Sunday 24 March 2019

Bible Book:

‘Sir, let it alone for one more year … If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ (v. 8f)

Luke 13:1-9 Sunday 24 March 2019

Psalm: Psalm 63:1-8


Jesus was near to Jerusalem and perhaps the sense of danger focused his teaching on the priority of repentance; for people to ‘change their minds’ from habitual human thinking to the open hearted, open minded ways of God before it was too late.

(v. 1) Some people in the crowd told Jesus that the Roman Governor in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate, had ordered the murder of Galilean pilgrims who had come to the Temple to offer sacrifices. Jesus and his disciples are Galileans. It was a fear-full thing to be told.

Popular Jewish thinking would consider these Galileans to be particularly bad sinners and that Pilate was the instrument of God’s punishment. Jesus dismissed this idea. They were no worse than any other Galileans. In real life, people were killed by violent tyrants. It had nothing to do with reward or punishment for sin. No one was immune from the possibility of a violent death, so today was the day to make sure you were right with God and neighbour.

(v. 4) This was true also of those killed when the tower of Siloman collapsed. Tragedies happen. Today, was the day to turn to God; don’t leave it too late.           

(v. 6) The fig tree story suggests a parable about the need to turn to God. If there are no fruits coming out of this turn, then the tree will get cut down.

The listener is presented with puzzles in the story, which they need to wrestle with, typical of a parable.

Why would a fig tree be planted in a vineyard? Is the fig tree perhaps supporting the growth of the vine (something mentioned by the ancient writer Pliny)?

Why is there a gardener and a landowner in the story?

It is the gardener who pleads for extra time for the fig tree. Yet surely it is his responsibility if the tree has failed to produce fruit? Are we to think of the owner as God, and Jesus as the gardener? (Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for a gardener after the resurrection.)

Or are the owner and gardener showing two sides of God, the side of justice and that of mercy?

Or is the story about shared responsibility in the kingdom of God: who plants, who tends, who uproots?


To Ponder:

  • How do you deal with the fact that terrible things can happen to good people?
  • What is your take on there being a landowner and a gardener in the story?
  • What sort of fruits do you think Jesus might have been suggesting his listeners look for and why might the gardener have been pleading for extra time?
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