The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44

3. The kingdom and judgment, 12:35-13:21

v] Demands of the kingdom - repent or perish


Some in the gathered crowd mention the Galileans murdered by Pilate as they come bearing gifts to the temple. Jesus makes the point that this story, and the story of the eighteen men who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them, serves, not to identify the guilt of the few, but the guilt of everyone. Jesus goes on to relate the parable of the barren fig tree, a reminder that the axe of divine judgment is about to swing, so now is the time to repent.


In the dawning age of the coming kingdom, it is repent or perish.


i] Context: See 12:35-40. The demands of the kingdom - repent or perish, is the fifth episode in a set of six covering the topic of The Kingdom and Judgment, 12:35-13:21. These episodes first examined the issue of discipleship from an eschatological perspective / judgment: first, watchfulness (watching unto your faith), then stewardship (particularly in relation to the proclamation of the gospel), and then a warning on the fire of testing and trouble - the division prompted by gospel proclamation. Jesus, having turned his attention from the disciples to the uncommitted crowd, confronts the crowd with the news of God's coming kingdom / the gospel, and the necessity to make peace with their Maker. This theme is now reinforced by Jesus' call to "repent or perish."


ii] Background:

Little is known of the two incidents that Jesus refers to in v1-5. We know that Galilee was a hotbed of descent against the Roman occupation and a breeding ground for Zealot insurgents. It seems likely that during one of the festivals, a major disturbance occurred in Jerusalem, and it was ruthlessly put down by Pilate, the Roman governor. The religious elite hated Rome, no less than the Zealots, but they viewed the use of force as evil and so it would be easy to assume that the punishment inflicted on the Zealots was a divine retribution for their sin. As for the tower of Siloam, it is possible that it was associated with the building of an aqueduct in Jerusalem under the orders of Pilate and financed by the sacred Temple tax. The religious elite would view the workers on this project as stained by sin and worthy recipients of divine judgment.


iii] Structure: Demands of the kingdom - repent or perish;

Saying on the Galilean revolt, v1-3:

"unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Saying on the fall of the tower of Siloam, v4-5:

"unless you repent, you too will all perish."

The parable of the barren fig tree, v6-9.


iv] Interpretation:

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 has delayed his judgment as he waits for the fruit of repentance, but in the end, where there is no repentance there will be judgement.

So, Jesus' point is simple enough: all humanity has sinned and all will perish, just as those involved in the Galilean revolt and those killed by the fall of the tower of Siloam perished. In fact, if it wasn't for God's enduring patience, judgment would have already occurred. As with the parable of the barren fig tree, the farmer should have chopped it out long ago, but he gave it a second chance. Yet, time is wasting away, God's kindly forbearance is at an end, so repent or perish.


The parable of the barren fig-tree, v6-9. It is unclear whether this parable is a teaching parable, here illustrating divine patience, or a kingdom parable, a crises parable proclaiming that divine forbearance is at an end - "the kingdom of God is come upon you, repent and believe." Matthew will often classify a kingdom parable for us by providing the introduction "the kingdom of heaven / God is like unto (may be compared with the situation where) .....", but Luke sometimes lets the parable do the work for us. For the classification of Jesus' parables see The Parables of Jesus, 8:1-18.

Jeremias views this parable as a crisis parable, "it is the last hour", in fact, "it may be too late." In Palestine, fig trees are often grown in with the vegetables, and given their fibrous roots, they draw nutrients away from the vines etc., around them. Here is a fig tree taking up space and not producing, so it needs to be removed; it's a waste of space. So, "the axe lies at the root of the unfruitful fig-tree. But God, marvellously suspending the fulfilment of his holy will, has allowed one more respite for repentance", Jeremias. So, God's patience is at its end; "there is a strict limit to the time available for the required repentance", Nolland, after that, it is "eternal perdition", Marshall.

In its original setting, this parable may have had an immediate application to Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. The city would, some 35 years hence, be set upon by Roman legions and destroyed. Yet, even so, the parable "applies equally well to the final judgment before which all men stand", Ellis.


