PART VIII: THE MISCELLANEOUS PARABLES
The Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree is found only inIntroduction
The StoryNow there were some present at that
Then he told this parable: "A man
had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard,
and he went to look for fruit on it, but
did not find any. So he said to the man
who took care of the vineyard, `For three
years now I've been coming to look for
fruit on this fig tree and haven't found
any. Cut it down! Why should it use up
"`Sir, the man replied, ` leave it
alone for one more year, and I'll dig
around it and fertilize it. If it bears
fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut
it down.'" (Luke 13:1-9, New Inter-
Some people reported to Jesus that Pilate had mixed some
Galileans' blood with their sacrifices. That is, they had
been killed in the Temple while offering animal sacrifices
there. (Turnbull, Gen. ed., PROCLAIMING THE NEW TESTAMENT,
THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, by Ralph Earle, p. 59). Galileans were
noted for their fierce nationalism. (Trench, NOTES ON THE
PARABLES OF OUR LORD, p. 121). Pilate may have been
crushing a potential insurrection.
Then Jesus mentioned the tragedy of the tower falling in
Siloam and killing eighteen people. Siloam is built on
sloping ground where earth tremors and bad construction could
have combined to cause the tower to fall. (Turnbull, Gen.
ed., PROCLAIMING THE NEW TESTAMENT, THE GOSPEL
OF LUKE, by Ralph Earle, p. 59).
The man who took care of the vineyard is literally, a "vine-worker"
in the Greek text. (Turnbull, Gen. ed., PROCLAIMING THE NEW
TESTAMENT, THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, by Ralph Earle, p. 59).
We would call him a gardener or a farmer today.
1. Owner of Vineyard God
2. Gardener Jesus or Holy Spirit
3. Fig Tree Israel
4. Vineyard Inhabited Earth
(BEACON BIBLE COMMENTARY, LUKE, By Charles Childers, p. ?).
The following outline is adapted from Earle's excellent outline
(Turnbull, Gen. ed., PROCLAIMING THE NEW TESTAMENT,
THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, by Ralph Earle, pp. 60-62):
1. THE CONDITION OF THE TREE.
"...he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any."
It had leaves of empty profession, but no fruit.
This fig tree represented Israel.
Israel had been carefully cultivated by the Holy Spirit's
working through the Old Testament priests and prophets,
through Moses and the Law, and including the ministries of
Jesus and John the Baptist. However, at the time of Jesus,
Israel lacked the true fruit of inward character. They only
had the leaves of outward appearance. They were hypocrites!
2. THE CONDEMNATION OF THE TREE.
"Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?"
The fig tree had not born figs for three years, so
the owner told the gardener to cut it down. It
just so happened that Jesus had been preaching
repentance to Israel:
From that time on Jesus began to preach,
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
(Matthew 4:17, New International Version)
John the Baptist had the same message:
"The ax is already at the root of the
trees, and every tree that does not
produce good fruit will be cut down and
thrown into the fire." (Matthew 3:10,
New International Version).
Still, Israel as a whole did not repent. Israel
rejected their Messiah and his message.
3. THE CONSIDERATION FOR THE TREE.
"Sir...leave it alone for one more year...."
The Gardener pled for the life of the tree, but in
order to be fair, he added that if it did not bear fruit,
then it was to be cut down. Jesus knew that Israel
would continue to reject him and not repent. A little
later he lamented over the people whom he loved:
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who
kill the prophets and stone those sent
to you, how often I have longed to gather
your children together, as a hen gathers
her chicks under her wings, but you were
not willing! Look, your house is left to
you desolate, I tell you, you will not
see me again until you say, `Blessed is
he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
(Luke 13:34-35, New International
The cutting down of the fig tree (Israel) could refer to
the Church taking the place of Israel as God's people or it
could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in
There is also a personal application of this parable as
well as a national or group application. Trench quotes
Olshausen observes:--"The discourse of Jesus,
severe and full of rebuke, is closed by a parable,
in which the merciful Son of man appears as the
Intercessor for men before the righteousness of the
Heavenly Father; as He who obtains for them space
for repentance. This idea of deferring the
judgment of men, runs all through the Holy
Scriptures (Gen. vi. 3; Gen. xviii 24); the
destruction of Jerusalem was not until forty years
after the ascension of our Lord (see also 2 Pet.
iii 9)." THIS PARABLE, THEN IS AT ONCE CONCERNING
[BOTH] THE LONG-SUFFERING AND SEVERITY OF GOD.
[italics mine]. (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF
OUR LORD, p. 122).
Barclay gives five salient points:
1. The fig tree occupied A SPECIALLY FAVORED
POSITION. Jesus reminded men repeatedly that they
would be judged according to the opportunities
that they had.
2. USELESSNESS INVITES DISASTER.
3. NOTHING WHICH ONLY TAKES OUT CAN SURVIVE.
4. This parable tells us of THE GOSPEL OF THE
SECOND CHANCE. A fig tree normally takes three
years to reach maturity--it is not likely to bear
fruit after that. "It is always Jesus' way to give
a man chance after chance. God is infinitely kind
to the man who falls and rises again."
5. THERE IS A FINAL CHANCE. (Barclay, DAILY STUDY
BIBLE SERIES, LUKE, pp. 179 ff.).
Also implied in this parable is that there is no moral
vacuum in the human heart: we either gather or scatter, build
or tear down. The tree was using up the soil and not
producing figs--Israel was taking up God's time, spurning his
love, destroying his messengers and through them the name of
God was blasphemed among the Gentiles (Rom ii. 24; Matt.
xxiii 13, 15). (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR LORD,
p. 123). Likewise, the individual who makes a profession of
faith in Christ and has an evil heart is taking the Name of
God in vain. He is claiming to be a part of the Father's
family without having the nature of the Heavenly Father.
This is much worse that speaking the name of God in a loose
or vain way. He has become a stumbling stone for true
seekers of God instead of a stepping stone to help them to
God. Now is the time to change:
As God's fellow workers we urge you
not to receive God's grace in vain. For
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
I tell you, now is the time of God's
favor, now is the day of salvation.
(2 Corinthians 6:1-2, New International Version)
GOD IS MERCIFUL. HE GIVES US TIME
TO REPENT. GOD IS ALSO JUST HE WILL
BRING JUDGMENT TO REPROBATES.
Let us invite the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, and
pray with David this prayer from our hearts:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know
my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in
me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23-24) (New International Version). END.