The previous verses (1-5) focused on repentance. The parable in today’s lesson continues that theme. As you read, ask yourself what it teaches about repentance.
Prepare to listen. Be still and hear these words of the Lord: Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. (Isaiah 55:3)
Read Luke 13:6-9
6Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” 8He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”’
The parable Jesus tells is vague, giving no hint of identification for either the ‘man’ who planted the fig tree or the ‘gardener.’ This makes it a good parable since parables weren’t designed to give obvious answers to questions, nor were the intended to be easily interpreted. They are told in ways that pull readers into the story to do their own thinking, discerning what the story (and thus Jesus) requires from them today. Thus, parables often have multiple meanings as each reader sees something a little different. And when a parable, such as this one, has an open ending, the reader is left to wonder: What do I think?
In Scripture, the fig tree is often used as a symbol for the nation of Israel, God’s people. This is what Jesus’ original hearers would immediately think about. If God is the one who plants the fig tree (God was the creator of Israel and all of us too), there is a warning to the nation to repent, as Jesus urged in the first five verses of this chapter. The ‘gardener’ requests patience; give the people another chance. This is in keeping with God’s ways, as the writer of 2 Peter claims, ‘The Lord… is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.’ (3:9). The story ends abruptly. We don’t know what ‘the man’ ended up doing.
What do you think? What conclusion would give this story?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, I know that people around me still need time to reflect and change. Help me be patience, as patient as you to give them time to see the truth and repent. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, practicing the patience of the Lord.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.