The message of this passage is "repent or perish". In the face of the coming kingdom, Jesus calls for repentance. We will all die, but the horrible death of the Galileans who rebelled against Roman rule, or the eighteen who were crushed by the collapse of the tower of Siloam, well illustrate the horror that faces us in the day of judgment if we fail to repent. The bottom line is this, unless we repent, we perish. The Lord may delay his judgment as he waits for the fruit of repentance, he may give the fig tree another year, but in the end, where there is no repentance there will be judgement.
v1. Jesus alludes to a recent rebellion of Galileans which most likely occurred in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover feast. The Galileans were into rebellion and they faced the inevitable consequences of opposing Roman rule.
v2. Jesus floats the question as to whether these Galileans were worse sinners than other people?
v3. Jesus' answer is "no", but they were indeed sinners and died as we all die. What their death illustrates is the inevitable consequence of sin, namely divine judgment. So, the lesson is repent or perish.
v4. Jesus goes on to prompt a similar question of those who died in the collapse of some infrastructure that was being built near the pool of Siloam. This pool is near the south wall.
v5. Jesus makes the same point: the horrible death of the eighteen wasn't the direct result of some horrible sin, but at least it does remind us of the horror we face if we fail to repent. If we fail to turn toward the living God in Christ and put our trust in him for his eternal mercy, then we will inevitably face the judgment of God.
v6-8. The fig tree may represent Israel and the judgment which she faces, but it is more likely that the parable simply illustrates the truth of the preceding sayings, namely, repent or perish. The parable makes the point that judgement is well and truly overdue, but God in his mercy has delayed his hand, but only for a short moment. It is very interesting how God demands but one thing of us - repentance, a "broken and contrite heart". Repentance is not a morbid feeling of sorrow, nor is it a form of groveling in the sight of God. Repentance involves a recognition that our self-righteousness cannot gain God's acceptance and love, but rather that such is given to us as a free gift of his grace when we turn to him and seek his acceptance, when we ask for it. Repentance is primarily a turning to Christ for mercy, forgiveness and love. So, the time is short, repent or perish.
Jesus' illustration of the death of the Galilean rebels and those who died in the collapse of the infrastructure being built near the pool of Siloam, along with the parable of the fig tree, is used to make a simple point. We are all rebels and we all face judgement; unless we repent we will perish.
There are three points that come out of this passage:
Jesus does not deal with the issue of original sin, or the more complex issue of the origin of sin. The point that Jesus makes is that we are all sinners. Paul the apostle underlines this very point - "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", and therefore all stand under the judgement of God. It matters little whether it is an accident, or an execution, death reminds us that the "bell tolls for thee."
A funeral service always has this element in it. We gather to mourn the one we loved, but in that moment the hand of death touches us. We are reminded that we too will come to the same end and people will gather to weep for us.
Jesus touches on an issue which constantly bothers people. Was the crushing of the Galileans a Divine punishment for their sin? People often think that terrible circumstances are prompted by extraordinary sinfulness. People constantly ask why God sends (or at least permits) terrible things to happen and often he is blamed for the tragedy.
Jesus denies any link between tragedy and individual sin. Sin is universal and we all face its consequence, namely death.
Repentance is a turning to God, it is a radical change in direction from a life lived for self, to a life lived under the mercy of God, lived under God's free and gracious acceptance. Although repentance does not necessarily involve a deep sorrow for personal sinfulness, sorrow is often part of the experience. Sorrow may be present with repentance, but is not central to the act of repentance.
Repentance is the necessary element in salvation; it is the act of constantly turning to Christ and resting on him for our eternal salvation, Acts 17:30. 20:21.
What is the relationship between tragedy and sin?