Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
“No greater thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” – Epictetus (Greek philosopher AD 55 – AD 135)
Oh, what a joy it would be to sit under our own fig trees! That is not a statement of property rights, at least not for Jewish people in Jesus day. Sitting under one’s own fig tree was a declaration that they believed that God would bring them peace, safety, and forgiveness, where fear would be a thing of the past. Under one’s fig tree was a place where there was no apprehension. Check out these passages for confirmation of this truth: 1 Kings 4:25, 2 Kings 18:31, Isaiah 36:16, Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10 and 1 Maccabees 14:12. Jesus tells a story of a fig tree that is not producing (no peace? no safety?). The owner wants to cut it down. But the gardener pleads for patience. No, don’t cut it down! Give it time. Peace takes time. Sometimes, in our impatience and cynicism, we say we do not give a fig. Or we think fig leaves are only good to hide false modesty. Then we are relating to the land owner who has had it with this stupid tree, just as we sometimes give up on our world. But who is this gardener in the story? On one level it could be Jesus, who with patience nurtures peace and safety. On the other hand we are the gardener. We are the ones who will give time for peace and wellbeing. At the end of the movie “Oh, God” the character played by John Denver says to God (George Burns) something to this effect: “Oh, God, one last thing. You know all the evil in the world, wars, hunger, genocide, prejudice. Are you going to do something about all that?” God answers: “I was waiting for you to do something.” And God is still waiting. God is indeed patient. We also can be patient as we work for the day when we can sit under our own fig tree. Visualize it. See ourselves on the ground sitting in its shade. That is our inherited place.
The Greek in today’s Gospel is pretty straight forward. The only significant point of note is that the Greek word for “fig tree” would resonate with great importance and theological meaning for the early Christians who read the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) in Greek. See passages mentioned above.
Ficus shade settled.
The day patiently waited.
Under our own tree.