Is there a relationship between suffering and sin? Jesus, instead of making a political comment about the abuse of power, or health and safety regulations (the type social issues that seem to be the focus of many believers today), addresses a theological question as to the relationship between suffering and sin. So, was the tragic suffering of the Galileans, and those caught by the fall of the tower of Siloam, an evidence of their greater evil? Jesus answers with a simple "no". Jesus does not dispute the fact that we are all sinners and for this we will all perish, but rather he disputes the notion that there is a relationship between the degree of suffering and the degree of a person's sin.

Jesus goes on to make the point that along with sin comes judgment. If we fail to repent, then we too will face destruction just like those Galileans, or like those under the rubble of the tower of Siloam. "All sinners face the judgment of God unless they repent", Marshall.


v] Synoptics:

See 3:1-20. This pericope is unique to Luke. It consists of a pronouncement story with an attached crisis / kingdom parable. Jesus may have delivered them together, or they may have attached during transmission, but it is likely that Luke has linked them together to facilitate his didactic purpose. Luke will often link a parable to a saying. There is some alignment between the parable and Mark 11:12-14, the cursing of the fig tree, but it is limited, and so it is unlikely that they are in any way related.


vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text: 13:1

Repent or perish, v1-9: i] The Galilean rebels who died at the hand of Pilate, v1-3. 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. Jesus goes on to float the question as to whether these Galileans were worse sinners than other people? 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.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the discourse narrative.

parhsan (pareimi) imperf. "there were [some] present" - there were present, passing by / there arrived [some]. Not a common verb; used only once by Luke in his gospel. "Came to him" seems best; "it was at that time that some people came ..", Moffatt.

en + dat. "at [that time]" - in [it = same time]. Temporal use of the preposition en, introducing a temporal clause; "about the same time", CEV.

apaggellonteV (apaggelw) pres. part. "who told" - reporting, bringing news. If we take the verb parhsan to mean "came" then the participle is adverbial, possibly expressing purpose, "they came in order to report to him"; or attendant circumstance, "they came and reported to him." If, on the other hand, we take the verb to mean "they were present", as NIV, then the participle is adjectival, attributive, as NIV, ESV, ... Some people have come to Jesus to report an incident to him involving the death of a number of Galileans who were killed by Pilate while offering sacrifices at the temple. There is no record of the incident outside the scriptures, so probably it was a minor policing operation, in Roman terms! "Came to tell him about", Moffatt.

autw/ dat. pro. "Jesus" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

peri + gen. "about" - about, concerning [the galileans]. Expressing reference / respect; "with respect to."

w|n gen. pro. "whose" - [the blood] of whom. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

emixen (mignumi) aor. "had mixed" - [pilate] mingled, mixed. The sense is "to slay together"; "Pilate had given orders for some people from Galilee to be killed while they were offering sacrifices", CEV.

meta + gen. "with [their sacrifices]" - with. Expressing association; "in company with."


autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [and having answered he said] to them. Dative of indirect object. For the participle "having answered" see apokriqeiV, 1:19.

oJti "that" - [do you suppose, seem, think] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they may think.

para + acc. "worse [sinners] than" - [these galileans sinners] above = more than. Here expressing comparative advantage, uncommon (Semitism?), "more than, to a greater degree than, beyond." Jesus disputes the comparison. "Greater sinners than all other Galileans", Rieu.

pantaV adj. "all [the] other [Galileans]" - all [the galileans became = were]. Here obviously "all other", as NIV.

oJti "because" - because. Here serving to introduce a causal clause explaining why a person may think these particular Galileans were great sinners, namely, because they suffered greatly.

peponqasin (pascw) perf. "they suffered" - they have suffered [these things]. The perfect tense expressing "the state of affairs which led to the verdict of sinners". "Because this happened to them", Barclay.


uJmin dat. pro. "you" - [i say] to you [no]. Dative of indirect object.

all (alla) "but" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "no ....., but ......"

ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not = unless, as may be the case [you repent, then]. Introducing a negated conditional clause, 3rd class, where the proposed condition has the possibility of becoming true, depending on whether there is repentance or not.

oJmoiwV adv "too" - [all of you will be destroyed] likewise = as well. Here the adverb probably does not serve as a comparative, "in like manner", but rather as an adjunctive, "as well, also", "you too will perish."


ii] The eighteen who died in the collapse of the tower of Siloam, v4-5. Jesus gives another example of a nasty death to again make the point that all people sin and so all die, but the degree of horror in a person's death is not related to the extent of their sin.

h "or" - or. This disjunctive introduces an alternate example. "What about those eighteen", CEV.

ekeinoi oiJ dekaoktw - "those eighteen" - those the eighteen. Pendent nominative. This nominal phrase serves as a topic heading and is resumed by autoi, "do you think that they ..." The pronoun + the article indicates that it is a certain 18 that all would know about.

oJ purgoV (oV) "the tower" - [upon whom] the tower, building (a tall construction of some kind) [fell]. Nominative subject of the verb "to fall." "Tower" is possible, but a more general construction seems likely. As noted above, the so called "tower" may be related to the construction of an aqueduct into Jerusalem to supplement the water supply of the pool of Siloam.

en + dat. "in" - in [siloam, and it killed them]. Local, expressing space / place; "in the neighbourhood of Siloam", the reservoir near the southeast corner of the Jerusalem wall fed by the water supply from Gihon.

oJti "-" - [do you think] that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what they may think.

para + acc. "more [guilty] than" - [they were debtors, sinners] above = more than. Comparative use of the preposition, as above. "Debtors" taking the Aramaic sense of a debtor toward God = sinner. "Worse sinners than the rest of the inhabitants of Jerusalem", Barclay.

katoikountaV (katoikew) pres. part. "living in" - [all the men] living, dwelling [into / in jerusalem]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "men / people"; "all those [men] who are living in Jerusalem."


Again, making the point that we face a similar nasty future, in the terms of divine judgment, if we don't repent. The syntax as for v3.

metanohte (metanoew) pres. subj. "you repent" - [no i tell you, but unless] you repent. A variant aorist exists which would make better sense in defining the action as punctiliar, but it is not well attested. Repentance in the NT. takes the sense of turning around, of turning toward God and resting on him. "if you do not repent you will all suffer the same fate", Barclay.

wJsautwV adv. "too" - [all of you will perish] likewise = as well. A variant exists with the same adverb as v3. Again, an adjunctive sense, rather than a comparative sense, is likely, as NIV. The use of a different adverb is probably only stylistic.


iii] The parable of the barren fig tree, v6-9. For Jeremias, this parable proclaims that it may be too late, although Bock opts for it is almost too late. It depends where we put the stress. Is the fruitless fig tree getting its second chance, or is it about to be chopped down? What is the picture, divine patience, or limited forbearance? Limited forbearance is the likely sense. This is a climactic parable, a kingdom parable encapsulating the abstraction that the kingdom of God is at hand / upon us. This fact is described in the terms of a farmer, frustrated with a barren fig-tree, momentarily restrained from applying his axe to its roots.

de "then" - but/and [he was speaking this parable]. Transitional, indicating a step in the discourse narrative.

pefuteumenhn (feteuw) perf. pas. part. "planted / growing" - [a certain man had a fig tree] having been planted. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "fig tree"; "had a fig tree which had been planted." "Had a fig tree growing in his garden", Goodspeed.

en + dat. "in" - in. Local, expressing space / place.

tw/ ampelwni (wn wnoV) dat. "vineyard" - the vineyard [of him]. Although usually a vineyard, it is actually a garden in which there are grape vines and other fruit-bearing trees and plants. "Fruit garden", Marshall.

zhtwn (zhtew) pres. part. "to look" - [and he came] seeking, inquiring [fruit on it]. The participle is adverbial, possibly expressing purpose, "he came in order to find fruit", but better modal, expressing the manner of his coming, "he came seeking." Obviously, the tree was mature, but unproductive. It is often regarded that the "fig tree" is a symbol for Israel, but this is unlikely.

