In May, Galilee looks like a giant quilt of vibrant green and golden yellow squares with fields ready for the early summer wheat harvest. Hiking these hills in April, I picked off heads of waist-high young wheat nibbling on the kernels inside, imitating the apostles who Mathew describes picking heads of grain and eating them as they walked through a field on the sabbath. (Mt. 12:1-2) Probing for seed, I mangled several spikes of what I assumed were wheat, but found nothing. These imposters grew alongside the wheat stalks and were almost identical to them. Now at harvest time, these weeds were clearly distinguishable from mature wheat: tall, straight and light green, while the now golden wheat stalks bent over humbly, heavy with grain. I wondered aloud to myself if Jesus told the parable about the weeds and the wheat in May around the time of Pentecost. (Mt. 13, 26-30)
Shavuot marks the wheat harvest in the Holy Land, and also commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Instructions were given not only for building the ark to hold tablets of the law, but also for showbread: to be made of fine wheat flour and placed perpetually in the Lord’s presence. (Ex. 25, Lev. 24) After receiving the covenant, Moses and the elders ‘broke bread’ with God, just as the apostles did with Jesus at the Last Supper where he pronounced many convenantal words. “Remain in me as I remain in you… I call you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (Ex. 24: 9-11; John 15:4, 15)
Wheat seems to speak to the intimacy of our covenant with God.
The covenant of God with his people is as a marriage, intimate and binding. A few days ago, we hiked a trail at a place with an ancient spring called Batir. A lively agricultural community has lived there for centuries thanks to this water. As I let the cold liquid refresh my hands after the walk, my mind and heart recalled that wells were places where many marriages were born: Abraham met Rebekah at a well, Jacob met Rachel, Moses met Zipporah…(Gen. 24, 29; Ex. 2)
Looking out over the crops below from the edge of the Batir spring, I recalled how Jesus sat by Jacob’s well and raised his eyes saying, “I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.” (John 4:32) Jesus was driven there by a deep desire to meet the Samaritan woman to enliven the covenant within her. Perhaps these words of the Song of Song were his prayer as he waited for her to draw water, in his longing for her transformation:
Turn, turn, O Shulammite!
turn, turn that we may gaze upon you! (Song of Songs, 7:1)
Their intimate encounter burnt away the weeds in her soul, so they rejoiced together at the beauty of the golden mature fruit within. Being in his presence made her a living witness of the Lord’s gifts and love for his people, much like the showbread. The showbread was displayed during the Shavuot pilgrimage to remind people how beloved there are by God. I imagine the entire Samaritan village ‘gazing upon’ this woman as she rushed into town with renewed ebullience after being in the presence of the Messiah.
I closed my eyes visualizing Jesus’ contented face describing his bride with the happiness typical of a harvest festival when the sheaves have been gathered in using the words of the Song, while the disciples urged him to eat.
…Your belly, a mound of wheat,
encircled with lilies. (Song of Songs, 7:3)
Fruitfulness, life, beauty and joy. It is no wonder that Jesus exclaims, “I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.” (John 4: 35-36)
Let us enter into the presence of the Lord through covenantal prayer, allowing him to gaze upon us. Invite him to raise our eyes above the weeds, to the blessings within and around us, rejoicing with him!