Summary: "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Now, with this parable He reinforces the warning. It primarily refers to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.
Barren Fig Tree
Our Lord also gave us this parable about a certain man that had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. This parable is found only in Luke, but both here and in the miraculous cursing of the fig tree in Matthew 21:18–21, the tree seems to stand for Israel. The lesson is that when God gives spiritual privileges, He has a right to expect fruit. One might also learn the danger of not producing fruit. Even though the Lord was merciful with Israel, He had to judge that nation. Here is the parable of the Barren Fig Tree.
(Luke 13:6-9) He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Fig trees yielded sweet fruit in the summer. Figs could be dried and stored for future use. Jesus used this well-known tree to make a point about God’s eternal judgment. In this passage, the fig tree represented Israel, which was in danger of God’s judgment if it continued to reject its Messiah.
Jesus had just told the religious rulers in the crowd, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Now, with this parable He reinforces the warning. It primarily refers to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. God chose them for his own, and He gave them advantages above any other people, and He expected them to produce the fruit of obedience, praise and honor. But they disappointed Him: they did not do their duty and they worshipped other gods. For that reason, He turned them over to their enemies. They suffered from the cruel treatment and heavy taxes that were forced upon them. When they cried out to God for deliverance, He delivered them and graciously gave them more time and more mercy. And He sent His prophets among them, to call them to repentance, and to offer them pardon, upon repentance. Some of them did repent, and produced fruit, but for the most part the nation continued unrepentant and unfruitful.
The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree begins with this fig-tree that belonged to a certain man. In the parable he represents God. The owner had good expectations for it, and at the proper time He came, and sought fruit thereon, and he had reason to expect it. This is representative of Christ who came into this world, came to his own, to the Jews, seeking fruit. Take note of the fact that God requires and expects fruit from those that have a place in his vineyard. In this case, He was disappointed because He found none, not one fig. It is sad to think how many enjoy the privileges of salvation today, and yet do nothing at all to honor God. The owner complains to the man who cares for his vineyard, because there isn’t a single fig to be picked.
The owner of the vineyard shows that he is a very patient man. He had come every year for three years, expecting to find fruit. He didn’t expect a lot of fruit, so he didn’t have high expectations, but was disappointed every time. In general, this teaches that God is long-suffering with those believers who do not produce the fruit of service to Him. How many times has God come to many of us seeking fruit, but found none.
This fig-tree not only failed to bring forth fruit, but it took up space that could be used by a good tree. And those who do not do good, but are a bad example instead, hurt others by the influence of their bad example, and they encourage those who are bad.
The useless tree is doomed when the master said, “Cut it down.” And the useless man or nation will be cut down by the judgments of God, especially spiritual judgments, such as those on the Jews that believed not. They are cut down by death, and cast into the fire of hell; and with good reason, for why cumbers it the ground? What reason is there why a barren tree should have a place in the vineyard?
The caretaker intercedes for the tree and asks his master for a reprieve: He asks, “Lord, let it alone this year also.” We can only thank Jesus, the great Intercessor that barren trees are not cut down immediately. If it hadn’t been for Christ’s work on our behalf the whole world would have been cut down when Adam sinned. We are all guilty of sin, but we may obtain a reprieve through the prayers of others for us, but not a pardon; that requires our own faith, and repentance, and prayers,