The Message of Symbols Part 2

Here we will look at an agricultural symbol pointing to Jesus. It starts with a question that Jesus asks the Pharisees, trying to get them to think beyond their preconceived religious ideas. Had they understood the symbolism in the scriptures they revered they would have been able to see Jesus as the Messiah or at least they may have had the humility to seek clarification from Him. This exchange took place in the days leading up to Jesus arrest and crucifixion.

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They said to Him, “The Son of David.”

43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: 44‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’?

45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore. Matthew 22:41–46 (NKJV)

These the last questions the religious leaders asked of Jesus prior to His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. The Pharisees were both puzzled and silenced by Jesus question. Yet Jesus gave them a clue in the paradox between the Messiah being David’s son and yet David referring to Him as Lord. The answer lay in the scriptures they studied. First we have Isaiah, and later a clearer exposition of this verse in Revelation.

            1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1 (NKJV)

In context it is clear for us looking back that that Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus and it is made very explicit in Revelation from Jesus Himself.  

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16 (NKJV)

The clue to answering Jesus question to the Pharisees is seeing Jesus as both the source (root) and outcome (branch). They lived in an agricultural context with olive trees and grape vines being very important in their daily lives. The Hebrew word translated as ‘stem’ could refer to either a stump or stock but clearly pointed to a source. It is humanly impossible for someone to be their own ancestor, thus the need for spiritual revelation.

Jesus was quoting Psalm 110 when He asked His question about David calling the coming Messiah Lord. The Pharisees knew it because Psalm 110 was a well known Messianic reference. While it is obvious to us, the answer was still available to the Pharisees had they understood the symbol of the Messiah being both root and branch.

Here are further clues, also made explicit by Jesus.

4      Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ ” Isaiah 41:4 (NKJV) – see also Is. 44:6, 48:12

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 (NKJV)

As both the beginning and the end Jesus was the root and branch, the source and outcome. As such we can celebrate His work in our lives as Hebrews presents Him.

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1–2 (NKJV)

We can have confidence that no matter what we are walking through in this season, He is faithful.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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