He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.”
Read Luke 13:6-9
If that fig tree had been an orange tree, then it would likely have had an encounter with an axe! According to a horticultural website, it takes four to five years for an orange tree to produce fruit. Fig trees can produce fruit in as short a time as 2 years but they may take six years. Did you know it takes three years for asparagus to produce spears when grown from seed? Often there is nothing that can be done to accelerate the maturity of plants or trees to produce fruit. Depending on the plants or trees, the time it takes for them to mature and produce fruit differs.
In this parable the owner had patiently waited for a fig tree to produce figs by having given it three years. No fruit had yet been harvested and he was ready to have it cut down. A gardener pleaded with the owner to give it one more year and the owner consented. In the meantime the gardener intended to give it attention by digging around it and by applying manure to it so as to accelerate its growth and productivity.
The gardener said if it produced fruit well and good, but if not you can cut it down. The gardener interceded for the fig tree. So much for gardening! Taken with Luke 13:1-5 that precedes this passage, the matter before us is not harvesting fruit, but being given a grace period to repent of sins. In the case of the fig tree another year! For us, it means that the time to repent of our sins is now for we do not know when our time will be up.
Lest we despair, we do have a record of “one deathbed repentance” and that was one of the two thieves crucified alongside of Jesus. He said, “We indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then the repentant thief said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
O Lord, we thank You for the grace periods we have been given to repent of our sins. As we do not know the end of our days, let us live each day with praise and gratitude. And let us never forget our daily need to come before Your throne of grace to repent of our sins and to seek Your pardon. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.