We planted some patio tomatoes in pots on our deck last summer, and we were absolutely amazed at how many tomatoes they produced. We could almost always count on having a handful of ripe tomatoes on any day, and all of them juicy, sweet and delicious.
One day my wife noticed that one of the tomato branches had somehow grown between two wooden slats in one of the deck posts. As she gently pulled it out of the crack, she was greeted by a very unusual sight: a curious tomato clung to the end of that branch! It was the size of an ordinary cherry tomato, and it was obviously juicy and sweet, but it was also flat! In fact, it was exactly the same width as the crack it had grown in, and there were even the grooves of the wood engrained in its sides.
Some people may have looked at it and said: “Oh how ugly! Who would want a flat tomato? Why couldn’t it be like all the other tomatoes?” However, those who tasted it know that it was at least as tasty as its round counterparts, if not even tastier. Although constrained by its environment, it lived up to its potential. It still developed into a beautiful, juicy, unique tomato!
Our little, flat tomato reminds me of Jesus’ life on this earth. Like the tomato, He was born in very unusual circumstances. First of all, He didn’t have an earthly biological father, for he was conceived by God’s Holy Spirit. You can imagine what kind of mockery THIS might have brought upon Him when he was young!
Secondly, due to a census being held throughout the Roman Empire, Joseph and Mary had to travel to their hometown, Bethlehem. When they finally arrived, however, they found no more rooms available in the local inns. Instead, their choices were limited to a smelly stable, surrounded by barn animals, and it was in this unusual place that Jesus was born. Soon afterwards, King Herod heard about Him and plotted to kill Him. Warned by an angel, His parents fled. As a result of all of this, Jesus was born in poor surroundings and his early life was that of a fugitive.
Thirdly, Jesus never relied on the monetary system of His days. Instead He relied on His Heavenly Father to provide for everything, even feeding five thousand men and their families (see Matthew 14:15-21) and raising His friend Lazarus (See John 11). Once, when faced with having to pay the temple tax, he told Peter: “Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matt 18:1 NIV). Jesus Himself said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt 8:20 NIV)
Although many were attracted to Jesus, for His words imparted divine wisdom and His actions procured healing to those who were sick, He was generally not well received. The priests and pastors of His time looked at him with contempt, making every effort to trap Him with His own words. They eventually succeeded in arresting Him in secret and convincing the Romans that He deserved to die. Although the Roman authorities didn’t understand it all, the fear of an uprising caused them to relent, and they nailed an innocent man to a lonely cross at Golgotha.
It might seem that just like our flat tomato, Jesus was restricted from reaching His full potential by his environment and his circumstances. “Another poor chap who must be disillusioned by life,” one could very well have muttered. However three days after His crucifixion, He rose again and was seen by many. Paul says, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Cor 15:3-7 NIV)
What was Jesus’ purpose on our planet? Let’s look at John 3:16-17 for the answer: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV)
God’s love was Jesus’ purpose. We, as a human race, were heading towards sure disaster. Our sin had us so enveloped that we didn’t even realize that death would be our ultimate reward. We had broken our relationship with our Maker, we were desperate and didn’t even know it: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23 NIV) And now, Jesus’ resurrection life can be experienced by anyone who welcomes Him into their hearts: “We will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Rom 6:5-7 NIV)
Real freedom is ours, thanks to Someone growing up in very unusual and unfavorable circumstances. Salvation is ours, thanks to Jesus.
This season, as you face whatever horrible, restraining circumstance that stands before you, remember our flat tomato, and let it remind you of the awful, restraining circumstances that Jesus Himself faced. Remember how He rose above these, choosing to depend on God and letting Him lead rather than letting the circumstances dominate Him, and then remember the price Jesus paid for our freedom. We are free because He loved us so much, because He willingly died on a cross for us. His resurrection power is now our resurrection power. Could there be any greater gift than that?
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)
In His love,
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries