Answers for a Jew
What is the meaning of the cursed fig tree? (ending)
Blessed Theophilact of Bulgaria offers the following interpretation of the parable:
«He offers this parable in the context of his general speech. He had just said: "If you do not repent, you will die". Then, he offered this parable to illustrate his point. The fig tree is a type of the Jewish people whose fruit is but bitter leaves. They fail to be fruitful. Jesus was, symbolically, in the middle of God's vineyard, that is, in the Church of the Jews. The Master of the house, Christ, came to search (in Jews) the fruit of faith and good deeds, but found none. He came thrice: first – through Moses, second – through the prophets, third – in his own person. Finally, when the Jews didn't repent even after all his visitations, Jesus cut them off from the love of God. For they are no longer called the people of the Lord and the Holy Nation; their place has been assigned to Gentiles who will bear fruit (Mt 21:43).
The fig tree story can also be construed as referring to all humanity. The Master of the house is God the Father. Vinedresser is the Son of God who came in the flesh to attend to the vineyard and prune its branches. Christ does not allow them to cut down this fig tree just yet. He says to the Father: "Leave it for this year". Since (the people) did not get perfected through the Law and the prophets, I will once again water them with My teaching and sufferings. Maybe this time they will bring the fruit of obedience for their own good. However, if the fig tree remains fruitless, you will cut it down and cut it off from the inheritance of the righteous. Three times God searched for fruit in humankind, and three times we failed him. The first time, when we disobeyed God in the Garden (Gen 3); the second time, when we made a golden calf (Ex 32) and exchanged our "glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass" (Ps 106:20); the third time, when asking to send our Lord and Savior (to be crucified) and saying: "We have no king but Ceasar" (Jn 19:15).
Also, each of us is in himself a fig tree, planted in the vineyard of the Lord, that is, in the Church, or, to put it simply, in this world. God comes to search for fruit in us, and if he fails to find it, he commands that you be cut off from the present life. But the vinedresser can still spare you. Who is this vinedresser? Either your guardian angel or the person himself. For each one is his own vinedresser. Often during a life-threatening disease, or in any other sort of danger, we exclaim: "Lord! Leave us for this year and we will repent". This is what "digging around" and "fertilizing" mean. The "digging around" of the soul means shaking off the dust of the worldly cares and becoming light. The soul is fertilized, when it is warmed up by the denial of all earthly glory and embracing disgrace. If anyone should leave the life of glory and choose the life of disgrace, he will, by doing so, fertilize his own soul and make it fruitful. If we do bear fruit, good for us. If not, the Lord will not leave us in His vineyard, but will cut us off from this earth so we do not tread it in vain. If a person sees a sinner living a long life, he will himself become more sinful and wicked. So, the sinner, who does not bear fruit, will often prevent others from bearing fruit. But if he is cut off from this life, then those who witness his end may come to their senses, turn and bear fruit. It also says that the Master of the house came to inspect the fig tree once in every three years. Maybe it is a type of the threefold Law that we received: the natural law, the Law of Moses and the spiritual Law. We should have borne fruit based on the natural law alone, for nature itself teaches us what is due and proper. But since the Lord found the natural law fruitless in us, he gave us also the Mosaic Law as an aid. When the second one failed too, due to our carelessness, He gave us the spiritual Law. If, however, a soul is not benefited by these three laws, and if a person will not be improved after experiencing a long life and God's love, he will not be spared for long, for God is not deceived by our delays.
Understand, then, that the three years also mean three seasons: childhood and youth (under eighteen), middle age, and those whose hair starts turning grey. So, if we do not bear fruit in this "third year" of our lives, that is in our old age, and if God allows us to live longer so we can fertilize our soul through embracing disgrace for the sake of Christ, and if we should prove unfaithful again, then the Lord will not spare us but will cut us off so we do not tread the earth in vain and do harm to others. This explanation seems the most fitting for our overall purpose» (The Explanation of the Gospel of Luke, Lk 13:6-9).
(to be continued)