Prophets & Leaders Bible Garden Design now encounters the Master himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. He wears many hats, actually—a king’s crown, a Messiah’s vestment, a Savior’s twist of thorns—yet mostly he wears a gardener’s hat. Cue the squeal of delight!!
A majority of the lessons he left us referred to plants, using something in their horticulture to illuminate relationships and workings of the kingdom come. The holy kingdom has an earthy logic; working the ground and taking care of it yields insight for eternal life. If you’re reading this, dear gardener, you have probably found this truth to be self-evident for some time…
click here to return to the series’ first Bible Garden Design – Moses’ Murmuring Vegetables
But to ensure we wouldn’t miss it, Jesus appeared on the day he was raised to life…wearing that gardener’s hat??? Maybe, maybe not; yet however he was dressed—dirt under his nails??—Mary thought he was the gardener, the one to care for the garden surrounding his tomb:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you carried him off, tell me where you laid him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and replied in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means, “Teacher”).
John 20:15-16 EHV
May the garden design of Rabboni’s Instruction capture all of the glee in Mary’s adorable greeting, along with the practical teaching Jesus passed along as he walked with his disciples through the land and served their supper.
For your design of Rabboni’s Instruction, find a breezy glance and a deeper gaze, and take in whichever fits your timing:
Schematic Design will highlight key elements, complimented with a Deeper Dig into the background story if you have time for more reading.
Plant Palate will recommend plants to feature, with a Scripture Guide at the end if you would like to see the plants as they are written in verse.
Landscape Views will offer glimpses of gardens and landscapes as possible examples
Words for Lent will offer further insight for the Lenten season into the relationship of the featured prophet or leader with repentance, his Reflections of the Messiah, and the Time of Restoration spoken of by the holy prophets, guided by Acts 3:19-26.
Rabboni’s instruction focused on a short list of plants whose acquaintances we have already made in gardens we have imagined so far, except for a new arrival: Mustard seeds. Fig trees, mustard seeds, grapevines, and wheat made up the majority of His lesson plans, and gestures of flower fields and garden herbs rounded out His training. Let this garden space have a working man’s feel, as assembly of edibles freshly orienting us to the new life we have in Jesus.
Schematic Design Ideas
While the plant list for a Rabboni’s Instruction landscape is precise and poignant, the plants represent the full gamut of garden types: fruit orchard, vegetable garden, vineyard, grain field, flower meadow, herb garden. The only type missing is a cool, conifer forest. True to his humility, Rabboni did not instruct in the magnificent splendor of cedars of Lebanon; retreat to Isaiah’s Evergreens for deep reverence of his noble majesty!
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree…” Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28, Luke 21:29. Incorporate fig trees into the landscape design with a story-teller’s intrigue as the trees made multiple appearances. Their huge, mounded habit can create a lush screen or hedge, or plant them orchard-style and prune lower branches to reveal their multi-trunked tangle of a tree base.
In colder climates, the figs could be potted, sheltered in green house design, or spaced with over-wintering techniques in mind. My favorite, fanatical fig-grower is Canadian, so no cop-out for cold hardiness fears! See Grow Figs Where You Think You Can’t by Steven Biggs
Add a specimen sycomore-fig to stand in for Zacchaeus’ impish desire to see the Lord, Luke 19:4.
“Faith as small as a mustard seed” Matthew 17:20, likewise Luke 17:6, Mark 4:31, Luke 13:19. Pepper the garden space with mustard plants, perhaps in formal rows: The “three-peat” mention of 14 generations in Matthew 1:17 might work its way whimsically into row length or linear order given to vegetable gardens.
Alternately, vivid spots or pivotal pockets of mustards can perk up color beds. Varieties and cultivars are almost endless in this species, offering various leaf textures and hues ranging from bright green to deep purple. Remember mustards leave the garden as spring turns to summer in glorious dance of showy yellow flowers, a pleasing “darkness to light” movement from deep hues to bright blooms.
“I am the vine, you are the branches…” John 15. The mere mention of “Jesus” and “gardening” in the same sentence ought to inspire a vineyard! Let the heart of this garden space reflect the most famous horticultural metaphor from the Bible.
Additionally, many parables in took place in vineyard settings, implying vigilant pruning and attentiveness, daily watch over twining plants, and well-run, well-led husbandry that maintains productive operations. Vines are ordered with trellises and ties, giving vineyards a structured appearance; be thoughtful in choosing trellis forms and materials, which will give as much character to the garden space as the vines themselves.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat…” Luke 22:31. Rabboni had no dreamy brush with “amber waves of grain;” he repeatedly referred to winnowing, threshing, sifting – the processes involved in transforming beloved grainheads to bread. He used them as illuminating metaphor for the human trials and suffering that bring us through our own transformations. Review Ezekiel’s Ancient Grains for ideas on how to include wheat, an elegant, edible annual, into this garden’s creation.
