I’d like to share a parable with you that has deeply impacted me and those I have shared it with. This story was passed to me a couple of years ago by a dear friend, Solomon Levine, while we were sharing time together at a spiritual retreat camping with some other brothers in Christ. It was fitting as we were sitting outside sharing the Lord’s life together and we had been contemplating how Christ is revealed in nature. Solomon’s father, Alan, had shared the story with him. I forget the publication that had printed it, but I recall the pages were quite worn. I took pictures of the pages with my phone so that I could read and reflect on the story in the future. I have not been able to find a source to request permission to share the parable, so I’m going to go out on a limb and share this precious story here. The story is below and a few thoughts from myself are at the end.
The Parable Of The Bamboo
By B. E. Newcomb
On the hillsides in the Kucheng District of China, the most valuable trees are often marked with the owner’s name. A common way of conveying water from the mountain springs down to the villages is in channels made of lengths of bamboo fitted one to the other.
A beautiful tree stood among scores of others on a lovely hillside, its stem dark and glossy, its beautiful feathery branches gently quivering in the evening breeze.
As we admired it we became conscious of a gentle rustling of the leaves, and a low murmur was distinctly heard: “You think me beautiful, you admire my tall stem and graceful branches, but I have nothing to boast of. All I have I owe to the loving care of my Master. It was He Who planted me here in this very fruitful hill, where my roots, reaching down to and dwelling in hidden springs, and continually drinking of their life-giving water, receive nourishment, refreshment, beauty and strength for my whole being.”
“Do you see those trees to one side, how miserable and parched they are? Their roots have not yet reached the living springs. Since I found the hidden waters, I have lacked nothing.”
“You observe those characters on my stem? Look closely–they are cut into my very being. The cutting process was painful–I wondered at the time why I had to suffer–but it was my Master’s own hand that used the knife, and when the work was finished, with a throb of unutterable joy I recognized it was His own name He had cut on my stem. Then I knew beyond doubt that He loved and prized me, and wanted all the world to know I belonged to Him. I may well make it my boast that I have such a Master.”
Even as the tree was telling us of its Master, we looked round, and lo! the Master Himself stood there. He was looking with love and longing on the tree, and in His hand He held a sharp axe.
“I have need of thee,” He said. “Art thou willing to give thyself to Me?”
“Master,” replied the tree, “I am all Thine own–but what use can such as I be to Thee?”
“I need thee,” said the Master, “to take My Living Water to some dry, parched places where there is none.”
“But, Master, how can I do this?”
“I can dwell in Thy Living Springs and imbibe their waters for my own nourishment. I can stretch up my arms to heaven, and drink in Thy refreshing showers, and grow strong and beautiful, and rejoice that strength and beauty alike are all from Thee, and proclaim to all what a good Master Thou art. But how can I give water to others? I but drink what suffices for my own food. What have I to give to others?”
The Master’s voice grew wondrously tender as he answered. “I can use thee if thou art willing. I would fain cut thee down and lop off all thy branches, leaving thee naked and bare, then I would take thee right away from this thy happy home among the other trees, and carry thee out alone on the far hillside where there will be none to whisper lovingly to thee–only grass and a tangled growth of briers and weeds. Yes, and I would still use the painful knife, for all those barriers within thy heart should be cut away one by one, till there was a free passage for My Living Water through thee.”
“Thou wilt die,” thou sayest; “yes, My own tree, thou wilt die, but My Water of life will flow freely and ceaselessly through thee. Thy beauty will be gone indeed. Hence forth, no one will look on thee and admire thy freshness and grace, but many, many will stoop and drink of the life-giving stream which will reach them freely through thee. They may give no thought to thee, it is true, but will they not bless thy Master Who has given them His Water through thee? Art thou willing for this, My tree?”
I held my breath to hear what the answer would be. “My Master, all I have and am is from Thee. If Thou indeed hast need of me, then I gladly and willingly give my life to Thee. If only through my dying Thou canst bring Thy Living Water to others, I consent to die. I am Thine own. Take and use me as thou wilt, my Master.”
