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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE BARREN FIG TREE

Luke 13:6-9 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.

The events cited in the first five verses of this chapter of Luke form the basis for this parable delivered by Jesus to His disciples and others that were gathered to hear His teachings. He learned of the first event from one in His audience that told Him of some Galileans that were slain by Pilate. They were probably offering sacrifices to God at the time they were killed, because it was said that Pilate had mingled (their blood) with their sacrifices (Vs. 1). The second event Jesus cited was the death of eighteen men of Jerusalem that were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them.

Although historians recorded neither of these occurrences, they were probably well known to all hearing this message from Jesus. It was probably a common belief, at this time, that the lives lost because of these tragic events were due to great sins they had committed. With the use of rhetorical questions Jesus told them this was not so. Not only were the slain Galileans sinners, but also all Galileans were just as sinful. Those men of Jerusalem on which the tower of Siloam fell, killing them, were also sinners, but no more so than all other men of Jerusalem. In other words, Jesus told them that all Galileans, all men of Jerusalem, and by inference, all people everywhere are sinners, and in need of repentance. Here is Jesus reason for relating these incidents: He wanted those in His audience, and us today, to understand and know for sure, all people everywhere are sinners and except ye repent, ye shall all likewise parish (Vss. 3 & 5).

The parable of the barren fig tree, noted in the lesson text, was used by Jesus to emphasize the need for repentance. The parable states that a man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. When he came to harvest its fruit, he found it barren. Because the tree had not produced fruit for the past three years, he instructed the dresser of his vineyard to cut it down. The dresser requested he be given another year to nurture, cultivate, and fertilize it, saying that if it bear fruit, it would be well to let it bear additional fruit, but if not, it would afterwards be cut down.

One application of this parable could be that God represents the owner of the vineyard, Jesus, the vinedresser, and the fig tree, the Jewish people. This chosen nation was given privileges and blessings far above other nations, yet when God examined them for the fruits of righteousness they should have produced, He rarely found any, and thus were compared to barren fig trees. Jesus came from their heritage as promised. Hepreached to them for approximately three years, telling them of theirneed for repentance unto salvation, yet they refused to repent, believe. They refusedbear the fruit God expected of them. On the day of Pentecost, the gospel of Christ was preached first to the Jews. Paul, in his writing to the Roman brethren, said the gospel of salvation was offered to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16). Although a few Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and became obedient children of God, most rejected His invitation to repent rather than parish. Therefore, as barren fig trees thatwere unfruitful, were cut down, and perished, so too, was the fate ofthe unrepentant Jews.

The fig tree could also represent the church of Christ today. As members of the body of Christ, God expects each of us to bear fruits of righteousness just as much as a good fig tree bears fruit of its kind. The proof of a good Christian can be found in the fruit they bear. The worth of a fig tree cannot be found in its bark, branches, leaves or blossoms. Its value is in its fruit. So is the Christian. By putting on Christ in baptism and filling the pews in the assembly hall we appear to be Christians. But our owner - God, and our vinedresser - Jesus Christ, expects more. They expect, deserve, and even require, the fruit of a Christian. Each of us should examine our lives to determine if we are producing the fruit God expects of us. If not, hopefully, we will be given additional time to repent and become fruitful just as the fig tree was given an additional year to bear fruit. The fig tree that does not bear fruit is cut down. With the barren fig tree as our example, Jesus gives us thiswarning: except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (See Luke 13:3-5).