It is almost instinctual to seek for a party responsible for one’s suffering:
• Think of Job’s friends
• Think of asking “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
• Think of your darker moments of self-pity
In our gospel text Jesus says to stop looking in the clouds and beyond ourselves for answers but rather look in the mirror and repent.
1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 [Jesus] asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or 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? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did." 6 Then 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. 7 So 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?' 8 He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.' "
We, my friends, are here on this earth for only a breath—borrowed time. It’s not a matter of if we will perish but when. It is not so important how we perish but where we are in relationship to God’s intentions when we do.
Jesus tells those with him that they need to repent. They need to turn around. They need to stop wandering away from God but instead run into God’s mercy and grace (knowing all the while that God is like a grieving father who runs up to greet his wayward son come home).
We are not to take joy nor solace when people we deem as bad or wicked perish. We should solemnly remember that they are blazing a path that we too must walk. We too will die—whether by a cruel dictator or an accident or a crime or old age—we will die. And when we die we will be much better off had we died to self and drawn life from Jesus before then.
Today may be the metaphorical year of tending the fig. Three years have been spent (remarkably parallels Jesus’ ministry) and no figs have been found (watch out fig tree, see Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). The fig tree is imperiled. One more year of tending. One more year of manure (that could mean a lot metaphorically, too). Yet in that year God can bring life and fruit from the tree. God wants to bring fruit through our lives and even through our deaths. God can if we are willing—are we?!?
God, have your way with us. Guide us all our days and when our time comes—no matter how our time comes—bring the fruit of your gospel and your deep promises to full ripeness—all to your glory. Amen.