From today’s reading of Luke 12 – 13
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” – Luke 13:6-9 (ESV)
It’s important when reading parables to do one’s best to decide who the various characters represent. Jesus states in John 15 that his Father is the vinedresser, and I believe the same holds for this parable.
The Vinedresser is, by the way, very, very good at what he does. You get the sense that last sentence, “Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down”, is rhetorical. You can almost hear the unspoken follow-up statement: “But trust me, after I get done with it, it will bear fruit. Because if I can’t make the vine bear fruit, no one can.”
Oh, the patience, the skill, the love of the Vinedresser! And pity, in a way, the poor fruit tree. It does not see the axe set to its roots, and so it may not understand the depth of the Vinedresser’s love as he begins the painful digging, pruning, and manure-ing.
Take heart, good tree. You were made for more than standing complacent and fruitless in the garden of God’s Kingdom. The Vinedresser believes in you when others may see a worthless tree that’s just in the way, sucking up resources. He believes in you because you are his and he knows the plan he has for you. His plan is for you to be just like Jesus. He is committed, ferociously committed and relentless in that goal. In coming to Jesus this is what you have let yourself in for. You will endure what may seem to be merciless pruning, the cutting off of everything about you that doesn’t look like Jesus. There will be painful digging, as your hard foundations are scraped away and good, nutritious, moist and rich soil is brought in to fill the holes and set your roots firm.
And, yes, you are in for some manure. This is how he feeds you and makes you strong. Take heart, because the result of all this will be that you will bear fruit!
That’s what you were made for.
The Vinedresser is very, very good at what he does!