This is the first parable in our study series that relates to typology and eschatology.
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.’ “
Verse 1 – “… at that season” It is not known what season it was, but apparently the news of these deaths was just now coming to Jesus and his disciples. While Josephus doesn’t record the incident, he does state that “the Galileans were the most seditious people in the land.” It might have been Judas Gaulonites’ group as mentioned in Acts 5:37, but whoever they were, they belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction. However, they still traveled to Jerusalem to keep the feasts, and that was Pilate’s jurisdiction.
At that time Pilate was an enemy to Herod. If these Galileans were in Jerusalem causing trouble, Pilate may have taken the occasion to slaughter them to stop their behavior, and also to get back at Herod. Josephus does give references of similar occurrences in War, b. ii. c. 1, s. 3, and ii. c. 5. and also in Antiq. lib. 18:, but it is uncertain if they refer to this occasion. This incident is an example of the upheaval and violence that was common between Rome and the Jews at that time.
Verse 2 – “… worse sinners than all other Galileans…” They were not worse than any other Galileans that had rejected Christ
Verse 3 – “… unless you repent you will all likewise perish” The key word in understanding this verse is repent. ALL Jews who did not repent, leave the Old Covenant, and follow Jesus into the New Covenant, would die without hope, both physically and spiritually.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Perish G622 ἀπόλλυμι apollymi ap-ol’-loo-mee Root: from <G575> (apo) and the base of <G3639> (olethros); to destroy fully (reflexive to perish, or lose), literal or figurative :- destroy, die, lose, mar, perish.
These are the choices that mankind has; eternal life or eternal death. They are the same choices that the Jews of the 1st century had. The prophets, Jesus, and later his disciples, all warned them of their coming physical destruction, too.
Verse 4 – “… the tower in Siloam fell…” See John 9:7 and Neh 3:15.
Verse 5 – “… but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” This is a repeat of the same statement, given to emphasize the importance. He was not discussing falling towers as the manner of their death, but telling them how sure and certain their end would be. See Josephus, War, b. vi. ch. iv., v., vi.
Verse 6 – “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he came seeking fruit. Fruit and vineyard are common themes in the Bible. In this case:
- The man is God
- The fig tree is his chosen people
- The vineyard is the promised land
- The keeper is Jesus.
Verse 7 – “Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree…” God seeking fruit for 3 years would correspond to Jesus’ approximate 3 year ministry. “… and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?'” The “man” (God) was ready to destroy the “tree” (the chosen people).
Verse 8 – “… let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it.” The “keeper” persuaded the “man” to try once more. It is here that I am unsure of the remaining time allowed. I might be either of these two:
- The extended time could be the remainder of Jesus’ ministry on earth.
- Or, Jesus was leaving the care of the vineyard to his disciples (and the Holy Spirit) for one last try at saving the nation.
Verse 9 – And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ” In either case, after the final attempt, there was an appointed time coming for their destruction.
Matthew 3:10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
At the time this parable is written God wants to save the Jews, but they are unwilling to accept his son. He has love and hope for them until they reject his son. Then he prepares vengeance on them for their persecution of his new chosen people, the disciples of the Christ. After another parable, Jesus makes this statement:
Luke 18:7-8 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?
8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Knowing that the Jews will reject him and that they will reject his disciples, he questions how many will be faithful in the land when he returns. But he has great care for his new chosen people and expresses concern that they might be caught up in the coming Roman invasion. If we read all of Matthew chapter 24, we can see this concern, and also that he tells them how to avoid the impending destruction.
Matthew 24:22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
Brent E. Hughes