Out of all of the trees and plants that God has created, there is one unique above the rest, and that is the olive tree. In Bible times, they knew this uniqueness well and so it was a common process to graft branches into olive trees. They would take a branch from a good olive tree, kallielaios, and graft it into a wild olive tree, called agrielios, which on its own did not produce good fruit. They would do this so that they would not have to cut down the wild olive tree and start all over again with a seedling. By grafting in the good branch, the tree would then produce good fruit on that branch, even though the tree was still wild. They would do this for several branches to turn the tree from a bad tree to a good tree. But, God uses the complete opposite to paint His own picture of the olive tree. He, instead, grafts bad branches into a good tree, which normally wouldn’t produce good fruit, but in God’s story, that is exactly what it did.
Now that we know a bit about the olive tree, we can see a clearer picture of what Paul was talking about when he was discussing the olive tree. The good olive tree represents God. The branches represented Israel, God’s chosen nation, but because many of them rejected Jesus as their savior, God broke them off from His tree. This made room for more branches to be grafted in, so God chose instead wild olive tree branches which previously didn’t produce fruit because they were not connected to the good tree. These wild branches are the Gentiles (or basically anyone non-Jewish). So now, Gentiles can also be partakers as children of God, adopted (grafted) into His family.
“13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root[c] of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.” Romans 11:13-20
But, there is also a warning with being adopted into God’s family. God was willing to cut off His own branches because of their continuous rebellion and unbelief, but even more so would He be willing to cut off the grafted in branch as it was not part of the original tree. God is both complete kindness and complete justice at the same time. We are told to continue in faith, be humble, and to fear (not a scary fear, but a respectful fear of not wanting to go against God.)
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” Romans 11:21-24
We also see above that God will graft back in the Jews if they come to Him in repentance and belief in Jesus; however, for most this has not happened as of now. But, one day, God will remove their blinders so that they will see Jesus for who He is. God blinded the Jews for one reason only, and that so that He could pursue you to graft you in if you accepted Jesus. You see, if the Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah right away, then God would have never needed to fill spots in His tree. It would have already been completely full. We need to thank the nation of Israel (and to God!) for their unbelief as it was a gift to us; However, our hearts should hurt and long for the nation of Israel to once again be grafted back into the tree. Pray that the blinders would be removed and that they would realize that Jesus is really the Messiah that they have been looking for all along.
“39 Therefore [the nation of Israel] could not believe. For again Isaiah said,40 “[God] has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”” John 12:39-40
Father God, Thank you that only you have the power to graft in a wild olive branch into a good tree and make it produce fruit. We are entirely grateful to you for temporarily blinding the eyes of Israel to the Messiah so there might be room for the rest of us to be grafted into your family. But now, we ask that you open their blind eyes so that they can see what was right in front of them all along. In our Messiah, Jesus’ Name. Amen.