Because of the nature of this story, I will be doing this one as a short series. So tune in tomorrow for part two.
The seed from a Haralson apple will produce an apple tree, but it will not produce a Haralson apple tree. Likewise, the seed from a Honeygold apple will not produce a Honeygold apple tree. In other words, fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. They can only be reproduced by grafting.
Grafting is basically the operation of cutting a branch or the top of an established tree and attaching a part of another tree into it. There are several methods of doing this depending on the desired result. Why graft? Say you have a variety of apple tree that has a really strong root system but produces lousy fruit. And you have a variety that produces super sweet apples but is easily blown over in a storm. You take the two and combine them by using the variety with strong roots for the bottom half of the tree and the variety with the sweet fruit for the top half of the tree. Voila! You have a great apple tree!
Here are a couple of diagrams from the University of Minnesota showing how to graft.
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
When you understand the concept of grafting, it makes perfect sense that Paul would use it to describe our relationship to the nation of Israel. They were the chosen people; they had the patriarchs, the law, the temple, the blessings of God. That God chose to give the Gentiles, that would be you and me and anyone who is not a Jew, an opportunity to join into the family is remarkable and should not be taken for granted. We were wild shoots, uncultivated, outside of the city walls, bearing wild bitter fruit. But he loved us and brought us into his garden; he took us and attached us to a stronger root system that gave us the necessary nourishment to flourish and produce sweet edible fruit.
We benefit tremendously because of the Jewish heritage that we gained by becoming Christians. If it were not for them, we would not have the Bible. We wouldn’t have the history filled with so many wonderful examples of God’s miracles, mercy, and love. We wouldn’t understand many of the worship practices that we use today in our churches.
When you raise your mug this morning, give a special thanks to God for our Jewish friends.