“Consider how the lilies grow…” Luke 12:27, Matthew 6:28. Faithfulness of the wildflowers to bloom each season was a view of the Father’s provision for us to cherish, inviting flower-filled vistas across the landscape space. “Flowers of the field” are generally considered to be crown anemones, and a blooming mix of chamomile, tulips, lilies, narcissus, and poppies. These spring bloomers will help create a special delight as the garden wakes up from winter.
“You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin…” Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42 This herb trio, plus the generic mention of garden herbs in Luke’s version, formed an instructive association in Jesus’ rue of over-bearing rulers who slip into self-serving regulations and fall away from genuine loving care.
By contrast, let a vibrant, scent-engaging herb garden treat visitors to a full love-of-life experience—sweet aromas, tiny flower clusters, and pollinator flutters. Include hyssop, an oregano-family herb, to extend the gentle detail that its soft branches were the last plant lifted to Rabboni’s face, John 19:29.
Add a bay laurel tree to the herb section to symbolize Jesus’ utterance in Luke 22:31 about the “green tree and the dry,” a reiteration of Ezekiel 20:46 and Psalm 37. Click here for more on the significance of bay laurel
links provided will take you to cultural information in the Plant Guide
Fruit Trees: fig, sycomore fig, general fruit trees
Herbs: mint, dill, cumin, rue, bay laurel, hyssop, general garden herbs
Flowers of the Field: crown anemones, chamomile, tulips, lilies, narcissus, poppies
Weeds: briers, thornbushes, thistles
Deeper Dig into Rabboni’s Life
For all the power, glory, and epic salvation at hand, Jesus lived on earth humbly—born in a barn, moving through the countryside in a migrant’s life, dying a criminal’s death. Yet there was nothing common about him, and random details of his life had been revealed since the beginning.
His coming was announced in subtle reference in the garden of Eden as the Seed, or offspring. These two kinds of entities, seeds and offspring (or descendants), were both named by one Hebrew word, zera’. Zera’ would come to crush the head of the steely serpent, satisfying the curse of death with his own.
Paul called Jesus the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), and with all Jesus’ teaching imparted through stories of cultivating and tending the land, we can clearly see his fulfillment in answering Adam’s call to work the ground (Genesis 2:5,8).
The not-coincidence that the tomb available for laying his crucified body was in a garden, and his resurrected appearance to Mary in gardener’s countenance were details only a genius storyteller would see to—genius with a command of dazzling humor, humor grown out of vibrant embrace and passion for craft (John 19:41, John 20:15).
While the plants for this garden seem common enough, likely familiar to first century, holy land citizenry, they were actually targeted species speaking to the fulfillment of God’s Word, infused with exquisite poetic dimension. Be enthralled by Rabboni, disguised as a common laborer, revealing eye-catching elements with artist’s exacting.
Fig Trees. Even the disciples were alarmed at what seemed to be unmerited fury at the little fig tree they passed by on the way to the temple (Matthew 21:19, Mark 11:13). Yet it was not merely Jesus’ momentary, “hangry” annoyance at its lack of fruit, but his all-time, resounding retribution towards the fig’s role in the fall of mankind. That Adam and Eve’s reached for the cover of its leaves went exactly against God’s plan for fruitfulness; cursing the tree was a wrathful response to Eden’s onerous curse, an expression of Jesus’ near falling-out that it must be so.
However, Rabboni indicated his patient mercy in another fig tale, where he showed his nature to linger a little longer in hopes for a change of heart (Luke 13:6-9).
How much more poignant, then, for Rabboni to direct attention to the fig tree to watch for the turn of times again (Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28, Luke 21:29). This tree, witness to the turn away from God, serves as a signpost for the turnaround, the events that will usher us into the determined end of all frustration…of all friction in the workplace…of all tears (Romans 8:20-21, Revelation 21:4).
Mustard Seeds. Repeated mention of mustard seed drew attention to the Seed story mentioned above, Jesus the Seed, offspring of God, His Son, coming to deliver the promise of God. Seeds are an embodiment of possibility, of faith and trust in a crazy promise: the little speck that fits on a finger can grow and become a marvelous provision of sustenance, beauty, and shelter. All God’s good works begin in small, obscure ways, usually surrounded by impossible circumstance. Ask Abraham, Gideon, David, or especially Jesus, a baby born out of wedlock, outback in the manger, later called out of Egypt.
Grapevine. For Jesus to call himself the true vine was not only to describe his position as the object of God the Father’s care, but to identify himself as Israel’s ultimate designee: Israel’s pet name was “grapevine.” With affection God had called Israel his vine since his blessing on Joseph (Exodus 49:22) repeated by Isaiah and Ezekiel. Thus the lengthy lists of Jesus’ genealogies (Matthew 1:17, Luke 3:23-38) were expressed through this plant choice.
Additionally, the vinedresser’s role is to prune back leaves and branch growth, to form and shape it to ensure abundant fruit. Interesting, after we have considered fig’s role in this flip-flop, the interplay of leaf and fruit in the working care of this particular plant!
