The Book of Luke, The Parable of the Fruitless Fig Tree - Lesson 170
In the first five verses of Luke 13 we have been witness to a twice repeated warning of Jesus Christ to the Israelites.
This was a warning to repent or they would all likewise perish as the Galileans perished at Pilate’s hand and as those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell.
Jesus Christ had received this report about the death of the Galileans and had pressed those who brought the report to consider the eternal consequences of their ways rather than the extent of the sin of others. (No doubt the trouble is with you.)
Yes, it is a tragedy for these things to befall the Galileans and those who were killed by the tower but:
……except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
He, now in Luke 13:6-9 continues to preach of the need for repentance as he brings to their minds by way of a parable
a situation concerning a fig tree planted in a vineyard.
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. 7Then 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? 8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. Aside Comment: One thing you can be sure of, is that if a sizable or any fruit tree is proposed for cutting down there will always be someone to object to that. Trees have advocates! Whenever we in Public Works at Whiting Field wanted to cut down a sizable tree on the base you can be sure we OKed it with the Commanding Officer because we knew that complaints would be made.
This is not the last mention of fig trees in the Gospels for Jesus Christ has yet to visit the fig tree himself where he found no fruit.
That mention is in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark and concerns an event which took place the day after Jesus cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple.
In Matthew 21:18, we read of this visit to a fig tree.
This is not a parable, as is our Luke passage, but an actual visit by the Lord Jesus Christ to a real fig tree.
Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
The parable which we have read this morning in Luke and this Matthew account concerning the fig tree cursed by the Lord I believe are related.
In the parable of the fig tree we find an additional period of time, namely one year, given for the fig tree to bear fruit.
But in this passage in Matthew we find the fig tree cursed because it has no fruit.
There are no causal words in God’s word.
When it is reported to us that Jesus Christ hungered and desired fruit from a fig tree it is given to us for a purpose.
And since no scripture is of any private interpretation we are obligated to study other scripture in order to understand scripture.
Therefore when fig trees are the subject, we are to study about fig trees wherever they are mentioned in scripture.
Our parable in Luke concerns a fig tree that had no fruit but was given time to bear fruit.
The passage in Matthew concerns a fig tree that also had no fruit but there was none to advocate for it and it was therefore judged.
So therefore I believe these two accounts of the fig tree are related.
In our passage in Luke we are told this is a parable.
A parable is a comparison, a similitude.
It is a comparison of earthly things with heavenly things.
It is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
One thing we know from studies of the parables of Christ everything has meaning in the parable, nothing is there for nothing, and the parable is designed for those who have ears to hear.
Those who have ears to hear are those who believe and practice the Word of God.
Each parable, in order to know its meaning, requires an understanding of the Word of God, ie, ears that hear God’s word.
Note the facts given in this parable.
The man who planted the fig tree was a certain man, the owner of the vineyard.
The fig tree was planted within his vineyard.
It was planted in a prominent place for the man came to that place on a regular basis and inspected the fig tree which he had planted.
The fig tree was a tree that was expected to bear fruit.
In other words a man would not plant a tree within his vineyard and take up valuable space unless it was a tree that bore fruit.
This certain man had come to this tree for three years expecting to pick figs and was disappointed each year for no figs were found.
This does not mean that this fig tree was only three years old for there is a time required for fig trees to grow before they are capable of bearing figs so this tree was older than three years.
This certain man was a husbandman who expected fruit from all his plants and trees.
And because of this he told the dresser, upon seeing that there was no fruit, to cut the tree down, for it was wasting ground space which could be used for productive plants, fruitful plants.
The dresser prevailed upon the owner of the vineyard to give him one more year while he dug it and fed it about with fertilizer.
As I said before, trees always seem to have an advocate so here we find the dresser pressing the man for more time for the tree to bear fruit.
And if it did not then the owner would cut it down.
By rightly dividing the word of truth we know that Jesus Christ was talking about the nation of Israel when he told this parable about the fig tree.
The first mention of the fig tree is in the book of Genesis where we are told that Adam and Eve choose the large leaves of the fig tree to cover their nakedness.
It is interesting that this covering of leaves was not accepted by the Lord.
God rejected the leaves that were chosen by Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness and instead gave them coats of skins and clothed them.
Leaves of the fig tree are not what God is looking for but he is looking for fruit on the fig tree.
Leaves stand for the works of men but fruit stands for the works of God.
God is a husbandman and desires fruit from everything that he grows.
