Chapter 1.
Christ the Branch

Another wonderful name for the Lord Jesus Christ is the "Branch." Prophets in the Old Testament saw into the future and got a glimpse of the Christ to come and referred to Him as the Branch. The prophets that referred to the Lord as the Branch portrayed the ministry of Christ that is found in the four New Testament gospels. Isaiah referred to the Branch that was to come.

Isaiah 11:1-2.... And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

The Branch would come from the family tree of Jesse, the father of King David. By referring to Jesse instead of David, we are reminded of the humble beginning of the Lord. Yes, David became the king, but he came from the humble, simple home of Jesse. Jesus was not only the descendant of a king, but also his humble father Jesse.

Humility is also seen in the actual word for "Branch." It is from the Hebrew word netser {nay'-tser}. The word netser in its feminine form became the name of Nazareth or netsereth. Jesus the Branch grew up in the "branch" town or Nazareth. In fact, His growing up in Nazareth was a fulfillment of what the prophets foretold.

* Matthew 2:23—And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Isaiah foretells that the Branch will come from the family tree of Jesse, which was King David's father. This is how Jesus is portrayed in the gospel of Matthew. The Messiah would be the rightful heir to the throne of King David. This is important to the Jewish people, that is why Matthew especially directed his attention in this gospel to the Jews. Jesus is seen as the King of the Jews in Matthew.

Zechariah spoke about the Branch to come, noting the Messiah would be a servant.

* Zechariah 3:8—Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as the suffering servant. Christ was the perfect servant of His Father, doing His Father's will. He bore the burdens of others and made the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.

Zechariah referred to the Branch in another passage, emphasizing another aspect of the Messiah.

* Zechariah 6:12-13... And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: 13 Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

Zechariah mentions the MAN whose name is the Branch. This is how the Messiah was portrayed in the gospel of Luke. Jesus is seen in Luke as the Son of Man, emphasizing the humanity of Christ. It also interesting to note in 6:12-13 the royal priesthood of the Branch. He will be a priest on his throne.

Jeremiah spoke of the Branch, too, focusing on the righteousness of the Branch. Isaiah mentioned he is the branch of the Lord.

* Jeremiah 23:5—Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

* Jeremiah 33:15—In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.

* Isaiah 4:2—In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.

In the gospel of John, John portrays the righteousness and deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is pictured as the Son of God. He is the perfect Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.

All these men spoke of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Branch. When we look at the characteristics of an ordinary branch, we are reminded of the traits of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I. The Branch Speaks of Supremacy or Sovereignty

The branches are what form the crown of the tree. The crown is especially visible in the winter months, when the tree has shed its robe of crimson, yellow, and golden leaves. The tree's crown reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the King of all kings.

The world has been impacted to its core because of His arrival on earth. Lloyd Cory put it this way:

Jesus today may be mocked, maligned, or made fun of by scoffers, who cringe at the very words "Christ" or "Christmas," but He will rule with a rod of iron one day. Today's scoffers will be silenced tomorrow. Jesus' name, "the Branch," speaks of His Supremacy and Sovereignty.

* I Timothy 6:14-15... That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

* Revelation 17:14—These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

* Revelation 19:16—And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

II. The Branch Speaks of Strength

The branches supply the nutrients throughout the tree, enabling it to grow. They give life, fruitfulness, growth, blessing, abundance, and prosperity to the tree. Jesus has the same impact upon us. He provides our needs, gives us life, blessing, and growth. He gives us the strength that we need, especially when we are weak.

* Philippians 4:19—But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

* John 10:10b—... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

* Psalm 23:1—The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

* 2 Corinthians 9:8—And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

* Isaiah 41:10—Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Even after the branch dies and is cut off, it is still powerful and is used to protect. The rod of the shepherd is made from the branches of trees. The rod is used to comfort and to protect the sheep from danger. Christ continues to protect us even after His death and resurrection. He has strength and power for us so that we might live our lives for Him.

* Hebrews 13:5—Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

* Ephesians 3:20—Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Because Christianity's influence is so pervasive throughout much of the world, it is easy to forget how radical its beliefs once were. Jesus' resurrection forever changed the view of death of Christians. Rodney Stark, sociologist at the University of Washington, points out that when a major plague hit the ancient Roman Empire, Christians had surprisingly high survival rates. The question is, "Why?" Most Roman citizens would banish any plague-stricken person from their households. Because Christians had no fear of death, they nursed their sick instead of throwing them out on the streets. Therefore, many Christians survived the plagues. Christ, the Branch, gives the believer strength.

III. The Branch Speaks of Supplication

Like a small child with uplifted arms toward his mother or father, the branches of a tree are uplifted toward Heaven, reminding all of us the source of our blessings. Jesus is God and is the One whom we should make our petitions. He is eager for us to call upon Him.

* Jeremiah 33:3—Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

* Psalm 50:15—And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

* Psalm 145:18—The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.

* Isaiah 55:6—Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

* Luke 11:9-10... And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

It is a wonderful blessing to know that the Lord, our Branch, is praying for us.

* Hebrews 7:25—Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

* 1 John 2:1—My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

* Romans 8:34—Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

IV. The Branch Speaks of Shelter, Shade, and Stability

Branches offer shade, which refresh the soul in the heat of the day. They give shelter to those who use them to build their homes. They provide a foundation or stability for birds to build their nests.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of the life of the Christian. When we build our lives upon Him, we have stability in spite of storms and stress. We have firmness in the face of frustrating circumstances and fiery trials.

