As Jesus continued to preach, He kept untwisting the horrible distortions and lies that kept the people living in fear and false belief. How offensive it must have been to Him that these lies were being told about His Heavenly Father!
At one point, some people told Jesus about something terrible that Pontius Pilate had done. Pilate was the Roman ruler who held power over Jerusalem, and the Jewish people hated him for it. He was a murderous, cruel man, and he despised the Jewish people and their religion. His oppressive rule extended all the way to the inner courts of the great Temple. One day, when some Jews from Galilee were offering sacrifices to God, Pilate sent in his soldiers in to massacre them. The blood of the holy sacrifices of animals was mixed with the blood of the Galileans who had brought their offerings . What an evil invasion of death and malice, right into the inner courts of the palace of God!
The people wondered why this had happened. They thought that perhaps the people that Pilate killed were guilty of some horrific sin. They must have done something to deserve it! Jesus set the record straight:
“‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them–do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will perish.’”
As Jesus saw those terrible events befall a small number of the Jewish people, they were like a mini picture of the terrible things to come if the nation didn’t repent of their rebellion against the Messiah. The people that died were no worse than the rest of the Jews. Their death was simply a part of the great evil of a world under a curse. But the fate of those people was a warning. The same thing was going to happen on a much greater scale against the Jewish nation, and nobody would escape. Jesus went on to tell a parable to show them that there was still time:
“‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now, I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”
“‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’”
In this story, the man is like God, and the fig tree is like the Jewish people. For three years, Jesus had preached to the people, and like the fig tree, they bore no fruit. There was no widespread repentance or belief. God’s hand of judgment was threatening, but it had not fallen against them yet. He would hold off for one more year…and that is not all…
Consider what would happen in the year that followed this story. Jesus would be crucified. The people would feel the great earthquake that came at the moment of His death. They would learn about how the veil in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom at the very same moment. Then Jesus would rise again. Hundreds of Jews would see Him and testify that He was living and breathing. Then mysterious rumors would flow all over Israel about how He ascended into Heaven. Ten days later, at the great festival of Pentecost, the followers of Christ would boldly flood the streets of Jerusalem, speaking foreign languages with perfect clarity, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Spirit of the Lord would be upon them, and thousands would put their faith in the risen Christ. The prophecies of the Old Testament would come alive before them, giving the nation of Israel yet another chance to put their faith in Christ. All of this was part of God’s lavish pursuit of His beloved people…and the beginning of His pursuit of you and me.