The certain man found only leaves on this tree but no fruit and concluded that the tree had no right to occupy ground in his vineyard.
This is a principle with God – all must bear fruit who expect to occupy his vineyard.
The fig tree is a well‑understood symbol of the nation Israel.
The prophet Hosea wrote in: Hosea 9:10, I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe (first fruits of the crop) in the fig tree at her first time:
This fig tree which we know represents Israel, is in the midst of a vineyard.
It occupies a prominent place in the vineyard.
It was not unusual for fig trees to be planted in vineyards.
The vineyards were the mainstay of this man’s income but the fig tree was there because this man liked figs.
It was his personal fig tree and was there to serve him and his family. He had affection for this fig tree.
So this fig tree represents Israel. The vineyard surrounding the fig tree represents the nations.
This is an example of how we find Israel’s place among the nations.
It is centered among the nations and as such has a special place in God’s heart.
God has placed it among the nations to bear fruit for him so that all those of the vineyard may enjoy this fruit.
This certain man has come to inspect this fig tree for three years expecting fruit but has found no fruit.
This certain man in this parable is Jesus Christ.
He has been ministering in Israel nearly three years.
He has, for nearly three years, according to the scriptures,
He has been throughout Israel expecting fruit and has found only leaves, which represent the works of man.
You can be sure that the certain man of this parable has looked into all parts of this fig tree to find fruit and has found no fruit but only leaves.
This fig tree has been occupying this place prior to Jesus Christ coming to receive fruit for in order to bear fruit there has to be time for it to grow into fruit bearing maturity.
There were others who had worked this tree prior to the coming of Jesus Christ but at this time no fruit was evident.
But the dresser prevailed upon the Lord of the vineyard for more time, another year to give the tree sustenance that if taken in, fruit will result.
This sustenance of course is the continued working of Jesus Christ in Israel.
The continual application of the bread of life which if consumed will result in fruit for God.
This of course reveals the long suffering of God with his people Israel.
Preach the word to them, give them the sustenance of the bread of life and fruit may come.
But if fruit does not come judgment is sure and the tree will be cut down.
So the relationship of the “repent or you will all likewise perish” message of the first five verses of this chapter and this parable is clear.
Jesus was speaking to the people as Israelites, and warning them of the destruction which was coming upon the nation.
This parable of the “fruitless fig tree” is drawing attention to the same thing, only in a different way.
Jesus uses this parable to emphasize for His hearers, once again, the utter failure of Israel to live up to the standards and expectations which God had held for it over its centuries of history.
The parable is not only going to emphasize Israel’s sinful fruitlessness, but also the closeness of its destruction, the nearness of its time for being cut down.
This farmer expected the tree to be producing figs, and any farmer expects his crops to bear fruit, and for three years he had come to look for fruit, only to find none.
He had concluded that the tree was never going to produce, and so he ordered it cut down.
It should be cut down if it continued not to produce.
All good farmers come to their fields with this attitude.
Produce or you will not be in my field.
Be profitable or I will get something that is profitable.
He will not let his fields lie fallow but will plant something that will bring him profit.
A good egg farmer keeps careful records of his egg bearing chickens.
He likes to see the chart line of egg production for a particular chicken going up but if it keeps going down that chicken magically turns from a layer into a fryer.
The farmer will have his profit even if the chicken ends up on the dinner table.
As a farmer has the right to expect a return on his investment so too does God expect a return on his investment.
He has invested in Israel but there is no return forthcoming.
As a husbandman God intends to have a profit and will have an profit and Israel will not be the place from where that profit comes.
At least at this time.
But God is long suffering and gives amply opportunity plus some more to produce fruit.
In the same light we see that this farmer is “fed up” with this fig tree, but he is persuaded to wait one more year, he is persuaded to be long suffering.
So this fig tree is under the gun.
A time line has been established for this tree.
Produce of else you will be cut down and another will replace you in the vineyard.
(Here comes the parenthesis of God, the church)
This parable not only teaches the sinfulness of the nation Israel, it also underscores the shortness of the time and thus the urgency for the nation to repent and be saved from the wrath of God which is to come.
Jesus is already pressing toward Jerusalem (9:31, 53; cf. 13:31‑35).
As the time of His death draws near, so does the time of Israel’s destruction.
He will soon visit the actual fig tree and again find it wanting of fruit.
But at this time of his preaching it still awaits his curse so there is time for Israel to repent.
This parable of the farmer and the fruitless fig tree therefore speaks of the patience and longsuffering of God with respect to the stubborn rebellion and sin of Israel.