* 1 Corinthians 3:11—For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

* Jude 1:24—Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

* Psalm 61:3-4... For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. 4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.

V. The Branch Is a Street for Animals or Stream for the Sap

Animals like raccoons and squirrels, travel along the branches of the tree. This is their way to get around their environment. The sap of the tree travels through the branches to produce the leaves and fruit.

Christ is our way or pathway to Heaven. There is no other way we can get to Heaven except through Him. The street to glory is a narrow one.

* John 14:6—Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

* John 10:9—I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

* Acts 4:12—Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

VI. The Branch Speaks About Springing Upward and Soaring

In the Fall, the branches shed their leaves and lie dormant through the dead of winter. In the spring, they revive, bearing their buds, leaves, and fruit. Some trees have been cut to a stump, but come to life in the spring. Jesus was resurrected after His death on the cross. Like a lifeless branch in winter, or a stump cut to the ground, He came to life again three days after His death. He arose or sprang forth from the grave.

The branch also speaks of soaring. When I was a little boy, I climbed trees constantly. Branches provide hand and foot holds for little boys to climb trees that they may go higher and higher. The work of Christ in our lives elevates us emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. He does not drag us down. He lifts us up.

Jesus was committed to raising us up and helping us to soar in this life. He was sacrificed for us that we might be successful and that our joy would be full.

Christ, the Branch, revives us day by day and helps us to spiritually soar. When the Christian dies, he will live with the Lord forever.

* James 4:10—Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

* Job 22:29—When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person.

* Psalm 28:9—Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.

* Psalm 30:1—I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

* John 3:36a—He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life....

* Psalm 113:7—He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill;

* Psalm 147:6—The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.

* Matthew 23:12—And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

* 1 Peter 5:6—Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

One more point we want to make on this section. The word "Branch" in Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8 is the word tsemach {tseh'-makh} which means "to sprout or to spring up."

* Jeremiah 23:5—Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.

* Zechariah 3:8—Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.

What a picture of Christ's resurrection when He sprang up or arose from the grave. When you think about it, when Christ was crucified, He was nailed to the tree. The Branch became like a branch, being nailed to the tree for the sins of mankind. His arms were even outstretched like branches of a tree on that cross, bearing the weight of the world's wickedness.

On that terrible, dark day at Calvary, when man's vileness, violence, and viscousness were like stormy, winter clouds that spued forth the snow and ice of man's iniquity and indifference, the Savior became a dead branch in the frosty blizzard of man's wickedness. The sap of His blood flowed from His veins like vermillion valleys carved into His body. He did not stay in the grave for long, however, for He arose and came to life like dead branches in the spring. He is the rising one. His power in conquering death is the same power that revives us daily and enables us to live the Christian life. He refreshes us, enabling us to spring up and soar for His glory.

VII. The Branch Is a Sign of the Times

The branches of the tree are indicators or signs of the seasons of the year. Leaves bud and sprout in the spring and they change color and drop in the fall. Christ was God's sign of salvation. The message of Jesus was "One Way." He is the only way to Heaven. There is no other.

Jesus was also the sign that God had fulfilled His promises of a deliverer to come. The prophecies of the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When Christ was born, "He who never began to be, but eternally existed, and who continued to be what he eternally was, began to be what he eternally was not." God temporarily adorned Himself with the robe of human flesh so we could get to know Him. He paid the price for our sins so we could spend eternity with Him.

* Luke 2:11-12... For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

* Luke 2:34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

* Luke 11:29-30 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. 30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

VIII. The Branch Speaks of the Spread of Influence

Genesis 49:22 states, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:" As the branches of a tree spread and transcend boundaries, walls, and fences, the influence of Christ continues to transcend the religious, racial, and cultural boundaries of men. Jesus is able to save men and women of any country, culture, or religion. He is able to speak to and reach the empty, searching heart that seeks to know the truth and know God. Paul was an executor of Christians, yet, the Lord opened his eyes and saved him.

* Romans 10:13—For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

IX. The Branch Speaks of Success, Victory, and Rejoicing

The Old Testament does not associate palm branches with Passover, but rather with the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40). In the period between the Old and New Testaments, however, palm branches became a general symbol of victory and celebration. When the Jews, led by Simon the Maccabee, recaptured Jerusalem from the Syrians, they "entered Jerusalem with praise and palm branches." The Jews waved palm branches before Jesus when He entered Jerusalem, riding on a colt.

* Matthew 21:7-9... And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. 8 And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. 9 And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Jesus was successful and victorious. He took the sting of out of death by rising from the grave. He sealed the doom of Satan and payed the price for the sins of mankind.

* Philippians 2:5-11... Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The year 1809 was considered to be a very bad year. Napoleon Bonaparte was leading his invincible army across Europe, altering the face of the map. In that year, however, the following men were born: Abraham Lincoln, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alfred Tennyson, William Gladstone, and Felix Mendelssohn. Good folks were born in a time of darkness.

In the same manner, it was a dark night in many ways, when God hung a star in the eastern sky to announce the advent of His Son. It was a dark night politically, economically, morally, and religiously, but it was the darkness before the dawn. Jesus came in a shadowy period of history, and the world has not been the same since. Christ, the Branch, was victorious over death, and we as believers can rejoice. The next time you see a branch, think of the Lord Jesus Christ.