Friday, October 20, 2006

Christ as Branch

Branches at Baker Beach 2006.

The references to Christ as "Branch" are not many, but they are potent and heavy with meaning. When the Tent of the Meeting (Tabernacle) was being constructed and the Ark of the Covenant one of the related items was the lampstand hammered out of pure gold. It had six branches extending from it, three to the left and three to the right, and golden almond blossoms adorned each branch in threes.

Many people see this as a symbol of the Bible. I don't. At that time the Law would reside inside the Ark which was inside the Tent of Meeting where the glory of the Lord would reside. That is the bigger picture.

I remember once one of my best friends Rich worrying and saying "I'm just afraid you are no longer a man of the Book." I replied "The Book tells me to be a man of God, not a man of the Book."

No the Lampstand with extended branches is a picture of Christ Who in the Feast of Lights in Jerusalem stood up and said "I am the Light of the World." I read that in the Book, but the Book wishes me to go one step higher and realize the fulness of the Light of Christ this very day. Like the "shy member of the Trinity" (Bruner), the goal is to see Christ more clearly and deeply.

And then there is all that stuff about lampstands in Revelation...but I'll get to that another time.

There is another one identified as "Branch" in the Bible. Joshua. In Joshua the priestly and kingly functions are joined for the first time (that I can tell).

"Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.'" Zechariah 6:12-14.

This is after God orders a crown to be placed on Joshua's head.

Now the name Jesus is a form of Joshua. In the Greek (comparing Old and New, it is the same name) and Joshua is so obviously an early picture of the Jesus to come.

Verse 15 of this same chapter is prophetic:

Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the Lord, and
you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you
diligently obey the Lord your God."

The significant teaching about "branches" in the Gospels is fifteenth chapter of John. There Jesus identifies Himself as the Vine and we as branches. This is what Merton and C.S. Lewis both meant when they talked about our calling to become "little Christs". In the same way that we are to please Christ and abide in the Vine, so Christ is the kingly/priestly Branch who abides in the Father. He only does and says what pleases the Father and it is the Father's good pleasure that all the fulness should dwell in Him and He have first place in all things (Colossians).

It is the Father's good pleasure but is it mine?

A branch in nature is a beautiful thing and it is meant to point to Christ in some small way. It is strong. You can climb on it, hang (playfully) from it, take pieces from it and make a warm fire. It also points to the unification of Christians and Israel, where we Gentiles are "ingrafted" into Kingdom life and priestly life. These functions, as my friend Rod has been reminding me, are a a part of our deeper calling as human beings.

The next time you examine a branch with fruit at the end, think of Christ as that Branch and you are the fruit. His nourishment seeps into you and you become who you were meant to be. Posted by Picasa