He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.(Luke 13:7-9)
The Messiah, Jesus, often drew from Isaiah’s Vineyard parable in his teaching, and He modified it to emphasize other points.
Jesus tells a version of the Vineyard parable after being confronted with the news of an atrocity which occurred in the temple. Evidently some Galileans were slain as they offered sacrifice to God in the Holy house. What did Jesus have to say about this?
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.(Luke 13:1-5)
Jesus’ answer is direct, ’Instead of asking whether or not these people deserved to die in this way, we should be asking ourselves, are we ready to die? Will we die in our sins? Are we right with God? Unless you Repent you will likewise perish!’
Thus Jesus warns us that judgment was coming to all of us, the Romans would shed far more Jewish blood, and do far more damage, towers would soon be collapsing all around them, (including the Temple!).
This is the context for Jesus’ telling of a variation of the Vineyard parable. He adds a fig tree to the Vineyard. The Fig Tree is a prophetic symbol for the blessing of God on the people of Israel. The very picture of the good life, in the coming day of Messiah, according to the Prophet Micah,
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of Jehovah of hosts hath spoken it.(Micah 4:4)
Once again as in Isaiah’s song of the Vineyard, the emphasis is on the immense preparation, with the expectation of fruit. In Israel it was well known that one didn’t merely throw fig seed into the ground and expect much of anything. The rocks must be removed, soil cultivated , hopefully some kind of a fence or wall to protect the tree would be erected and fertilizing dung would be applied, all with the intent to afford that tree the greatest chance to bear sweet fruit.
But when the day of inspection arrived, the Master of the Vineyard did not find fruit. He commanded the gardener to cut it down, for why should it take up any more ground? Why after all of this preparation, labor and investment, is the tree yet barren? What use is a barren fig tree?
In Jesus story, the only thing standing between the barren fig tree and the axe of the master is the intercessory prayer of the gardener, he pleads, “give me a little more time with the tree, let me work with it…lets see if I can get it to bear fruit, but if not, then cut it down.”.
In this Jesus adds two distinct factors to the original parable…
- His intercession- Jesus is the lowly gardener who pleads for the fig tree. He has come between the wrath of God and the sinners who deserve that wrath.His three years of ministry to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” were an extension of the mercy of God, the judgment they deserved was abated, they would be given another chance to repent, to turn to God, and away from their sins.
Why hasn’t the West been obliterated by the judgment of the thrice Holy God? Someone once asked me “Where was God on 9-11? “, I answered this way, “In view of the sin and offense and affront we present to the infinitely Holy and good God by our homosexuality, fornication, lawlessness, abortion and toleration and praising of false religion(ISlam), the real question is ,’Why isn’t there a 9-11 every single day?’”
- Jesus also inserts the issue of time…“Give me a little more time...”. Time will run out one day, which is why Isaiah beckons us to “Seek the LORD while He can be found and to call upon Him while He is near…”.
Has not our God given us a little more time recently? Time to get right with Him and each other? Time to go back to our first LOVE? Time to return to Him in worship, and to go back to church and to seek Him? perhaps et we will turn to God with all of our hearts, repent of our many sins, and bear the fruit of contrition, godly sorrow, faith and the true knowledge of God.
But the new parable of the Vineyard assures us, this reprieve doesn’t go on indefinitely…the time is running out.