Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
The fruit is the plain truth about the tree, and everyone can not only see it but test it and taste it for themselves. Likewise human action. Everything becomes visible sooner or later. I feel that the word ‘depth’ can hold us too much in thrall. When we talk too much about depth we give ourselves the impression that it’s a whole inner separate world, sufficient unto itself. Wittgenstein, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, said once, “The depth is on the surface!” He, of all people, could not be accused of superficiality. There is a very radical truth here: the depth and the surface are one, the inside and the outside are one. The hidden, the inner, part flows towards the outside, as with a tree. Since the beginning of our race, human beings have been sitting under trees, looking up at them, climbing into them and hiding, playing around them as children, eating their fruit, resting in their shade, relying on them to be there. If you have never sat under a tree in a forest at night, you are missing something great. Trees are our great teachers – strong and silent, dependable, able to endure great storms that would blow us away.
Christians down the ages have seen deep significance in trees. In the late mediaeval period it was common to hear of the ‘Axle-Tree’. The stars and planets were thought of as whirling around the Axle-Tree of heaven, the pivot of the universe. This image was applied to the cross of Christ: the tree on which he died was seen as the axle of all that exists.
Something for your imagination: follow Jesus in his lifelong relationship with trees – from the first time he climbed a tree…to the last.
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