Luke 13:6 – 9
6Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
In yesterday’s verses, Jesus was speaking about judgment – He was saying that all need to repent, not debating what the other person is doing or has done, but to repent of their own sinful actions. And that passage carried dire warnings about what would happen if they did not do so.
In this passage, however, we find the paradox – God’s mercy balances God’s judgment. Jesus tells a parable, about a man who owned a vineyard. In the vineyard he had planted a fig tree, and he looked for fruit on the tree for three years. Now, I do not know how long it takes for a fig tree to begin producing fruit normally – maybe it is normally 2 or 3 years, maybe 4 or 5. But the man came after three years, and said to his gardener, cut down the non-productive tree! But the gardener asks for a little more time to care for the tree; maybe with extra care it will yet produce fruit. And the owner of the vineyard said all right, leave it one more year. He showed mercy.
We need not only to repent of our own sins, we need to produce fruit for God’s vineyard – for the Kingdom of God. But just as the owner of the vineyard showed mercy, gave the fig tree a second chance, so God gives us second chances – we can still repent, we can still produce fruit. God’s plan is not a static entity – if we passed up a chance at fruitfulness yesterday, or last week, or last year, or when we were young; we still have the opportunity to join with God today, to bear fruit for his kingdom. God is merciful; he is a God of second chances.