Two Australian tree experts had to be flown to Hong Kong when a banyan tree believed to be imbued with special powers took ill. Visitors and pilgrims throw wishing tokens written on cards tied to oranges at the tree. It’s said that your wish will come true if your orange hooks onto the tree’s huge branches. Recently at a Lunar New Year, one of the branches fell on two of the many visitors who visit the tree annually and it’s feared the banyan’s days are numbered.
Eighty years of carrying the longings and expectations of thousands of pilgrims is perhaps proving too much for the ancient tree. For human beings too, such pressure can be burdensome. Children carrying their parents’ hopes, leaders carrying their followers’, lovers carrying their beloved’s, workers carrying their boss’s, all may sometimes find the strain onerous. Many of us are, in some relationships, carrying other people’s hopes, while in others, it is we whose longings are focussed on another.
Jesus too, especially as his followers grew in number, carried their hopes for freedom. Yet he knew he could not deliver what they longed for in the way they hoped. His chosen path of suffering and death led many to disillusionment. When people expect a lot of us, it’s not helpful to anyone if we let their hopes alone determine our behaviour. Like Jesus, we need to go the way that seems right for us.
Our own expectations of others may similarly be putting inappropriate pressure on them. The symbolism of the banyan tree and what happened to Jesus reminds us of the penalty that’s sometimes paid by those asked to carry too heavy a burden.
Read: Carry each other’s burdens (Gal 6.2)
Rejoice: in those who fulfil our expectations.
Reflect: Is there anyone I expect too much of?
Remember: when I’m bearing others’ burdens, Christ shares the load.
Resolve: to accept Christ’s offer to let my hope be in him.