And the Master’s Face grew still more tender, but He took the sharp axe and with repeated blows brought the beautiful tree to the ground. It rebelled not, but yielded to each stroke, saying softly, “My Master, as Thou wilt,” And still the Master held the axe, and still he continued to strike till the stem was severed again, and the glory of the tree, its wondrous crown of feathery branches, was lost to it forever.
Now indeed it was naked and bare–but the love-light in the Master’s face deepened as He took what remained of the tree on His shoulders and, amid the sobbing of all its companions, bore it away, far over the mountains.
But the tree consented to all for the love of the Master, murmuring faintly. “My Master, where Thou wilt.”
Arrived at a lonely and desolate place, the Master paused, and again His hand took a cruel-looking weapon with sharp-pointed blade, and this time thrust it right into the very heart of the tree–for He would make a channel for His Living Waters, and only through the broken heart of the tree could they flow unhindered to thirsty land.
Yet the tree repined not, but still whispered with breaking heart, “My Master, Thy Will be done.”
So the Master with the heart of love and the face of tenderest pity dealt the painful blows and spared not, and the keen-edged steel did its work unfalteringly, till every barrier had been cut away, and the heart of the tree lay open from end to end, and the Master’s heart was satisfied.
Then again He raised it and gently bore it, wounded and suffering, to where, unnoticed till now, a spring of Living Water, clear as a crystal, was bubbling up. There He laid it down–one end just within the healing waters. And the stream of Life flowed in, right down the heart of the tree from end to end, along all the road made by the cruel wounds–a gentle current to go on flowing noiselessly, flowing in, flowing through, flowing out, ever flowing, never ceasing, and the Master smiled and was satisfied.
Again the Master went and sought for more trees. Some shrank back and feared the pain, but others gave themselves to Him with full consent, saying, “Our Master, we trust Thee. Do with us what Thou wilt.” Then He brought them one by one by the same painful road and laid them down end to end; and, as each fresh tree was placed in position, the Living Stream poured in fresh and clear from the Fountain through its wounded heart, the line growing longer and longer, till at last it reached to the parched land, and weary men and women and little children who had long thirsted came and drank and hastened to carry the tidings to others: “The Living Water has come at last–the long, long famine is over; come and drink.” And they came and drank and revived, and the Master saw, and His heart was gladdened.
Then the Master returned to His tree, and lovingly asked “My tree, dost thou now regret the suffering? Was the price too dear–the price for giving the Living Water to the world?” And the tree replied, “My Master, no, a thousand, thousand times, no! Had I ten thousand lives, how willingly would I give them all to Thee for the bliss of knowing, as today I know, that I have helped to make Thee glad.”
Some reflections on this parable:
Jesus Christ is Love in action. 1 John tells us that God is love, and Hebrews says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. Whatever Jesus does reveals the heart of the Father. Jesus does not only talk about love; Jesus acts in love.
What is it to act in love? I think the ultimate expression of love is to serve others (which may be done in many various ways).
This is the heart of the Father, and Jesus became an empty vessel in order to be filled with the Father’s love. But He doesn’t hoard that love for Himself; He becomes a willing channel through which the Father’s love is expressed and distributed.
This is the relationship that the Father and Son have shared for all eternity. But when Jesus became flesh and blood, He demonstrated for us how love works in reality. Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve others.
Philippians 2 describes the essence of divine love. Jesus emptied Himself. He did not enforce the special privilege of His divinity. Instead He served humbly, and even died on the cross as a sacrifice for us. No greater love does a man have than this, but to give His life for another.
I do not believe that Philippians 2 is an isolated event that only pertains to the incarnated Christ. I believe that Christ’s emptying of Himself began in eternity past and will go on into eternity’s future. It is His nature to do this in love. He continues to do this today as He pours Himself out into us through the Holy Spirit.
So Christ’s love in us is a self-emptying, self-denying, self-sacrificing love. But to enter into this love, we must lay down our own will so that His will can be poured out through us.
I made you known to them, and I will continue to do so, in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and so that I also may be in them.” (John 17:26 GNT)
Will you be as the bamboo tree, and become a channel for the Living Waters of divine love?
Please feel free to share your reflections on this parable in the comments…