1At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or 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? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
6Then 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. 7So 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?’ 8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said?
- Why is this happening/being said?
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it?
- What does it mean?
- What does it mean for us?
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
Reflection: The tree above is barren — it has no leaves, no green growth, no fruit. Is it out of season or is it in season but not growing? Our lives are an extension of God’s patient grace. We experience difficult days and seasons in life, and it is not because we are more sinful than others, but because it is the natural course of living in our world. And yet, Jesus has issued us a warning, perhaps a challenge. Do not let the difficulties of life become an excuse for barrenness of soul. Pause and examine the tree. Have you felt barren of soul before, as the tree is barren? Have you felt the harshness of winter in your spirit? Or have you watched as others seem to flourish and yet you feel dry and unable to bloom? What might you need from God this week to allow you to bear fruit for his glory? Where might you come into contact with his patient grace? Jesus is tending to your tree today like a gentle gardener.
Prayer Focus: This week, lift those persons and people groups up to God who have experienced tragedy. Perhaps they are people you know personally or those whose struggles you have learned about through the news. Picture yourself beside them as they weep or receive bad news. Imagine yourself on one side of them and Jesus on the other, and you put your arms around their shoulders as Jesus does the same. Feel the warmth of the love and compassion of Jesus radiate from him, as if a healing light is flowing from his touch. How do they respond to his comfort? How does that warmth and light flow into you and touch your barren places? Those who suffer are not unlike us. They are no more sinful than us and they are no less loved of God. We have suffered too. We have known barrenness. Experience God’s care for his children, and feel the greenness of God’s growth begin to flower again in you.
Meditation Focus: Focus your mind on the word fruit. What is your favorite fruit? Imagine its texture, its smell, its color, its taste. Let the thought of its sweetness and goodness remind you of the character and love of God, which is sweet to our soul and restores goodness within us. Remember that the apostle Paul said that God brings pleasing fruit out of us through the indwelling presence of his Holy Spirit. This fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. God plants other fruit as well, such as humility, and generosity, and compassion. Picture Jesus Christ planting an orchard or vineyard in your soul. What tree or plant is he planting? Is there more than one kind? How does he tend to the tree or plant? What materials must he remove from the soil before it will grow? Imagine the trees and vines bearing fruit, and you and Jesus going to pick a piece of that fruit. You feel its texture, smell its aroma, look upon its brilliant color, and finally taste its goodness. How does it change you from within as it goes from your mouth to your stomach and onward to fuel your body and mind? Be planted and tended by God. Bear the fruit of God’s goodness. Taste his love and grace. Offer the fruit of God to those around you.
Journaling Focus: Write about an experience of barrenness from your life. Perhaps it was a time of personal or family tragedy. Perhaps it was a time in which nothing seemed to go your way. Perhaps it was a time when you felt disconnected from God. Then write about a time when you experienced growth in life. Perhaps you had accomplished a goal and were feeling strong in purpose and productivity. Perhaps it was a time of new relationships. Perhaps it was a time when you felt especially connected to God. How were these experiences different, how did they feel different and effect day to day life? Where was God in these situations? Was his posture toward you different? Was your posture toward him different? What in your life has brought about movement between the barren places and the growing places?
Breath Prayer: Father, bear fruit in me (us).