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. 7 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? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
I. It seems evident that in this parable Jesus is speaking to the individual Jews who as a nation have rejected Christ and His kingdom.
A. The parable given in Matt. 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14 and 20-26 is speaking to Israel as a nation.
B. The parable before us is speaking to the individuals Jews that make up the nation of Israel.
C. Many of the things that will be said about the parables in Matthew and Mark can also be said about this parable.
1. The people that make up the nation of Israel is what caused the entire nation to fall.
2. In this parable, however, Christ is showing the individuals that their part is to do right, regardless of which way the nation goes.
D. The point is that many times, we look to the fall of the nation as different from the fall of individuals.
1. We must remember that a nation falls because the individual citizens of that nation fail to retain their integrity before God.
2. This United States of America will fall because of the judgment of God upon individual sinfulness.
3. When individuals turn their eyes away from God, God will judge the entire nation.
II. The setting of the parable of the barren fig tree.
A. Luke 13:1 speaks about the people present in Luke 12:1 when Jesus gives a discourse warning the people against the doctrines of the Pharisees.
1. Verse 1-12 - Christ teaches to put His kingdom ahead of any earthly gain, and to trust His protection while watching for the judgment of God upon those that are disobedient.
2. Verse 13-21 - Christ reaffirms that it is more important to lay up treasure in heaven than to have an earthly inheritance.
3. Verse 22-40 - Christ teaches that He will take care of His servants, and His servants ought to take care of the work He has given them to do. His servants ought to be continually watching for His return and the establishments of His heavenly kingdom.
4. Verse 41-48 - In answer to Peter's question about who the Lord is speaking to, Christ replies that He is speaking to all, that all should be ready for the judgment of that great day.
5. Verse 49-53 - Christ explains that His kingdom will not come peaceably, but with great divisions and strife.
6. Verse 54-59 - Christ explains that these people are able to discern the weather, but cannot discern the coming judgment. It is good to watch out for future events, especially the coming judgment, which will judge all men for all things.
B. It was at this point that some of the people present told Christ about Judas of Galilee, who lead a rebellion against the giving of tribute to Caesar.
1. They related that Judas of Galilee was killed, affirming that the message of Christ was right - God will see to it that sinners are judged.
a) These people, being alive, are comparing themselves to the followers of Judas of Galilee, who they supposed were worse sinners than they were.
b) After all, they would reason, they were still alive and the Judas of Galilee and his followers were dead.
c) It was natural for the Jews to look down on Galileans because they considered them to be lesser people than themselves.
2. Christ immediately strives to show them that all are equally sinners.
a) Christ doesn't approve or condemn Pilate, or the rebels.
b) Jesus tells the people present at that time, that unless they repent, they will all likewise perish.
c) Christ is not telling them they shall die at the hand of Caesar, but at the hand of God.
3. Christ then relates to them the story of the recent deaths of 18 men who were purifying themselves in the pool of Siloam, when the tower fell on them.
a) Evidently, their deaths were regarded as the judgment of God by the inhabitants of the place.
b) Christ wants these people to understand that not only were the Galileans sinners, but Jews were also sinners, and will die in their condemnation if they didn't repent.
c) Christ drives the point home that these individuals before Him are sinners who will perish if they don't repent.
4. Christ then gives the parable in our study.
III. The parable explains that even Jews, who have the promises of God, will perish if they don't repent.
A. The certain man would represent the God of Israel.
1. The certain man is at the very least the person who will judge Israel and all men.
2. These people do understand there is a judgment coming for all evil men, but they don't really realize they will judged in righteousness, and that they may turn out to be wicked men.
B. The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. The condition of the fig shows the condition of Israel.
1. I do not believe this parable is talking about lost and saved.
a) This is a fig tree, not a apple tree.
b) The fig free has been chosen by God to represent the nation of Israel.
2. This fig tree represents the individuals that make up the nation of Israel.
a) Joel 1:7 - He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.
b) There is a difference between a fig tree that has leaves only, and one that has no leaves, being completely stripped bare.
c) This will be the condition of Israel when God turns away from her, causing her to be distributed to all the nations of the world.
3. Jer. 24:1-10 - This is probably the clearest example showing that good figs represent Israel when they are worshipping God, and bad figs represent Israel when they aren't worshipping God.
4. Joel 1:12 - Another verse that compares the condition of Israel to a good and bad vineyard.
C. The vineyard would represent ownership by God.
1. Isaiah 5:1,2 - The vineyard could represent Israel.
2. The vineyard could also represent any place where God has established Himself, the local church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. It should be noted that the truths Christ spoke in this parable as are true to Israel as they are to local churches.
IV. The parable explained.
A. It is not so explicitly stated in this parable as in the parables in Matt. and Mark, but it is evident that Christ found a living fig tree with leaves only, but no fruit.
1. The leaves represent the work of the people that is for themselves.
2. The fruit represents the work of the people that is done for others, especially God.
3. The individual citizens of Israel have done everything for themselves, and produced no fruit for God.
B. The tree has been bearing leaves for three years.
1. The tree has been alive for this period of time, and should be bearing some fruit by this time.
2. I am not an expert on fig trees, but I am told that some fig trees take three years to bear the first crop.
3. I am told that some fig trees take three years to bear a good crop.
C. The three years may represent the three years of the ministry of Christ.
1. If it does, He has given the tree (the nation of Israel, and its individual citizens) ample time to produce fruit.
2. God always gives ample time, never cutting people off before they have opportunity to do good.
3. Not only has Christ given the fig tree plenty of time, He then consents to give it one more year - one more "chance".
4. It is in this fourth year that Israel crucifies Christ.
D. There is much work put into making the fig tree produce.
1. Often times, God works much in our individual lives, so we will produce fruit for Him.
a) It is amazing how much of God's work goes unnoticed by us.
b) We are very quick to see evil things that happen to us, but slow to see that God intends every work for the good of those that love and are called of Him.
c) Like the fig tree, the work God commands for our good goes unheeded and unfruitful.
2. The work of God is never unprofitable.
a) The work of God can yield no profit to us because we refuse to take instruction from it.
b) Isaiah 55:11 - God's Word will not return void, but will accomplish that which He sent it to accomplish.
(1) If we heed God's Word, we will receive a reward.
(2) If we fail to bring forth fruit to God, we will receive damnation.
3. If our church fails to accomplish what God intends her to accomplish, the blame must be put on our shoulders.
a) Eph. 3:20 - God is well able to do all that we ask or think.
b) Matt. 17:20 - Jesus said that if we "...had faith as the grain of mustard seed, ye should say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall be removed; and nothing shall be impossible for you."
c) There is much responsibility placed on the shoulders of Christians, for on them the rise and fall of nations is placed.