Luke 13 verses 8 & 9. “’Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
Why does God allow rebellious, indeed seriously evil people, to continue on this earth especially when many of them continue to wreak havoc in the lives of others? Why is this so? In his answer Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree. The tree bears no fruit and finally the owner tells the gardener to cut it down.
But the gardener pleads for a stay of execution. He asks the owner to give the fig tree one more opportunity. “If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.” (v 9). Notice what Jesus is saying here.
First, he is telling those listening to him that God demands fruit from their lives. The fruit, of course, is to believe the words of Jesus and to trust in Him. If they persist in not producing this fruit, they could not be spared forever.
Secondly, we should remember what John the Baptist said, in his day. Read it in Luke 3 v 0.
“The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
In other words, the times are urgent. Judgement could fall at any moment. There is no time to spare. The tree, Jesus referred to, in the parable would already be cut down if it was not for the intervention of the gardener. The tree was granted a reprieve. There was one last opportunity for it to produce fruit.
So, for Jesus’ contemporaries, there was the one last opportunity to produce the fruit of repentance from unbelief and faith and trust in Him as their Saviour.
Thus, there is a sense that all who hear and do not respond to the message of good news put themselves on borrowed time. The verdict has already gone out. It is not as if it is not going to happen. We must repent or perish.
Thirdly, remember that the people of our Lord’s time did not owe this reprieve, any more than we owe ours, to our goodness or merit. There is nothing about us that makes us special, that God should spare us, while not sparing others. No! The truth is the Divine Gardener has prayed for us. “Give them one last opportunity to repent.” And so the tree is spared from the axe.
But will there be fruit? Will this new opportunity be taken? Will there be repentance and faith in Christ?
Only time will show. In the meantime let us pray for those known to us, who persistently reject the message of the good news, that their eyes may be opened before it is too late.