kai "but" - and [he did not find any fruit]. Coordinative; here introducing a clause which provides more information. "And found none", Barclay.


de "so" - but/and. Transitional, although the NIV opts to express a logical step.

proV "to" - [he said] toward [the gardener]. Luke commonly uses this preposition to introduce an indirect object instead of a dative, as NIV.

tria acc. adj. "for three years" - [behold] three years. The accusative is possibly adverbial, temporal, extent of time. Meaning it has been three years since the fig tree had reached fruit-bearing maturity, not three years since planting. Depending on the variety, a cutting produces nothing the first year, a few figs the second year, and reasonable production the third year. So, this fig is at least four years old, and not producing.

af ou| "now" - from which = since. This relative prepositional phrase is idiomatic and carries a temporal sense "from the time when / since"; "[it has been] three years since I first come looking for fruit on this fig tree and didn't find [any]", Culy.

ercomai pres. "I have come" - i am come. A perfective present tense, so "I have come."

zhtwn (zhtew) pres. part. "to look for" - seeking [fruit on this fig tree and do not find any fruit]. The participle is adverbial, as above, possibly expressing purpose, he had been coming in order to seek, or modal, expressing manner, how he came, he had come seeking.

oun "-" - therefore [cut down it]. A doubtful variant. Drawing a logical conclusion; "so cut it down", NAB.

iJnativ "why" - why [and = also / even the soil is it using up]? A shortened form of iJna tiv genhtai, lit. "that what may happen?" = "why?", used to introduce a rhetorical question. It is fruitless and using up a space in the garden that could be used for a productive tree. Some argue that this refers to Israel's replacement by the Gentiles, but it is unwise to interpret parables allegorically. "For what reason", Marshall.


de "-" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from the owner to the gardener.

oJ "the man" - the gardener. Subject of the historic present verb "he says"; "The gardener, having answered, says = said to him."

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. part. "replied" - having answered [says to him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "to say." Usual Semitic construction; see apokriqeiV, 1:19.

eJwV o{tou + subj. "-" - [allow, permit it and = also this year] until [i may dig about it and may throw dung = manure, fertiliser on it]. This preposition and the relative pronoun followed by a subjunctive verb introduces an indefinite temporal clause denoting a continuous extent of time up to a point, "until"; "Master, don't touch it this year", Phillips, "give me time to dig around it and manure it", NJB.


Note the variant where "next year" follows "if not", usually accepted as an example of transposing to overcome a difficult reading.

men ..... de "-" - An adversative comparative construction; "and if, on the one hand, as may be the case, it produces fruit in the future, then well and good, but on the other hand, if, as is (likely) the case, not (it doesn't produce any fruit), then you will cut it down."

kan (kai an) + subj. "if" - and if [it may make, do fruit]. The first of two Conditional clauses, this being 3rd class, where the stated condition has the possibility of coming true, and the second being 1st. class, where the stated condition is assumed likely to be true. As translated above, the first conditional clause assumes its apodosis; the NIV opts for "fine!"; Manson opts for "well and good", as ESV.

eiV "next [year]" - into [the about to, next = the time to come]. Temporal use of the preposition with to mallon. Arndt suggests that this phrase is the apodosis of the conditional clause, but is not easily recognized because of an ellipsis (missing words); "if it will bring fruit, then let it stand in the time to come. Plummer suggests "if it bears fruit, we may postpone the question." None-the-less, the specific meaning of the phrase "into next" = "in the coming year / next year", is to be preferred, with the apodosis assumed, as above, so NIV.

ei + ind. "if not" - [but] if [indeed not]. See men and kan above for this 3rd. class conditional clause. Simply translated "otherwise".

ekkoyeiV (ekkoptw) fut. "then cut [it] down" - then you will cut down [it]. The apodosis of the second conditional clause. The future tense is possibly imperatival (a volitive future), so NIV, or simply expressing the realization of the condition and therefore, "you can cut it down", Barclay.


Luke Introduction


Exegetical Commentaries


[Pumpkin Cottage]