Summary: The focal point of this parable is God’s expectation of His people, Israel or Christians. God is the owner of the vineyard who inspects and expects the fig tree –His people to bear fruit.
This morning, we will study the parable of the barren fig tree. This parable is one of the shortest parables of our Lord in the Gospels.
We don’t have fig trees here in the Philippines, so most of us I believe have not seen a fig tree. Fortunately, the internet is giving us anything we want to know about this plant. For example, the Jewish Virtual Library.org gives this info: “Fig trees, along with wheat, barley, grape, pomegranates, olive oil and honey, were historically once the seven species of Jewish diet. These biblical seven species were the staple foods consumed by the Jewish people in the Land of Israel during biblical times. In biblical times the fig was eaten fresh or as a seasoning, in addition to being used to make honey and alcohol. It is also best eaten straight from the tree in the late afternoon after being baked naturally by the sun. Today, fig is an expensive delicacy.”
Fig trees are common in the Bible lands and figs are highly valued not only by the Jews but also by their neighbors (Ps.105:33). In Palestine fig trees yield two crops annually –one about June and one about August. Figs can be eaten fresh or dried. Fig cakes are worthy presents even for kings. Interestingly, in the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites were said to be the promised fig trees in the Promised Land (Deut 8:8). So, it’s not a surprise that the fig tree that bore no fruit in this parable has traditionally been referred to Israel, the landowner who planted the tree is God, and the caretaker who pleaded for the tree is Christ. However, the principle conveyed in this parable is not restricted to Israel alone; it can be applied to all God’s people in general.
Now, what is the Lord teaching us in this parable? The focal point of this parable is God’s expectation of His people, Israel or Christians. God is the owner of the vineyard who inspects and expects the fig tree –His people to bear fruit. There are three things about God’s expectation of His people as indicated in this parable:
A. IT IS DEFINITE
Verse 6 says, “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it.” Every time the owner came to his vineyard, he directly came to the fig tree and inspected it looking if there was fruit on it. The owner was expecting something from his fig tree –he expected it to have fruit. That is the most definite thing here. He did not come to inspect if the fig tree was good-looking, healthy, or green. He came to look for fruit. He was not greedy however; all he wanted was one fig to show proof of its potential.
Like the owner in the parable, the Lord is looking at us, at His people, inspecting with high expectation to see fruit on us. He is not so much interested on how we look, how we dress, how wealthy, healthy and resilient we are. Rather, He is so much interested on how we live or how we conduct ourselves in this world, before God and before men, as citizens of His kingdom. What the Lord is so expectant to see in the lives of His people is the fruits of righteousness, the works of faith, and the labors of love.
The Bible tells us that God always takes notice on what His people are doing. His message to the seven churches in the book of Revelations attests to this, it can be summed in one statement: “I know you and I know your works.” God knows our every deed and He promised to reward us accordingly. In the last chapter of Revelations the Lord says, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Paul, knowing this truth of God’s divine expectation, commended and urged all believers to continue with their works of faith, labors of love, and patience in hope.
If God would do an inspection of your life now, will He find fruits of righteousness? Will He find works of faith? Will He find you doing His business of sharing His love and demonstrating His saving power?
B. IT IS REASONABLE
The owner had a right to expect fruit from the fig tree. First of all, the fig tree was planted in the vineyard intentionally. The fact that the fig-tree was not a shrub means it had an owner. Its seed was not carried to its current spot by insect, bird or animal. Its germination, occupancy and sanctuary were intentional or planned, not accidental or random. It was a priority and it was given an honored position and unflattering attention and had advantages other fig trees could only dream of. It was planted in the vineyard, a plantation for grapes. It was given good care and entrusted into safe hands of men with green thumbs. The owner had all the time, help, and devotion for this tree. He had his employees fertilize the ground, water the tree, and check for bugs.