The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany this cycle is from John, Chapter 1, verses 43-51. It deals with the calling of Philip by Jesus, and then Philip going to his friend Nathanael, and telling him about Jesus. As you know, Nathanael has some strong ideas about people, especially those from Nazareth, but he responds to Philip’s simple “Come and see,” and Jesus reveals himself to him.
Jesus’ revelation to Nathanael was, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” And for some reason, with that revelation, Nathanael proclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
His sitting under a tree got me to thinking about trees, especially with Tu B’Sh’vat coming up on January 30 at sundown. Tu B’Shvat is the “new year for trees,” and trees were really important to people in Israel. Of course, we know that the Garden was filled with trees in creation, but the fruit of one tree brought Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden. The ground became hard and tough to work. Planting trees was important for shade, fruit, and rich soil. Abraham, following the birth of Isaac, began to establish his home in the land God had promised. In Genesis 21, we see that he dug a well and planted a tree, consecrating the ground to God. And planting trees is still important in Israel.
It is a harsh land. When Jewish settlers purchased land from the Ottoman Empire, the land was barren and dry. So they planted trees, irrigated and worked the land. And they are still planting trees.
Tu B’Sh’vat is a great time to plant a tree in Israel, especially honoring one of your Jewish friends. You can do that treesfortheholyland.com. And prayerfully, though the fruit of one tree brought us expulsion from Eden, the fruit of another, the one Y’shua was hanged on, will bring them back into the Garden eternally. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Come and see.