The Fig Tree
The fig tree is generally known to be the symbol of Israel. So when Jesus began to talk about it, his audience would quickly understand he was speaking about them. Its use shows us two things about how God treats his people:
· This fig tree was in "the vineyard." That meant that it had been specifically planted in the most fertile of soil—given special treatment, so to speak. Certainly this was true of Israel, planted in the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey.
· The measure of the tree is the fruit. If you want the measure of a nation in God's eyes, look for the fruits of righteousness and justice.
Under such circumstances, the justice of ripping out the fig tree is easy to see. No fruit—no more tree.
Christ as intercessor
The man who took care of the vineyard—a picture of Christ, who is the one through whom all things were made—begs one more year. This is a model for us of the intercession Christ makes for us to the Father. He is the one who keeps the righteous wrath of God held back "for one more year." But note, too, what he does: he gives that fruit tree special treatment. It should serve as a warning to us when Christ makes it look easy to be fruitful for God—especially if we decline the effort to do so. It could very well be that one last year.
The fate of this fig tree brings us two lessons:
· God's patience is great—but he will not hold his hand forever. All of us die; a church that refuses to be fruitful will be plucked up. This is final.
· Moreover, God has other vines—the tree is in the midst of the vineyard. In Israel's case, this meant the Gentile nations. In our case, it is all those other churches and Christians on whom God can call for faithful service.
Perhaps this bothers you. Would God really rip the tree from the ground? Would he destroy your church? We can learn from history's example. The Jewish nation, in AD 70, was destroyed by the Romans, and scattered throughout the Gentile world. Their history since has been one of misery. This does not condone those by whom the misery has come. But it should serve as an example to any church too busy being "righteous" to be fruitful.