearby and preserved for us centuries later? How can he speak in a way that cannot be lost in translation?

Like master educators before and since, he moves from the known to the unknown. With just a little effort, his listeners can jump from the physical meaning of the stories he tells to the spiritual level of his teaching through the use of parables. And many times he uses the imagery of plants to share wisdom of Heaven.

“Why worry about clothing?” he says. “Think of the lilies of the fields. They never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, who have so little faith?” (Matthew 6: 28-30)

“I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Another time he used the symbol of the tiny mustard seed in a different way: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” (Matthew 13: 31-32)

Perhaps best known of all Jesus' parables is recorded in Matthew Chapter 13, Mark Chapter 4 and Luke Chapter 8, using the parable of The Sower. A great deal of information is conveyed with both encouragement and warning for our daily life choices.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears, let him hear.”

Then he gave an explanation, linking invisible wisdom to tangible observations:

“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

Again and again the parallels are laid out and we follow the Master along the Path from everyday common knowledge to the inner life of Forgiveness, Love, Light, Peace, Kindness and all the other virtues, graces and blessings which can sometimes be so hard to grasp, define or recognize.

Like all great teachers, and yes, even like the good gardener who gently transplants seedlings to the place and a time when they will best flourish, he moves us from the known to the unknown by meeting us where we are at, gently moving us to new territory without the frustration of failure, but with enough challenge to be satisfying and cause us to grow.