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 crowd mention the Galileans murded 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 Israel as a whole. Jesus goes on to relate the parable of the useless fig tree, a reminder that a moment of grace does not cancel out a verdict of condemnation.


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.


i] Context: See 12:35-40. Demands of the kingdom - repent or perish, is the fifth episode of a group of six gathered under the topic head The kingdom of God and coming judgement, 12:35-13:21.


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: This passage, Demands of the kingdom - repent or perish, consists of a two part saying followed by an illustrative parable. This pattern, a saying tied to a parable, is found on numerous occasions in the synoptic gospels.

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."

Parable of the barren fig tree, v6-9.


iv] Interpretation:

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 illustration of the fruitless fig tree; the farmer should have been chopped out long ago, but he gives it a second chance. Time is wasting away, God's kindly forbearance will not always apply, so repent or perish.


In its original setting, the message, "repent or perish", 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 episode "applies equally well to the final judgment before which all men stand", Ellis. None-the-less, to link the parable with Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem is to treat the parable as an allegory, when in fact it is probably nothing more than an illustration of limited forbearance.


Is there a relationship between suffering and sin? Jesus, instead of making a political comment about the abuse of power, or health and safety work practices, raises 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. It is possible that the horrific nature of the death of the rebels, as with the eighteen, illustrates the horrific nature of divine judgment. The horrible death faced by these people is not due to some heinous sin on their part, but it does serve to illustrate something of the horror that awaits all humanity in the face of divine judgment, if we fail to repent. "All sinners face the judgment of God unless they repent", Marshall.


v] Synoptics:

This pericope is unique to Luke.


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" - and, but, now. Transitional, as NIV.

parhsan (pareimi) imperf. "there were [some] present" - there were passing by, coming up, present. 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 autw/ tw/ kairw/ "at that time" - at that moment of time. Temporal use of the preposition en; "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 serves as an adjective, 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" - conerning, about. Reference; "with respect to."

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

emixen (mignumi) aor. "had mixed" - 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 [the sacrifices of them]. Association; "in company with."


apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] answered" - having answered [he said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he said"; Semitic construction.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - to them. Dative of indirect object.

dokeite (dokew) pres. "do you think" - suppose, seem, think. "Do you suppose", NJB.

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

para + acc. "worse [sinners] than" - Here an uncommon (Semitism?) comparative taking the sense, "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, every. Here obviously "all other", as NIV.

oJti "because [they suffered]" - Here serving to introduce a causal clause.

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


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

all (alla) "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

ean mh + subj. "unless" - if not. Introducing a negated conditional clause, 3rd class, where the stated condition has the possibility of becoming a reality, depending on whether there is repentance or not.

apoleisqe (apollumi) fut. "you [too] will [all] perish" - you will be destroyed.

oJmoiwV adj. "too" - likewise, like, similar, such as. Expressing a comparison, not between different forms of physical death, but between the violent nature of the Galilean's death and eternal death; the Galilean's death well illustrates the violent nature of divine judgment. The Galileans' death was vicious and horrible, eternal punishment has that about it, so "repent". Some commentators, eg. Creed, argue for a comparison between the punishment meted out to the Galileans' for their minor disturbance and that due future national rebellion, but this is unlikely. "If you are not penitent, you will lose your lives just as (in like manner as) they lost theirs", Weymouth.


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. Introducing an alternate example. "What about those eighteen", CEV.

ekeinoi oiJ dekaoktw - "those eighteen" - those the eighteen. The pronoun + the article indicating it is a certain 18 that all would know about.

oJ purgoV "the tower" - tower, building = a tall construction of some kind. "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 pool of Siloam.

en "in [Siloam]" - Expressing space/sphere; in the neighborhood of Siloam, the reservoir near the southeast corner of the Jerusalem wall fed by the water supply from Gihon.

ef (epi) + acc. "[fell] on [them]" - upon [whom fell]. Spacial + direction; "fell down upon."

