Jesus interpreted the news for them. That incident where Pilate decided to shed the blood of those not so innocent Galileans who had come to shed the blood of their innocent sacrifices in Jerusalem? Don’t think it was God’s divine judgment on them because they were worse sinners than you. All need to repent.
And that recent freak accident where the tower in Siloam fell for no apparent reason and killed eighteen unsuspecting bystanders? Don’t try and connect some cause and effect dots thinking it was because they had somehow transgressed more than the others in the crowd who were spared. There isn’t anyone who doesn’t need to make a 180 degree turn about something.
But then the Master told them a story. And here He connects the dots between action and consequence. Or, rather, inaction and consequence.
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?'”
(Luke 13:6-7 ESV)
It was a warning to the stiff-necked religious leaders and to unbelieving Israel. But I can’t help but think it’s worthy chewing on for all who have ears to hear.
According to those who’ve read the historical accounts, apparently the Galileans carried a particular notoriety concerning their wickedness. And their “tumultuous behavior” was a seditious thorn in Pilate’s side. So when some of them left Herod’s jurisdiction and came to Jerusalem, Pilate’s backyard, to go through their religious routine, Pilate took advantage of it. But Jesus said, don’t think they deserved what they got anymore than any other sinner. Instead, He says, if you want to connect dots, connect them between “no fruit” and “cut it down.”
That Jesus was alluding to the Father as the Sovereign Horticulturist, and Israel as His vineyard, would not be lost on anyone who was familiar with the Scriptures (Ps. 80:8, Isa. 5:1-2, Isa. 60:21 , Jer. 2:21). That He would focus on one particular fig tree planted in the vineyard would take it from a national discussion to a very personal one.
The fig tree was planted for one express purpose, to bear fruit. And the vinedresser repeatedly checked in, year after year, seeking fruit on it. But, year after year, he found none. Finally, he commands, “Cut it down!” It’s just using up and wasting resources that were designed for fruit-bearing. Cut it down.
Can’t help but pause and think to myself, “Self, you were saved, the seeds were sown, the Spirit has watered, so that you might bear fruit. When God comes seeking fruit is He finding it?”
Sobering question. Even if I might venture a sheepish, “Some,” as an answer, it still begs the question, “Am I bearing fruit in accordance with the potential the Planter of the vineyard has afforded me?” To which I hear Jesus’ earlier admonition, “Repent!”
And then I note the vinedresser’s intercession on behalf of the fruitless fig tree.
“And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”
(Luke 13:8-9 ESV)
Give it some more time. Not so it can get its act together, but so that I can further nurture it. Not so it can try harder, but that I might further work it and feed it. The goal is still to bear fruit, but wait a little longer, I’m not finished with this fig tree yet.
Oh, the patience of our divine Vinedresser, the Lord Jesus. Oh, the abundance of His resources!
Having poured out His Spirit into us, willing to pour it out even more (Rom. 5:5, 8:9). Having given us His Word to feed on, giving it still more, knowing that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4), and that we are transformed through the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2). Having knit us together with the people of God as the body of Christ so that, as each of us does our part, we are able “to grow up in every way into Him who is the head” (Eph. 4:15-16). Thus, abiding in Him that we might bear fruit for Him (Jn. 15:4-5).
Oh, to bear fruit. For that is why we were planted.
By His grace. For His glory.