Johnny Cash sang, “Sooner or later God’s gonna cut you down.”
Is that true Johnny? Do we all have a reason to be concerned? How are we to interpret the meaning of disaster and tragedy?
Jesus’ message of repentance is not just pointed at individuals, but also to his religious community. He came calling his own nation Israel home to God. The family nation is often described in botanical terms—a bruised reed, a vine or a fig tree.
The simple parable shows common sense gardening. If your fruit tree doesn’t yield in the appropriate season, remove it from the ground and burn it. Three years was the formative stage that prepared the fig tree to start growing its fruit.
In the guise of a patient farmer, Jesus describes how God will take something unfruitful and change its environment. Loosening the soil around it, adding nutrients… what can help this tree to do what it is made for?
Jesus tells both individuals and the nation that the clock is ticking. God is watching over his vineyard. If his plant does not bear fruit, he can find other ways to get fruit.