Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 17: "Spare it this Year Also"
Based on Luke 13:1-9
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Christ in His teaching linked with the warning of
judgment the invitation of mercy. "The Son of man
is not come," He said, "to destroy men's lives, but to save
them." Luke 9:56. "God sent not His Son into the world to
condemn the world; but that the world through Him might
be saved." John 3:17. His mission of mercy in its relation
to God's justice and judgment is illustrated in the parable
of the barren fig tree.
Christ had been warning the people of the coming of the
kingdom of God, and He had sharply rebuked their ignorance
and indifference. The signs in the sky, which foretold
the weather, they were quick to read; but the signs of
the times, which so clearly pointed to His mission, were not
But men were as ready then as men are now to conclude
that they themselves are the favorites of heaven, and that
the message of reproof is meant for another. The hearers
told Jesus of an event which had just caused great
excitement. Some of the measures of Pontius Pilate, the
governor of Judea, had given offense to the people. There had [p. 213] been a popular tumult in Jerusalem, and Pilate had
attempted to quell this by violence. On one occasion his
soldiers had even invaded the precincts of the temple, and
had cut down some Galilean pilgrims in the very act of
slaying their sacrifices. The Jews regarded calamity as a
judgment on account of the sufferer's sin, and those who
told of this act of violence did so with secret satisfaction.
In their view their own good fortune proved them to be
much better, and therefore more favored by God, than were
these Galileans. They expected to hear from Jesus words
of condemnation for these men, who, they doubted not,
richly deserved their punishment.
The disciples of Christ did not venture to express their
ideas until they had heard the opinion of their Master. He
had given them pointed lessons in reference to judging
other men's characters, and measuring retribution according
to their finite judgment. Yet they looked for Christ to
denounce these men as sinners above others. Great was
their surprise at His answer.
Turning to the multitude, the Saviour said, "Suppose ye
that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans,
because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay; but,
except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." These
startling calamities were designed to lead them to humble
their hearts, and to repent of their sins. The storm of
vengeance was gathering, which was soon to burst upon all
who had not found a refuge in Christ.
As Jesus talked with the disciples and the multitude, He
looked forward with prophetic glance and saw Jerusalem
besieged with armies. He heard the tramp of the aliens
marching against the chosen city and saw the thousands
upon thousands perishing in the siege. Many of the Jews
were, like those Galileans, slain in the temple courts, in the
very act of offering sacrifice. The calamities that had fallen [p. 214] upon individuals were warnings from God to a nation
equally guilty. "Except ye repent," said Jesus,"ye shall
all likewise perish." For a little time the day of probation
lingered for them. There was still time for them to know
the things that belonged to their peace.
"A certain man," He continued, "had a fig-tree planted
in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon,
and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his
vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on
this fig-tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth
it the ground?"
Christ's hearers could not misunderstand the application
of His words. David had sung of Israel as the vine brought
out of Egypt. Isaiah had written, "The vineyard of the
Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah
His pleasant plant." Isa. 5:7. The generation to whom the
Saviour had come were represented by the fig tree in the
Lord's vineyard—within the circle of His special care and
God's purpose toward His people, and the glorious
possibilities before them, had been set forth in the beautiful
words, "That they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified," Isa.
61:3. The dying Jacob, under the Spirit of inspiration, had
said of his best-loved son, "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even
a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the
wall." And he said, "The God of thy Father" "shall help
thee," the Almighty "shall bless thee with blessings of
heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under." Gen.
49:22, 25. So God had planted Israel as a goodly vine by
the wells of life. He had made His vineyard "in a very
fruitful hill." He had "fenced it, and gathered out the
stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine." Isa.
5:1, 2. [p. 215]
"And He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and
it brought forth wild grapes." Isa. 5:2. The people of
Christ's day made a greater show of piety than did the Jews
of earlier ages, but they were even more destitute of the
sweet graces of the Spirit of God. The precious fruits of
character that made the life of Joseph so fragrant and
beautiful, were not manifest in the Jewish nation.
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