Tuesday

01 November 2011

"He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year ... if it bears fruit next year, will and good.'" (vv. 8,9)

Background

After Jesus' challenge to the people (see yesterday's passage), he is told about some Galileans offering a sacrifice at one of the Jewish festivals, who had been killed by the order of Pilate. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, records several massacres during this period when the Roman garrison had to deal with turbulent crowds. The incident was reported to Jesus for his comment on the disaster. It was commonly agreed that when such things happened the people concerned must have been the worst possible sinners. Sin brought punishment. But Jesus does not go along with that way of thinking. Instead he uses the opportunity to challenge the people around him about their own sin, taking universal sin as basic. Unless they concerned themselves with their own need to repent and turn their ways to God's, they too would perish. The time is now, when Jesus is amongst them, for them to address their ways.

Jesus backs this up by referring to the men working on the tower who died: they were not worse offenders than others living in Jerusalem. Perhaps both groups of men had no time to repent due to the sudden violent nature of their deaths and Jesus wants to remind the people to use the time that they have to return to God. He uses the parable of the fig tree to reveal God's offering of an opportunity for repentance. There is time for the fig tree to bear fruit once more and the gardener will look after it and watch over it, but if it does not then bear fruit it will be cut down. It is also possible that the parable refers to the nation of Israel, which for years God had looked after in order to bear fruit, but none was forthcoming. Now Israel was perceived as rejecting God's son, but God would give them more time to turn back to him before being cut off.

To Ponder

Can you remember a time when you had cause to repent and turn back to God? What did you learn about God at that time?

How can we begin to understand senseless death in a suffering world of hunger and war?

If you were aware that someone was watching you to see if you would bear fruit during the next year, would you change your life? And how would you do that?

Bible notes author: Susan Johnson

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