13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 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? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
6 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. 7 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?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9 (ESV)
“No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus is at the end of his ministry. For three years he has been preaching the kingdom of God, he has been journeying to Jerusalem for the feasts. He has been performing miracles. For three years the people have looked to him to be the messiah they want him to be rather than the one he is. For three years he has been trying to turn their minds from earthly things to heavenly things. For three years he has been trying to show them what really matters and they haven’t been listening. “Would that you knew the things that made for peace,” he will say of Jerusalem and the rest of his countrymen. Men like the Galileans slaughtered in the temple grounds whom Pilate suspected of being Zealots, men intent on the over throw of the Roman government who often resorted to assassination. And because Jesus refused to be an earthly messiah, they rejected him. Could they get it through their thick heads?
Of course this is what the parable of the fig tree is about. For three years. Israel the fig tree had not born fruit for God. Jesus had tended to the tree. He convinces for a stay of execution one more year. He would dig around it, fertilize it, and if it did not bread fruit, then the hammer would drop. Jesus knew what was in store, the great catastrophe coming for his people who could think of nothing but earthly success and prosperity. A person can’t help but to think of the siege and sack of Jerusalem when he reads the warning of Jesus here. Were they greater sinners? No, but unless you repent you will likewise perish.
In Jewish thought bad things happened to bad people. The greater your sin, the greater your punishment. We still find this thought expressed a bit more subtly when we think that perhaps so and so shouldn’t have suffered so badly because they were a good person. But the truth is, none of us deserve any of the blessings we have, or the patience God has shown to us in this life. We know bad things happen to bad people, that’s why they happen to us. Sin is sin. So we die. Bad things have only ever happened to one good person, because there was only ever one good person to ever inhabit this world, and he wanted to save us while we were yet ungodly, so he took our sin to the cross. That we who believe in him would not perish but have eternal life. The real question for us, is why should such good things such as salvation, justification, sanctification, baptism and the hearing of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins, why should such good things happen to bad people such as us? Bad people who show such little patience with their family, friends, coworkers and compatriots. Bad people who catch themselves complaining about the gifts of God in their lives.
Yes it is for this reason he goes to Jerusalem and digs around the fig tree, it is with his body and blood that he fertilizes the ground around its roots, that in him they could, and you and I would find repentance, find forgiveness for our sins, be able to focus on heavenly things and not on earthly things, to hide our life in him, in whom we find the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is this hat he goes to do, so that we do not likewise perish, even though we die, yet shall we live.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.