13 There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? 3 I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree
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, ‘Lo, these three years 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, ‘Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. 9 And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Well what do you make of today’s Gospel Reading?
A few questions to be answered I Think?
What was it about Galileans that Pilate found so offensive?
What is it that the idea of mixing animal and human Blood is beyond all ideas of human decency?
Was this a punishment for Sin?
What is this tower of Siloam?
Then of course there is the Fig Tree!.
How long have we got to discuss these things? Perhaps we should come back tomorrow and listen to the next episode.
The Romans who had occupied Jerusalem and had taken over the place where very much despised, they had a reputation for being ruthless. Pilate who had been given the job of Governor was no exception, he had to keep an eye out for any sign of insurrections – so it would appear likely that a gathering of people from another area would have sent alarm bells ringing in Pilates’ /the governor’s office. His answer was to get rid of the problem go and kill them. It did not matter to a Roman that they might have been in a Holy Place, or that they were offering sacrifices to God, Romans did not believe in any of that, they had an illegal gathering and it had to be dealt with. Pilate of course was to feature very much in the Good Friday story but is sometimes portrayed as being on the side of Jesus here – apparently we now see that Pilate looked after Pilate and Pilate’s position – he cared only for that and his position relating to his Roman Master the Emperor of Rome. Who of course was equally ruthless.
There is a sometimes commonly held view that we are punished according to the severity of our sin and so the crowd had asked Jesus whether it was that these Galileans were worse sinners than any body else and that was why they had been killed, even worse had their blood mixed with that of an animal which for a Jew would have been terrible – Jesus was able to put them straight, sin is sin, these people were no worse than any of you. Jesus illustrated his point by recalling the collapse of the Tower of Siloam close to the pool of Siloam where people went for healing built in ancient times by David and adjacent to the original Holy Mount close to the Temple, innocent people had died when the tower collapsed, “Do you think that they were worse offenders” said Jesus! In other words we all need to repent or yes we will find ourselves in trouble with God, you will perish, be held to account. Jesus was giving a hint at his forgiveness, that was available to all but was dependant and relating to repentance. We are all guilty in the sight of God- unless we admit our sin, admit that we have done wrong, be sorry, be repentant. How we bring up our children, how we conduct our lives is ordered by the understanding of right and wrong, of admitting to our mistakes, saying we are sorry being repentant learning about, what we have done wrong and intending to do something about it, by changing the way we behave.
Repent or perish is the message here!
Jesus also knew what was happening around about that time, there was subversion about the place and then there were the revolutionaries of that time the Zealots who wanted to oppose Rome and kick the Romans out of Jerusalem. Jesus knew that if this idea was to take hold they would be crushed by the Romans as indeed they were there was a rebellion and the Jews were crushed at Masada in 66 AD. 36 years after Christ had been crucified. The Romans after Masada destroyed the Temple the Jewish race was scattered and almost wiped out the remainder sent to all corners of the world. Jesus’ way was the way of peace and Jesus knew that God would bring faith and Christianity to the Romans but not yet that was to happen about 380 years after Jesus walked this Earth.
So what about the Fig Tree what is this seemingly unrelated story doing here, this is perhaps the second time in the Gospels that Fig Trees come in to a hard time, there was the time when Jesus wanted a Fig from a tree and there wasn’t one – because it was the wrong season and then Jesus had apparently made the tree wither – but here in this story the Tree at least gets a second chance.
Fig Trees were planted in vineyards because it was believed to be good for the soil they helped to maintain the right conditions for the vines to grow and if you got some figs as well then it was a win win situation. Fig Trees however that didn’t produce fruit weren’t that much good they were just taking up nourishment and water, remembering this is a hot country and rainfall was scarce so you wanted to make sure that what you planted was doing some good and not wasting resource. Well what is the Gospel telling us?
One analogy might be that Jesus saw Jerusalem and the Jewish race as the Fig Tree. The Jews had been given every chance, to repent and follow God’s laws, they had been sent many prophets many opportunities to repent, but they had gone their own way and devised their own corruption of God’s Laws. The had been following the letter of the Law yes but had missed what the point of it was and were ignoring the bit about Love of your fellow man, now Jesus had come to give them some home truths and tell them that they were corrupt. This was their last chance Jesus had come himself God had come to his own people, God Loved them, they were his people but he knew that they had to repent from their ways but they were so full of their own importance, they were unable to see what was in front of their faces.
God was giving Jerusalem a last chance but of course he knew that this was not going to happen, they were ultimately going to Kill him, get rid of him as he was a thorn in their side, this was their last chance, the opportunity was going to be offered to the Gentiles, with St Paul’s ministry, though there were to be some Jews who were to take notice of Jesus as we learn in the Acts of the apostles.
So how do we see ourselves in the light of this Gospel passage, are we non fruit bearing fruit/Fig trees, are we perhaps in need of a little of Jesus’ tender loving care a bit of his Holy Manure, perhaps this is true and hence – well – I leave you to put your own interpretation on that. If you see what I mean! Let us think about it- could this analogy be applied to the Church are we set in our ways and can’t see what is in front of our faces well I hope not. We are in Lent and we have been asked to be penitent to fast and to examine ourselves, to prepare ourselves for Good Friday, to remind ourselves of who is at the Cross for us and to be able to follow that man Jesus Christ to that Cross. Jesus demands that we learn from him about Love, the Love that he had for us, that ultimate demonstration of Love that he made on Good Friday. We must learn and be able to recognise our own sin, so when we hold ourselves up to the example of Jesus Christ, measure ourselves up against his standards, look at ourselves repent our own mistakes our sin — turn to Jesus for help in prayerful recognition of our own shortcomings, if you like look for a dose of his Holy Manure for our own failing Fig Tree lives, be renewed and fruitful within the wonderful knowledge of his amazing Grace his Love. Acknowledge that we have been given a gift that is beyond price – fall down on our knees on our faces asking for his mercy for us and give ourselves our lives to Jesus Christ, promising to share our knowledge of his Love his Gospel of Joy to the people that we meet in our own lives. Promising and praying for the renewal of the Holy Spirit within our own hearts to give us the strength and purpose to stay in prayer with our Saviour that we may know his will for us.