“Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”” (Luke 13:1-9)
We continue to look at the symbolism of the fig tree in the New Testament to see what this humble tree can teach us about God and ourselves.
The Fruitless Fig Tree
Anyone who grows fruit tress will tell you that fruit trees do not always bear fruit. Some growing seasons are better than others. For example, the current drought we are experiencing in South Africa is having devastating effects on fruit and vegetable growth in the country. It does not matter how much one prunes or fertilises a tree, unless one waters it, that tree will never bear fruit. Any fruit it might produce will not be worth the effort of plucking it off the tree.
So when one comes to the above parable of the fig tree not bearing fruit and the farmer digging around it and fertilising it, we think nothing further about how he handles the situation. And to be honest, did you think anything about his watering the tree? Probably not, as that is something you would ordinarily expect of any decent farmer. After all, the tree was growing in a vineyard – a practice that was typical of Israeli farmers – and since Jesus says nothing about the vines not growing you think that all is as it should be except for the fig tree not bearing fruit.
But one thing we miss here, is that fig trees do not ordinarily require any fertilising to produce fruit. Remember the cursed fig tree from last time? It was growing on the side of the road, not tended in any way as far as we can tell, yet it was expected to have developed fruit despite that. It was expected that the tree in the vineyard would simply have born fruit without any more care provided than what it was already receiving from being in the vineyard in the first place. So why then the fertiliser? The vineyard worker was doing everything, even the unexpected, to encourage fruit.
The point? Well look at it in context. Right before this parable Jesus was talking about repentance, and then uses the fig tree parable to illustrate a very important point about repentance.
In the same way that the vineyard worker will do everything to have the tree produce fruit, the Lord will do everything possible to encourage repentance, even if they never do. Irrespective of who they are, what they have or have not done, He will do even the unexpected. So at the end of the day, when the day of judgement comes, even if a person dies without ever knowing Christ, without ever repenting, it does not mean that Christ did nothing to encourage them to do so. He did everything possible. They are without excuse for not doing so.
The question then is, what are you doing to encourage repentance for the lost that you know? Are you digging round them, fertilising them, and doing everything in your power to encourage them to repent? I would like to encourage you to develop a heart for the lost that compares to heart that the vineyard worker had for the lowly fig tree. Christ cares about them and desire that none would perish (2 Peter 3:8). Do you?
Just a Thought!
Visit our website at http://www.gracemedia.co.za.
Grace Media Christian Resources – your supplier of quality Christian resources, direct to your door.