Jesus challenged the widely held notion that people who had bad things happen to them were being punished by God for their sins. Jesus knew that the connection between sin and punishment was not that cut and dried. He warned them against thinking they were better simply because bad things like these hadn’t happened to them – yet. Jesus’ challenge was to stop dwelling on the sin and punishment of others and turn their attentions toward their own sin and repentance. Jesus’ parable is a transition, encouraging repentance, and also indicating that the window for repentance (at least while Jesus walked the earth) was soon closing. Jesus would soon be in Jerusalem, where his earthly journey would end. His words held urgency.
Do we move through this world with the same urgency to completed God’s work as Jesus indicated? It seems our urgency is for our own work, to complete our tasks, to make our money, to build our homes. Where is the urgency to build homes for the homeless, to make money in order to share it with others, to complete the tasks we may not want to complete, but that need to be done for the betterment of the world? Perhaps our priorities are not as aligned with Jesus’ as we would like to believe.
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then 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. So 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?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”