The Barren Fig Tree

“And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. “And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ “And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)

As we have been working our way through the Parables of Jesus in Matthew we saw three that were directed to the nation of Israel. We looked at the “The Two Sons” which spoke of the rejection of John the Baptist. (Matthew 21:28-32) In “The Wicked Vinedressers” we saw how Israel rejected the Prophets and eventually God’s own Son Jesus. (Matthew 21:33-46) And we studied “The Wedding Feast” which spoke of the wickedness of the religious leaders of Israel. (Matthew 22:1-14) All of these Parables we told during the last week of Jesus’ ministry. Earlier in His ministry Jesus told another Parable that some believe dealt with the nation of Israel as a whole. This Parable also spoke of how the nation of Israel would be destroyed if they rejected Jesus as their Messiah. This Parable we are looking at today is known as “The Barren Fig Tree.” (Luke 13:6-9) In view of how our nation and the world has drifted away from Christian moral and ethics it has a message for us today. Let us look to learn what our Lord has to say about our need to repent.

Let us first look at the setting that this Parable was taught in. As with the other Parables that Jesus told He was responding to conversation f the People. In this case it was the news of a calamity that we read of in Luke 13:1-5) Jesus was told of how Pilate, a Roman governor, had killed some Galileans and mixed their blood with the sacrifices. The ones who brought the news to Jesus were thinking that these Galileans were worse sinners than the other Galileans. But Jesus did not say they were worse sinners and suffered this fate but answered, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)

Jesus reinforced this point by speaking of another calamity in which citizens of Jerusalem died and said He they were not worse sinners that the rest of Jerusalem. Jesus again said they must repent from their sinful living. Some speak of this to be about the destruction of Jerusalem and whether it is or not it still calls for individual repentance. Jesus then tells the Parable of “The Barren Fig Tree.

The Parable tells the story of a man who was disappointed that a certain fig tree in his vineyard was unfruitful. He wanted to cut it down but was persuaded by the keeper of the vineyard to give it one more year. If after that time the fig tree did not bear fruit the keeper would cut it down.

The point of the lesson in verses 1-5 is to repent. The lesson of the Parable is to repent now as fruitlessness will not be endured forever. To the listeners of the Parable this would have made good sense to them. Who of them would waste their land in the vineyard with fruitless fig trees?

For the Christians whom God has extended His privileges He expects returns. It is the same as the owner of the vineyard who expected a good return on the fig tree. He had planted the fig tree in good soil and provided it with good care for three years. The owner was then convinced to give the fig tree one more year to produce fruit. God had blessed Israel and they had not produced fruit. The Prophet Isaiah gives a description of Israel as God’s Vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7. In these verses the Prophet warns Israel that God would withdraw His blessing and the vineyard of the Lord would be destroyed. As it is for the Christian, we have been blessed through His Son Jesus. We as Christians are to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:8)  Are we as Christians utilizing the privileges that God has given us to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God?

The Lord is longsuffering but He will not suffer an unfruitful servant forever. The owner of the vineyard was longsuffering. He had given the fig tree three years to produce fruit. He was also persuaded to give it an extended year with special care as a final opportunity for the tree to produce fruit.

We see the longsuffering of the Lord in His patience with Israel. The Lord waited upon them in the wilderness, during the times of the Judges, and through the times of the kings. All through this time the Lord did not take the Kingdom of God away from them until they rejected their Messiah Jesus. “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” (Matthew 21:43)

The Lord is longsuffering towards the Christian as He was with the Israelite people. It is not the desire of the Lord for any to perish. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord’s patience is that all will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He desires all to receive salvation. “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” (2 Peter 3:15) The longsuffering of the Lord will one day come to an end and all unrighteousness will come to an end on the “Day of the Lord.” “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

We must be alert to the warning of this Parable. If the “Barren Fig Tree” remained barren it was to be cut down. In John we read Jesus’ warning to His disciples that if they did not bear fruit for the Kingdom they too would be cut down. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away.” (John 15:2) The Christian that has invited Jesus to live through them must abide in Him that He may bear fruit through us. If we do not abide in Jesus we shall be cast out and burned. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6)

There are many of the Christian faith who have abided with Jesus and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. But they have stumbled and allowed the pull of the world to draw them away. They have forsaken their first love in exchange for their desire of the world. In the book of Hebrews we read that they have been likened to thorns and briars which are of no use and are burned. “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.” (Hebrews 6:1-8)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

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First Baptist Church of Durant, March 2, 2017