Luke 13:1-9 (ESV)
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
No one seems to know for sure exactly what Pilate did to the Galileans, but it was nasty enough to get back to Jesus, and He uses it as a launching point for another lesson on repentance. He brings in another example, where 18 were killed by the collapse of a tower.
It was commonly thought that things like these were divine retribution for sin. Jesus uses these incidents to point out that everyone’s sin is worthy of that level of punishment. He then gives a brutal example. A fig tree that doesn’t produce figs deserves the ultimate punishment. The analogy is chilling. Should a cobbler that fails to produce shoes be “cut down”?
As tough as it is, that’s exactly what Jesus means here. The unrepentant are useless to the kingdom and might as well be disposed of.
Jesus’ teaching often has great shock value. It’s blunt, but apparently anything less just won’t get the job done.
We are slow learners.
The Lord’s patience is just amazing. Here He is on the road to Jerusalem, where He will be crucified for our sins. He knows what’s coming and it weighs on Him dreadfully.
And He’s surrounded by idiots. OK, that’s over the top, but it’s exactly how you or I would have felt in this situation. Every time someone asks Him a question it’s dumb enough to make you want to throw up your hands in despair and say, “I quit.”
But He doesn’t. Incredibly, His love keeps Him on task.
“I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” – J. Gresham Machen
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