Sermon notes. Watch the recording on YouTube.
Luke 13:6–9 ESV
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. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
Where’s the Fruit?
Do you remember, if you’re old enough, the Wendy’s commercials asking, “Where’s the beef?” We had so many laughs at these commercials when I was younger, always asking the tagline, “Where’s the beef?”
This is similar to Jesus’s answer to the question, “What is this parable about?”
Where’s the fruit?
It’s about the fruit of repentance. “Where is it?” He is asking.
You, I, and possibly His original listeners are also asking,
“What is it?”
That’s going to be our goal today. To determine what this fruit is, and if we have it. And if we don’t, how do we get it?
History of the Fig Tree
First off, why does Jesus use the fig tree as an example here?
Generally speaking, through much of the bible, the fig tree represents the Jewish people, Israel.
As always Jesus uses a parable about something familiar to the people He is speaking to.
It is likely they would have recognized the fig tree’s growth habits as well as the meaning of the fig tree being them.
He speaks of a man that plants a fig tree, the owner, who apparently has hired men that are the ones to keep and work the trees to maturity…to fruit bearing.
The owner comes to the vineyard where the tree has been planted looking for fruit and he finds none on it.
We’re given the facts that it had been three years, as he tells the vinedresser.
This is important because the fig tree’s normal fruit bearing begins in the first 2-3 years, so this tree is old enough to produce fruit but it hasn’t.
My Apple Tree
Maybe you can relate if you’ve grown something, took the time to do the work and it didn’t produce the expected results.
I’ve got an apple tree we planted…it’s never produced fruit.
The Vine Dresser
So we have the Vine Dresser responding to the vineyard Owner, pleading for one more year. On behalf of the fig tree, He is telling the Owner:
“Give me one more year to focus my attention on the tree’s care and see if it produces fruit next year.”
“If it works, then well and good, but if not, then you can cut it down.”
What Jesus doesn’t give us in the parable, is the outcome. Did the tree produce fruit? Or was it still bare the following year? And if so, what did the Owner do to it?
As with any good example, or parable in this place, we need to know the who’s who right? That will help us determine the what.
We already said, the fig tree represents the Jewish people.
The owner then shall be God. He is the Creator of all things. And He is the Judge of all things.
The Vine Dresser then is Jesus. It is He that is pleading for mercy, for more time, for the fig tree, for the Jews.
What we can then learn from this parable is that the Jews had already been given grace by God, their Creation, they were the ones given God’s Law directly, and it was to them that the Messiah, the Savior, was prophesied to come.
That Messiah, that Savior, is Jesus, there in their midst.
Can we infer the three years of lack of fruit production to Jesus’s ministry lasting three years amongst these people? Possibly.
It would make sense, as He was constantly battling with them about their lack of belief, their lack of proper righteousness.
The Fruit of Repentance
What is the fruit then supposed to be of these Jews whom Jesus is speaking to as being fruitless?
It is the fruit of repentance.
Context always matters, and to get the context of Jesus’s teaching here we must go back to the previous paragraph and previous chapter. All of which are speaking the message of “repent for the time of judgment, or the Kingdom of God, is at hand.”
Much of the previous teachings are about how the people needed to be ready, have their lamps burning, be dressed, be reconciled, before the Master returns.
Tie that into this parable and it is the teaching that the time is at hand.
You’ve been given time, and yet you are still dead, fruitless. The Judge, the Vineyard owner is ready with the ax to chop down the tree and throw it into the fire.
What is the Fruit?
What is this fruit of repentance then you may be asking?
First off, repentance itself is defined as a change of attitude and ACTION from sin and unbelief to obedience to God.
So at its core, the fruit of repentance is change, from what you might have been doing wrong to doing right. From unbelief to belief, from disobedience to obedience.
A few examples of repentance, and what we night call its fruits from the bible are:
A mourning over sin, such as weeping, tearing garments, or wearing sackcloth.
Making restitution for wrongs committed.
Humbling oneself before those wronged.
These are found in the Old Testament.
In the NT we see:
Zacchaeus making restitution for the fraud he committed as part of his job, giving up to half his good to repay those he wronged.
Paul’s change was preaching the faith he had once been bent on destroying.
But notice the Hebrew definition included the word, ACTION.
You see repentance is not only in the mind and heart but should display itself, as we see by the examples listed, by ACTION.
You can’t claim to be God’s child, saved by faith in Jesus, if you aren’t changed or haven’t repented from previous sinfulness.
It’s like Jesus’s brother James says in James 2:14-26 where he contrasts faith alone versus works. Some may take his words to be in opposition of Paul’s teaching, and the primary Christian teaching that we are saved by faith alone.
James is saying the opposite is true, instead he is making the case that you can’t have faith and not produce good works, good fruit.
James 2:26 ESV
For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Today we have too many of us walking around claiming faith in Jesus but living as though He is in agreement with the sin in our life. Like we don’t need to repent, we just need to have faith.
Friends faith and repentance, just like faith and works, go hand in hand.
Faith should lead to repentance, and repentance and faith should lead to a changed life of obedience and good works…fruits.
For Jesus telling the Jews this parable, they thought they were saved by keeping the Law of God…which no one can perfectly except Jesus. And they didn’t have faith, believe, that standing before them was God in the flesh, the Savior prophesied, Jesus the Son of God.
Where is the Fruit in Your Life?
So where is the fruit in your life? Are you a fruitless fig tree? Or do you have the fruit of repentance for God and others to see clearly?
The moral of the parable again is God has been gracious. As 2 Peter 3 tells us:
2 Peter 3:8–10 ESV
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
This is Jesus’s warning to us all. The ax is ready at the trunk of those that have not yet repented and are not producing the fruit of repentance. It isn’t about just doing good deeds and it isn’t about just having faith.
You must have both, faith shall lead to repentance and repentance and faith to fruit, to everlasting life in eternity with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Examine yourself and ask, “Do I have the fruit of repentance?”
If not, then as Jesus says, repent now, the Kingdom is at hand.
Give God your life through placing your faith in Jesus Christ.
It might hurt a little…
Like the fig tree in the parable, Jesus, the Vine Dresser, is going to need to root some things out of your life. He’s going to dig around and cut some roots. He’s going to make room for you to grow.
And He’s going to put some fertilizer in there to help foster deeper and better roots to reach the good nutrients, prayer, faith, bible study, Christian community, and more, to help you grow in maturity, in fruit production.
But He promises:
John 15:1-2, 4-6, 8-10
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
The Purpose of Parables
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”