Reading: Luke 13:1-9
The Tower and the Fig Tree
1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.
From contemporary records, Pilate was evidently a firly callous and ruthless colonial governor.
We don’t actually have any records of the event referred to here – but iut sounds like a group of Galileans were going to the Temple to make their sacrifices, and Pilate (presumably because they were or he thought they were a threat to the state) had them killed in the temple – both a human tragedy and a defiling of the temple with blood of murdered men.
Why did these men get killed? Thos talking to Jesus assume (as did most people of their time) that those who suffered had done something wrong that brought about the suffering – so those who were killed must have been specially evil, unlike those who lived.
2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?
Jesus refutes this –
3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
In other words, there is no difference in principle between those killed and those not killed – we are all sinners, we all deserve to die – and we should not kid ourselves otherwise.
4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?
This is a repeat of the earlier example –
Again, we have no
knowledge of the specific event. Siloam
was a small area in the heart of Jerusalem – presumably a tower collapsed and
killed 18 people. The same question is
posed – what specially heinous sin had they committed to deserve to die
Again, the clear assumption on the behalf of Jesus hearers that poetic justice, cause and effect, does work in this world -
¨ They must have deserved it.
¨ God looks after the righteous and punishes the evil
¨ Otherwise, how do we make sense of suffering?
¨ And how is God fair and just??
It is a issue for every generation –
Why do people suffer?
Why do people some people die in bomb blasts and not others?
Why do some contract deadly diseases and not others?
might ask not only why some people and not others were killed in the collapse
of the Tower of Siloam – but we could equally ask the exact same question today
– Why did some perish and others escape when the Twin Towers collapsed?
It is very tempting to say (with much of the OT) –
If you are wicked you will suffer in this world, if you are good you will not.
Tempting to see link with evil and punishment -
Then at least we can understand why bad things happen to people.
There is of course an element of truth in this –
So there are causal links of various kinds between evil and suffering – but nothing as simple as “You suffer commensurately with your sin”.
Again Jesus says No – this is not how things work -
5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."
I have talked to tragic people who have said – Oh my baby has died – Is that God’s judgement
on me – is it because have been wicked?
No we can’t and won’t say that.
· I am sick – what have I done to deserve this?
Jesus says NO – that is not how things work.
Those who died were no more wicked than those who didn’t.
Bad things happen to everyone -
ALL ARE SINFUL AND ALL DESERVE JUDGEMENT.
Everyone needs to repent – we all deserve judgement
if the tower doesn’t fall on us,
it doesn’t mean we are OK, perfect -
it just means that the day of reckoning hasn’t come for us yet -
indeed it may not come in this world -
but it will come….
6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any.
7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, `For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
8 "`Sir,' the man replied, `leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.
9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"
This is again about the judgement we deserve –
there is no point in separating ourselves from others, pretending to be holier than thou –
As Jesus tells the story of the fig tree – and maybe he is recalling Johb the Baptist’s saying –
the axe is at the root of the tree poised to strike (Lk 3:9)
We deserve to be cut down.
But then this story moves from bad news to good news -
the fig tree may be fruitless, worthless,
but the gardener pleads for and is granted one more year.
The first three years of a fig-tree's growth were allowed to elapse
before its fruit became clean (Lev 19:23), hence six years had already passed
since it was planted. It is thus hopelessly barren. ...
A fig-tree absorbs a specially large amount of nourishment and hence deprives the surrounding vines of their needed sustenance. ...
Manuring a vineyard is not mentioned in any passage of the OT; moreover, the undemanding fig-tree does not need such care.
Hence the gardener proposes to do something unusual, to take the last possible measures....
God's mercy goes so far as to grant a reprieve from the sentence already pronounced....
To give the tree another chance -
So God offers us a stay of execution, another year –
What would you do if you had only
a year left to live,
only a short time in which to make up for wrongs done and opportunities missed?
How important that year might be!
The lesson of the fig tree is a challenge to live each day as a gift from God.
Live each day in such a way that you will have no fear of giving an account for how you have used God's gift.
When Jesus rose from the dead and
met Mary in the Garden, she thought he was the Gardener.
And in a way he was.
Our lives are indeed like a barren fig tree – failing time again to deliver the fruits of love and peace and justice which God seeks to harvest.
But God does not give up on us –
he sends Christ the Gardener who will not abandon the plants in his
He might have been expected to give up in despair and pull up the plants and put them on the fire.
Rather he will care for them, feed them, prune them back and get rid of the bad growth, an never give up, until they bear the fruits of the Spirit.
The question is not:
are we good or bad, do we deserve to live or die?
As a human race we have all fallen
short in God’s sight –
worthy only of the bonfire at the bottom of the garden
The question is –
will we repent and turn back to God?
Will we repent?
Will we allow our green finger Christ to take us in hand?
For if so, we shall indeed bear the fruits of the Spirit.
ORDER OF SERVICE
Hymn 517 “Come thou fount”
Reading Micah 4:1-5 (p.932)
Luke 13:1-9 (p1046)
Hymn SOF 67 “Come and See”
Prayer and Lords Prayer