I love Romans. But first,
Olive Update:I still have yet to commandeer a fine olive with which to enlighten my ignoble thoughts of this fruit. Sorry olive lovers.
Olives in Jesus’ day were a valuable commodity. They were used to make oil, medicine, and just plain eatin’. An olive tree could take up to 15 years to produce fruit, and therefore, much thought went into the growing and cultivation of such trees. This tree is the zenith of plant longevity, some being dated as old as 1,500 years! From what I gather, our Middle Eastern friends are among top olive masters in the world. I guess that’s not an odd thing, I mean, in Aladdin, there’s all sorts of dates, figs, and pistachios being sold in Agraba. Why not throw in some salty olives to munch on while you traverse the city?
When Paul talks about Israel and her ultimate destiny of salvation in Romans 11, he uses a metaphor drawn from this common tree of the day. He tells of some of the branches (the Jews) being broken off because of their unbelief and that we (Gentiles), being a wild olive tree (some wilder than others- ha), have been grafted in becoming partakers of the “root and fatness.” Just say this phrase aloud to yourself, “I am a partaker of the root and fatness.” If it doesn’t make you laugh, go drink a bunch of coffee and try it again.
Paul calls Gentiles the “wild olive tree.” Some sources say that wild olive trees do not bear fruit. Which would make sense if you think of the majority of Old Testament Gentiles in the spiritual sense of bearing fruit. Mostly, they received a revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:5). Of all the revelation to receive, this is one I’d rather be watching than experiencing. Other (more reliable) sources claim that wild olive trees bear fruit but it is much smaller than a cultivated tree. A man who grows olive trees in Tuscany Italy tells of his olive tree in which he actually grafted wild olive branches into a cultivated one. The result? An olive tree with branches that have smaller leaves and fruit.
I love this. Why? Because even though it is one tree, there are still branches that bear distinct fruit. We are one body in Christ, yet constitute separate parts that make up its whole. As we have been grafted into the root and fatness of the olive tree, we as Gentiles of various nations retain a calling before the Lord that is unique and valid.
More importantly, the natural branches of the olive tree do not change in their nature, value, or distinction. The Jewish people still retain their calling and gifts that were given by Lord. Not just calling and gifts, but the are a piece in the irrevocable, eternal plan, that was hidden in the heart of God from eternity past. One might become haughty and think himself a better branch than he who was broken off. Yet, the Lord is faithful to correct this unbridled arrogance and strengthen us in warning, “Do not be haughty, but fear.” The sting of the rod on our hind parts quickly subsides and, by the grace of God, something wise and prudent is implanted into our spirits – God has a future plan for the whole nation of Israel. Therefore, let us join with Paul’s desire for all Israel to be saved; let us join with the Man Jesus who makes intercession for ones as these. Let all of Israel be saved.