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Repentance Enjoined. Parable of the Barren Fig-Tree.
C Luke XIII. 1–9.
c 1 Now there were some present at that very season [At the time when he preached about the signs of the times, etc. This phrase, however, is rather indefinite—Matt. xii. 1; xiv. 1] who told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered and said unto them, Think ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they have suffered these things? 3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. [While Jesus spoke, certain ones came to him bearing the news of a barbaric act of sacrilegious cruelty committed by Pilate. It may have been told to Jesus by enemies who hoped to ensnare him by drawing from him a criticism of Pilate. But it seems more likely that it was told to him as a sample of the corruption and iniquity of the times. The Jews ascribed extraordinary misfortunes to extraordinary criminality. Sacrifice was intended to cleanse guilt. How hopeless, therefore, must their guilt be who were punished at the very times when they should have been cleansed! But the Jews erred in this interpreting the event. Quantity of individual sin can not safely be inferred from the measure of individual misfortune. It was true that the Galilæans suffered because of sin, for all suffering is the result of sin. But it was not true that the suffering was punishment for unusual sinfulness. Our suffering is often due to the general sin of humanity—the sin of the whole associate body of which we are a part. History, of course, says nothing of Pilate's act here mentioned. Pilate's rule was marked by cruelty towards Jews, and contempt for their religious views and rites.] 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed 327them, think ye that they were offenders above all the men that dwell in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. [Of this instance, also, there is no other historic mention. It, too was a small incident among the accidents of the day. The pool of Siloam lies near the southeast corner of Jerusalem, at the entrance of the Tyropæan village which runs up between Mt. Zion and Moriah. The modern village of Siloam probably did not exist at that time. What tower this was is not known. As the city wall ran through the district of that fountain, it may possibly have been one of the turrets of that wall. This instance presents a striking contrast to the slaughter of which they had told him, for it was, 1. Inflicted upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and 2. It came upon them as an act of God. And Jesus therefore concludes that all shall likewise perish, he pronounces upon the entire people—Jews and Galilæan alike—a punishment made certain by the decree of God. It is significant that the Jewish people did, as a nation, perish and lie buried under the falling walls of their cities, and the debris of their temple, palaces, and houses. But the word “likewise” is not to be pressed to cover this fact.] 6 And he spake this parable [this parable is closely connected with verses 3 and 5 of this chapter, and verses 58 and 59 of the preceding chapter]; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit thereon, and found none. 7 And he said unto the vinedresser, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why doth it also cumber the ground? [It cumbered the ground by occupying ground which the vines should have had, and by interfering with their light by its shade, which is very dense.] 8 And he answering saith unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it [a common method of treating the fig-tree to induce fruitfulness]: 9 and if it bear fruit henceforth, well: and if not, thou shalt cut it down. [In this parable Jesus likened his hearers to a fig-tree planted in a choice place—a vineyard, 328the odd corners of which are still used as advantageous spots for fig-trees. There is no emphasis on the number three, and no allusion to the national history of the Jews, as some suppose. It simply means that a fig-tree's failure to bear fruit for three years would justify its being cut down. Those to whom Jesus spoke had been called to repentance by the preaching both of John and of Jesus, and had had ample time and opportunity to bring forth the fruits of repentance, and deserved to be destroyed; but they would still be allowed further opportunity.]
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