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On occasion, Jesus was confronted with social and political issues. The Roman official, Pilate, was a tyrant who caused pain and suffering on Israel on a regular basis.
On one occasion he killed several people from the region of Galilee. A crowd asked Jesus if these people had done something wrong for God to allow this horrific event to transpire.
Jesus responded and challenged the people to reflect on their own relationship with God, instead of turning the focus on their fellow Galileans. He said, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did” (Luke 13.2-3).
Jesus then drew their attention to another tragedy and said, “Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them — do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did” (Luke 13.4-5).
Humans are professionals at shifting responsibility from ourselves to other people. With worldwide access to information, there seems to be a steady stream of disgusting acts performed by bad actors.
It is easy to say, “What about them,” instead of looking at our own personal failings that need to be confronted and changed.
Jesus does not let us escape responsibility for our own behavior. Yes, there may be tragic and evil events all around us, but we are accountable for how we personally respond to what happens in our lives.
Jesus’ message is a call for all of us to repent – to change our minds and behavior. In a time when blame and the shifting of blame seems to be so prevalent, we need to hear and respond to Jesus’ words.
A Nation is a Collection of Individuals
The crime of killing Galileans and the tragic death of people who suffered in the collapse of the tower set the stage for the parable of the Fig Tree.
The parable turns the attention from the individual to the nation. However, we all know that a nation is comprised of individual persons. The soul of a nation is comprised of the collective morality of its citizens and not merely the actions of those in power.
The same crowd of people who were challenged to repent became the audience for this parable.
Jesus said, “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.
“So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’
“He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down'” (Luke 13.6-9).
Some of Jesus’ parables are difficult to understand and need an explanation. This one was straight forward and the crowd most certainly understood what Jesus was saying.
Just like the American eagle and the flag are symbols of our country, the fig tree was one of the major symbols of Israel.
The Old Testament prophets frequently used the image of producing fruit to describe the moral fiber of their nation. God had planted Israel and he expected the nation to respond to his activity with appropriate actions.
The fact that Israel had failed to respond properly to the Lord’s gracious gifts made them good candidates for God’s judgment. The parable calls people to change their behavior before judgment becomes a reality.
Application of the Parable
Anyone who has not been living under a rock knows that the United States is in one of the most difficult periods of our nation’s history. I don’t need to outline the challenges we face, because every news outlet keeps them before our eyes.
I do believe Jesus’ words in the two passages we have studied today give us directions that we can personally apply to our lives. If enough people respond as Jesus taught, our nation may be rescued by the grace of God.
Jesus taught personal repentance. He did not allow his followers to shift the blame by pointing at other people. Each of us is called to reckon with our own behavior.
The first step is a genuine personal inventory of our attitudes and actions. We can ask God to show us if there is anything in our lives that needs to be changed. Repentance is the act of changing our minds and our actions to get aligned with God’s will.
The second thing we can do is to pray for a delay of God’s judgment on our country until the nation as a whole can repent. Like the gardener in the parable, we can ask God to give us more time so that we can return to producing the kind of “fruit” he desires.
Please don’t think that your personal repentance and prayer will have no effect. Recall the parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13.31-32). A very small beginning of people living as obedient children of the King of kings made a large difference.
As you live out the changed life that repentance brings about, remember the parable of the Yeast (Matthew 13.33). The yeast was invisible, but got into the whole loaf of bread and made a tremendous difference.
The parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4.26-29) reminds us that we are not alone. God is at work in history and moving us to the fulfillment of his plans and purposes. You can count on the fact that other people are being led to repent and to pray, just like you.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.