The Parable of the Fig Tree

The fresco of the parable of the fig tree in the Votivkirche church by brothers Carl and Franz Jobst (sc. half of 19. cent.). (Renáta Sedmáková / Adobe Stock)
Chris Genetti is pastor at Living Waters Tabernacle of Exeter.

Here in California’s Central Valley we have a unique perspective concerning Jesus’ teaching methods. When trying to grasp Jesus’ full message, we must try to understand what was happening in those times. We live in the bread basket of the world and are surrounded by orchards and agriculture. It’s not a stretch for us to put ourselves into those vast audiences which Jesus spoke directly to.

Jesus taught a parable concerning a barren fig tree. There are three main characters in the parable. The fig tree represents mankind. The owner of the orchard portrays God. The keeper of the vineyard is Jesus himself. A conversation ensues between the owner and the keeper of the vineyard. Unfortunately, after 3 years has elapsed since planting the fig tree, it has failed to produce any fruit. The owner becomes concerned, and suggests that the tree should be cut down. The keeper of the vineyard then petitions the owner saying, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.” The owner of the vineyard undoubtedly provided all that the fig tree required to grow and be fruitful. Does he not have the right to expect, if not demand, a good yield after personally providing all of its needs? Jesus was revealing who he was in front of this unwitting audience. He in fact was demonstrating to them His divine appointment.

Whether we like to admit it or not, our loving God is also a God of wrath. God loves all of his children, but He detests the sin in our lives that spoils His opportunity to demonstrate the fullness of His compassion and love for His creation. Jesus prayed to his Father just before He was put on trial, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority overall flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Precisely because of God’s love for us, He sent His Son to help guide, prepare, and redeem His people. Just as the keeper of the vineyard beseeched the owner to allow him time in order to fertilize and care for the Fig Tree, so Jesus spent his time on earth teaching us God’s desires through these parables. However, we must be warned due to certain sin in our lives, if we have become unfruitful. Praise God that we have been given a measure of time to repent and live righteously. Consequently, there will be a final harvest. Upon that harvest, everyone will be judged. I pray we will not be, “weighed in the balances and found wanting.”

As a consequence to not heeding Jesus’ instruction, we find in the scriptures another story about a fig tree. Recorded in Matthew, we find an interaction where Jesus passes judgment on a fig tree that bears no fruit. As Jesus and His disciples were traveling, they approached a fig tree during its natural harvest season. They were hungry and approached the tree with the expectation they would enjoy sustenance from its branches. However, they were deceived. This outwardly appearing healthy fig tree had no fruit on its branches. To the disciples awe, Jesus cursed the tree saying, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” The fig tree immediately withered, and died.

We can compare the parable of “The True Vine” found in John, for a greater understanding of Jesus’ condemnation. In this parable Jesus describes himself as the vine and his Father as the vine dresser. Jesus remarks, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Although Christ came to Earth to share His Father’s love for people, He does not mince words when preparing us for the consequences of not bearing righteous fruit in our own lives. Jesus further describes it by saying, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

Many people, and even many Christians have yet to fully experience reconciliation and communion with God. Jesus withered the Fig Tree because it’s outward appearance advertised something it wasn’t. I hope we realize that we are not promised tomorrow, and I pray there is an urgency to reconcile with God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus has interceded for us, He has petitioned God to give us more time to return to Him, just as the keeper of the vineyard was.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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