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

para + acc. "more [guilty] than" - Rare comparative use of the preposition, as above.

ofeiletai (hV ou) "guilty" - [do you think they were] debtors [above all]. "Debtors" taking the Aramaic sense of a debtor toward God = sinner. "Worse sinners", Barclay.

katoikountaV (katoikew) pres. part. "[all the others] living in" - [all the men] living, dwelling in. 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.

ouci "[I tell you] no!" - "Far from it, I tell you", Barclay.

all (alla) "but" - Adversative, as NIV.

ean mh "unless" - lest. Again forming a negated conditional clause 3rd. class, as above; "if you do not repent you will all suffer the same fate", Barclay.

metanohte (metanoew) pres. subj. "you repent" - 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.

wJsautwV adv. "too" - in the same way, likewise, in a similar manner [all you will perish]. A variant exists with the same adverb "likewise" as v3.


iii] The parable of the fig tree, v6-9. Jeremias titles the parable 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? Given that this teaching parable serves to illustrate the preceding sayings on repentance, the point is most likely that "there is a strict limit to the time available for the required repentance", Nolland, after that it is "eternal perdition", Marshall. So, the message is still repent or perish.

thn parabolhn (h) "parable" - the parable, proverb. As a teaching parable, distinct from a kingdom parable (a hidden gospel message), it serves as an illustration.

tiV "a man" - a certain person.

eicen (ecw) imperf. "had" - was having. The action is durative.

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

en + dat. "in" - Expressing space/sphere.

tw/ ampelwni (wn wnoV) "vineyard" - [in] the vineyard [of his]. 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" - [he came] seeking, inquiring [fruit]. 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 the parable simply illustrates the danger of ignoring the call to repent.

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


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

ton ampelourgon (oV) "the man who took care of the vineyard" - the gardener.

tria adj. "for three years" - three years. 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 fig tree could take four years before bearing fruit.

af ou| "now" - 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. "[I've been coming] to look for" - seeking. 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. A doubtful variant. Drawing a logical conclusion; "[so] cut it down", NAB.

inati "why [should it use up the soil?]" - why [also the soil is it using up?] A shortened form of iJna ti 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. Here adversative, "but he answered him."

oJ ... apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. part. "the man replied" - the one having answered [says to him]. The presence of an article seems to indicate that the participle is serving as a substantive, subject of legei, "says", but such doesn't make sense. The usual Semitic construction is probably indended, an attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "says", with the article oJ taking as its antecedent "the gardener"; "the gardener answered and said to him."

legei (legw) pres. "replied" - he says. Historic present, so "he said."

afeV (afihmi) aor. imp. "leave" - allow, permit. "Master, don't touch it this year", Phillips.

eJwV o{tou + subj. "-" - until [I may dig .... may throw]. This preposition and the relative pronoun followed by a subjunctive verb forms an indefinite temporal clause denoting a "continuous extent of time up to a point"*, "until"; "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; "on the one hand ...... but on the other hand ....."; "and if ...... but if not ....."

kan (kai an) + subj. "if [it bears]" - and if [it may make, do]. Conditional clause 3rd class, where the stated condition has the possibility of becoming a reality, "and if, as may be the case, ..... then ...." The protasis "if it bears fruit next year", is not followed by an apodosis. In Semitic style the apodosis is often assumed. The NIV opts for "fine!"; "well and good", Manson.

eiV to mallon "next year" - against/for the time to come. Temporal. 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 "against next year" = "next year", is to be preferred, with the apodosis assumed, as above, so NIV.

ei mh ge + ind. "if not" - otherwise indeed. Meaning: "if it does not bear fruit." This serves as the protasis of the second conditional clause which is obviously 1st class, where the stated condition is a reality; "if not, as is the case .... then ......" Possibly over subtle, but taken at face value the bearing of fruit is unlikely.

ekkoyeiV (ekkoptw) fut. "then cut [it] down" - 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



[Pumpkin Cottage]