January 03, 2012

Fertilizer for Faith

Luke 13:1-9

“Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.”
Luke 13:8


The Bible’s original languages sometimes carry important nuances that get lost in translation. Today’s Bible reading is a case in point. In Luke 13:8, the steward of a vineyard prevents an unfruitful fig tree from being destroyed by telling the owner to “leave it alone for one more year.”

The Greek word translated as “leave it alone” is important in the New Testament. It is also often translated as “forgive.”

The tree that did not produce figs for three years was not cut down right away, despite the master’s orders—why? Because someone interceded for the fruitless tree. He said to the master, “Forgive.”

Does that sound familiar? It’s a summary of the entire gospel. Our sin renders us unfruitful and fully deserving of punishment. But in Jesus Christ we see how God’s mercy triumphs over judgment (see James 2:13).

In another place in Luke’s gospel, Jesus teaches that we “forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4). Do you see how Jesus puts the words of the steward into action?

That’s the grace of the gospel, offered freely to all. But notice that the fig tree would have to bear fruit eventually, or it would be cut down. Our Master says similarly to us, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Thank you, Lord, for graciously interceding for us. Use us to tell others about your love so that they too can experience the lifesaving power of your forgiveness. In your name we pray. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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