Luke 13:6-9

Luke 13:6-9  -  The Barren Fig Tree

The previous incident had emphasised the importance of repentance. The point has been made before that such repentance was not simply a call to “try harder”, motivated perhaps by the desire to change the heart of God or to merit the love of God. Rather, repentance involved opening the eyes to the free offer of God’s year of favour. The focus was on response, not initiative. God was always the first to take the initiative, to empower – as the following parable would indicate. It would be the digging, the manuring, that would empower the difference. Yet, without the penitent’s personal response to the goodness of God, nothing would result.

6 He then told this parable.  
"A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard.  
He came looking for fruit on it, but found none.
7 So he said to the vineyard worker,
'Look here, for three years I have been coming
and looking for fruit on this fig tree
and I don't find anything.  
Cut it down.  
Why should it take up good ground?'
8 But he answered him, 'Leave it go for one more year.  
I shall dig around it and put manure down.
9 It will bear fruit then.  
But if doesn't, then next year you can cut it down'."

In the Hebrew Scriptures the fig tree often represented the richness of the land of Israel. It was a symbol of the Jewish nation, of the Jewish people. Jesus may have intended this message to be seen in reference to the nation. As an organised whole, as a faith group, they did not bear fruit. They refused to respond to the invitation of Jesus. They were closed to the Lord’s year of favour. Their leaders confirmed them in their rigidity, as the following incident would soon show. 

After the death of Jesus, the nation survived as a separate nation for another forty years. During that time, some Jews converted to the Christian movement, but not the nation as a whole.

Jesus’ message spoke of patience, but also of urgency. Whatever about the Jewish nation as a whole, individuals still had to reach their own personal decisions. The call to repentance was always urgent. The stakes were high! The fact that nothing had yet happened, whether that might be the era of Luke’s community or the world of the twenty-first century, indicated simply that God was waiting, not that all was well.

Repentance was non-negotiable for everyone of all ages.

Next >> Luke 13:10-17