Luke 13:1-9 ESV
(1) There were some present at that very time who told him (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. (2) And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? (3) No, I tell you; 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 offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? (5) No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (6) 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. (7) 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?' (8) And he answered him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. (9) Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"
The world is full of tragedies where the victims are innocent, that is, they don't deserve what happens to them anymore than anyone else. Part of our problem is how we use the word tragedy, similar to how we use love. We love hot dogs and we love our kids or our spouse. It isn’t tragic when we can’t get the newest iPhone nor is it tragic when the drive through line is backed up a whole 5 minutes.
In one perspective, there is no such thing as an innocent. The Bible reminds us “All have sinned..(Romans 3:23).” For some reason, in the midst of those tragedies like Newtown, or Columbine or the sink hole that opened in Florida or bombings in Israel or bombings in Gaza, or insert another tragedy, some want to dwell on this perspective of Scripture as though THIS is the final word. Some will go on though and say because of sin, “all deserve death (Romans 5:12),” as though somehow this is the final word and we might end the debate on things.
These thoughts appear to be what Jesus was facing as people came to him with a tragic even that claimed the lives of Galileans. Jesus kept going with it and added the tragic event at Siloam and those killed. I cannot help but get the sense that 2,000 years ago, as it is today, those who came to Jesus were using these deaths to forward some angle; some position and some scholars have concluded that very thing.
Jesus is careful with his words. Jesus connects the dots to where the lead...right... back...to...our...lives. The hinge is verses 4 & 5. Here, Jesus seems to say, “Is this how you all are going to handle tragedy? Try to determine the sinfulness of others and those involved?” No, Jesus makes clear life is an equal playing field. Just as we are subject to the law of gravity or the laws of physics – tragic events are not to be taken advantage of – all of us need to consider our lives and repent. No one can claim an exemption that they are going 100% in the way of God.
We may put people on pedestals and label them saints and holy men or holy women. But those who get that label, if they walk with God truly, would not claim that title for themselves. In fact, as I have read many of those writings – the holiest, the most godly appear more aware of their sin than the rest of us.
Jesus’ parable puts the icing on the cake though. It would be stretching the parable to say the owner is God the Father and Jesus, the vineyard keeper. What IS evident is the nature of God. God’s nature is not quick to judge or punish as a tyrant might – not as we would. No, this parable reveals God’s very nature is to be patient because our repenting, our growing and ultimately, our fruitfulness are things which take time. Other parables reflect similar conclusions. Jesus often uses parables of farming and vineyards such as the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-9), the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30).
Both Paul (Romans 9:22-24) and Peter agree that God’s nature is to be patient. It is this nature which overrides anger and judgement. I think Peter sums this up best: 2Peter 3:8-9 CEV Dear friends, don't forget that for the Lord one day is the same as a thousand years, and a thousand years is the same as one day. (9) The Lord isn't slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost. (The verb Paul and Peter use is makrothumeō. In "Thayer's Definitions" it describes it as “to be of long spirit.” In Kittel's "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament in One Volume" it indicates God is “not swayed by emotion but has the end in view. The delay may allow time for repentance but it also increases wrath.” pg 551).
God has the long view on things. God has the long view of us. Just as the vineyard keeper appeals for more time, it is God who, by his own nature of being patient, is in no rush to judge you or me but to allow time and his grace to cultivate your soul. It is that grace which has given us Jesus and the gift of his body and his blood.