Pastor’s viewpoint: 2-11-17
If it looks like a fig tree, but has leaves like a mulberry tree; what do you call it? You might call it a fig-mulberry tree or a sycamore-fig tree or a ficus sycamorus tree. It shows up in the story of Zacchaeus who was, in a song I learned in Vacation Bible School, “a wee little man.”
There are several things in that story we might talk about; taxes and tax collectors, Jericho, wealth, or being short. Then I remembered why I started writing this, to relate the Bible to science. My first degree was in biology and chemistry; so I was left with the sycamore-fig tree. It’s about the size of a walnut tree with wide branches, so it’s a great shade tree. The fruit grows on a small twig on the trunk in clusters like a grape. Three or four days before gathering the fruit, somebody has to puncture each fruit with a sharp point or a fingernail. In fact, the Old Testament says Amos was a “dresser of sycamore trees;” he punctured the fig-like fruit of the sycamore-fig trees to sweeten it and make it more edible.
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way…
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”” (Luke 19:1-10)
Actually trees are found scattered through many religious systems; they grow up toward heaven, reaching for their Creator. They spread their branches, wanting to embrace the world. And they symbolize the cycle of death and resurrection, losing their leaves in the fall and reclaiming them in the Spring. I find it fascinating that our faith was born in a garden where our freedom to choose was symbolized by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And here in this story, our faith is pictured in “a wee little man” who wanted to meet Jesus. Can you imagine any important and/or wealthy man you know climbing a tree to see Jesus?
Pastor’s viewpoint is written by Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley, a retired United Methodist pastor serving Woodland-Bold Springs UMC and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.