How much more intricate and engaging that the fruit of the vine becomes wine, blessing the dinner table as a place of captive communion with Messiah.
Wheat. As grapevines gave deeper dimension to the symbolism of fig and fruitfulness, wheat added layers of meaning to the Seed story. Rabboni reminded his followers that through its death in the ground, a single wheat kernel becomes an abundant harvest (John 12:23-24) This was a parable of his passion, the inner-workings of God’s salvation to mankind through Jesus the Seed, suffering death shown in cultivation-practice of this common bread ingredient.
a quick reference of verses mentioning plant material:
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
Matthew 1:17 NIV
Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart]
Matthew 3:8 AMPC
“…His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Matthew 3:12 NASB
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
Matthew 6:28-29 NIV see also Luke 12:27-29
You will know them by their fruit. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will know them.
Matthew 7:16-20 MEV see also Luke 6:43-45
One Sabbath, Jesus was strolling with his disciples through a field of ripe grain. Hungry, the disciples were pulling off the heads of grain and munching on them. Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: “Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!”
Matthew 12:1-2 The Message see also Mark 2:23, Luke 6:1
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
Matthew 13:3-8 The Message
Click for the meaning of this harvest story: Matthew 13:18-23
Yeshua put before them another parable. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while people were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, then went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads of grain, the weeds also appeared.
Matthew 13:24-26 CJB
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. Matthew 13:36-41 NIV see also Mark 4:10- 20
He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom from heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in his field. Although it is the smallest of all seeds, when it is fully grown it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, and the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31-32 ISV see also Mark 4:31, Luke 13:19
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Matthew 20:1 NRSV
Spotting a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. So he said to it, “May you never again bear fruit!” and immediately the fig tree dried up.
Matthew 21:19 CJB see also Mark 11:13
Listen to another parable: There was a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away. When the time came to harvest fruit, he sent his servants to the farmers to collect his fruit.
Matthew 21:33-34 CSB see also Mark 12:1-9
He said, “The kingdom of God is like this: A man scatters seed on the ground, and while he sleeps and rises, night and day, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. The ground produces fruit on its own: first the blade, then the head, then the full grain in the head. When the crop is ready, he swings the sickle without delay, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4:26-29 EHV
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
Luke 13:6-9 NIV
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of[a] mint, dill, and cumin [also “mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs” Luke 11:42], and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
Matthew 23:23 CSB see also Luke 11:42
[Zaccheaeus] wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a [sycomore]-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
Luke 19:3-4 NIV
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.
Mark 13:28-29 NIV see also Matthew 24:32, Luke 21:29
A k’li (vessel) full of sour wine chometz vinegar was set there [TEHILLIM 69:22(21)]. The sponge full of vinegar having been wrapped around a hyssop branch [SHEMOT 12:22] they brought to his mouth.
John 19:29 OJB
At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.
John 19:41 NIV
Words for Lent
So turn to God! Give up your sins, and you will be forgiven.…Acts 3:19 CEV
John the Baptist went before Jesus preparing the way with a movement of repentance, yet Jesus joined the proclamation once John was put in prison:
Jesus went to Galilee and told the good news that comes from God. He said, “The time has come! God’s kingdom will soon be here. Turn back to God and believe the good news!”
Mark 1:14-15 CEV
Rabboni’s Revelation as Messiah
…Then that time will come when the Lord will give you fresh strength. He will send you Jesus, his chosen Messiah. Acts 3:20 CEV
Walking, talking, learning, and living with Rabboni, his disciples became convinced of his identity as Messiah. Their stories, experiences, and lessons were written down for us to encounter him as well, and take hold of our own conviction, and be refreshed with eternal life:
Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:15-16 CEV
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:68-69 EHV
These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
John 20:30-31 The Message
Rabboni’s Reflections of the Time of Restoration
… But Jesus must stay in heaven until God makes all things new, just as his holy prophets promised long ago. Acts 3:21 CEV
Rabboni repeatedly taught and revealed what the kingdom of God was like. He reflected the time of restoration in terms of the kingdom, also hinting at the feast ahead:
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He told them, “This is my blood of the covenant that is being poured out for many people. I tell all of you with certainty, I’ll never again drink the product of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Mark 14:23-25 ISV
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come
Luke 11:2 NIV
Dig into more devotions in the Garden Stories section of God’s Word for Gardeners Bible on Jesus’ Horticultural Parables featuring a study of mustard, beginning on page a-44; on Away from the Last Supper, featuring grapevines on page a-46 ; and on Jesus—The Seed, The Root, The Branch & Firstfruit, featuring a study on bay laurel, beginning on page a-47. Find more on fig trees in Leaving the Garden of Eden, page a-12 from the Garden Tour section.
See the Plant Index for a complete list of all the mentions of plants in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, www.gardenindelight.com/plant-index-gods-word-for-gardeners/
See a Biblical plant bibliography in Plant Resources, with more links to cultural information, www.gardenindelight.com/plant-resources/
Photo Credits & sketches:
©2015-2020 Shelley S. Cramm