This passage that is found only in Luke is part of a larger section devoted to the theme of vigilance and readiness (see Luke 12:54 – 59).
This account is composed of two parts. The first part (vv 1-5) stresses the need for universal repentance. The second part (vv 6-9), the parable of the fig tree, emphasises the possibility of mercy for those who repent in time.
There is some historical basis for the reference to Pilate’s treatment of the Galileans. In any event, Jesus does not accept the view that the faith of the Galileans equals their guilt.
To bolster his argument, Jesus cites the example of the 18 killed at Siloam. What does emerge, however, is the constant need to reform. Similarly, the parable of the fig tree shows that repentance must occur now, for tomorrow may be too late.
For Luke’s community, the words of Jesus point out the implications of their Christian call.
They have to be ever alert and hence ever willing to renew their original Christian commitment in following Jesus.
1 “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices”.
2 “And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things”?
3 “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”.
4 “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloah fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem”?
5 “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”.
6 “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”.
7 “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”?
8 “And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it”:
9 “And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down”.
The Barren Fig Tree.
Some people told Jesus about an uprising of Galileans in the Tenple Court and how Pilate’s soldiers slaughtered them there and then. We do not know what motives the people had for telling Jesus about this. However, Jesus uses the story to drive home the lesson that allof us, without exception, are sinners and in urgent need of repentance. The Galileans killed by Pilate are not more deserving of their gruesome fate than other Galileans, including those listening to Jesus.
They were not more sinful than others.
Their untimely death should serve as a warning of what can happen to us unless we turn to God and change our ways.
To further emphasise the point, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree. In the OT Israel is frequently likened to God’s vineyard, which makes this parable a pointed reference to his immediate listeners. Just as the fig tree is given a final chance, a period of grace, to bear fruit, so people are given time to repent and reform. In the period of persecution during which Luke is writing, these passages of his Gospel are reminders to Christians that they must persevere in living lives of faith and repentance. There is no room for self-complacency. The ‘time of grace’ given us must be used fruitfully.