Monday after Reminiscere
Scripture: St. Luke 13:1-17 (NKJV)
1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'”
10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.
Cyril of Alexandria, in the early fifth century, said that the “fig tree” in this passage represents the “synagogue of the Jews,” and this is pretty much the standard interpretation of the parable. The “certain man” who had planted the fig tree in his vineyard, was God the Father, and “the keeper” of the vineyard was His Son, Jesus. The Father had become tired of waiting for the Jews to produce a crop of repentance and faith, and so is about to uproot them as His people. Jesus pleads for the fig tree, for the Jews, that they be given a little more time, that is, that they be given the chance to embrace the gospel that He is bringing.
Of course, from history we see that the extra year and the fertilizing did not have the desired effect. Cyril of Alexandria said, “The Israelites, after our Savior’s crucifixion, were doomed to fall into the miseries they deserved, Jerusalem being captured, and its inhabitants slaughtered by the enemy’s sword. Their houses would be burned with fire, and even the temple of God demolished.” Cyril, was, of course, referring to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
But our Lord still forgives. Our Lord forgives the Jew and the non-Jew. He forgives the murderer, the homosexual, and the idolater. He forgives the hypocrite, the arrogant, and the self-righteous. He forgives all who come, repent and believe. In what seems to be our very law-oriented gospel reading today, Jesus says; “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” But the good news for us, and the whole world, is that the inverse is true as well. If you repent you will all likewise live, live forever. Amen.