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Luke 13:1-9


Jason Buckwalter

Leader Guide

Participant Guide

Luke 13:1-9 –Turn or Burn!

Lesson Focus:

Being prepared for Good Friday and Easter Sunday means repenting: turning from sin and turning toward bearing good fruit.

Lesson Outcomes:

Through this lesson students should:

Understand that bad things happen to people because there are bad things in this world.

Understand that the best way to be prepared for the coming of God’s Kingdom is to repent, turning from sin and toward the production of good fruit.

Be encouraged to take up a few practices this Lent to help them produce good fruit.

Catching up on the story:

Jesus has been moving around the countryside teaching and preaching. The intended audience of Jesus’ teaching is the disciples. The crowds, who seem to be ever present in Luke’s Gospel, benefit as well.

Previously, Jesus had been invited to a banquet thrown by a Pharisee. Jesus comes in, takes his place at the table without first washing. The Pharisees question him as to why he has not followed the proscribed purity laws. In response, Jesus offers a critique of the Pharisees and their inability to see who he really is and what he has come to do. After this episode, the Pharisees are really out to get Jesus. Then, Jesus moves on and begins to teach the crowds that have gathered. He does this by telling a series of stories that have to do with being prepared for what is ahead. The general notion is that those who are hearing Jesus know how to look for signs of an event like the coming of the rains. They are then able to prepare for when the rains come. Likewise, they should be able to understand Jesus’ actions and teachings as signs that point to the coming Kingdom of God.

Keep in mind that Jesus is leading those who hear him, including his disciples, to understand what it looks like to be prepared for what will soon take place in Jerusalem. They are, after all, now on their way to the cross. The religious leaders, and to some extent the disciples, are ill-prepared to fully comprehend and accept the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Luke 13:1–9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

The Text:

Jesus is engaged in a conversation with the crowds and the Pharisees about interpreting the time. Simply put, Jesus is reminding the people that God has a plan for the salvation and judgment of the world. He seems to be saying, at times, if you are an astute enough observer you should know what time it is and what’s going to happen. If you don’t, well that’s ok too; you just need to make sure that you are prepared for when the master of the house returns.

Clearly, Jesus is stating that God’s salvation is about to break into the world and radically change the way things are done and perceived. Those who have been called God’s children should be ready for this event. At this point, however, he is a little frustrated with the crowd because they still have no idea what is going on. They are able to interpret the signs of the weather but are unable to perceive that Jesus is and represents the in-breaking of both God’s salvation and his judgment.

It also seems that Jesus is about to tie us back into the message of John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s mission of preparing the way for the Messiah was to call Israel to turn and repent from their sins. Repentance, however, that is not about just being sorry for the sins one has committed, but is more about turning from the direction one is traveling to the opposite direction. Requisite in this turning is the imperative to bear good fruit. In order for true repentance to be had, fruit indicative of a certain path should be forthcoming. Jesus will say, in just a bit, that those trees that do not produce any fruit will be chopped down.

Bad Things…But Why? Luke 13:1-5

There is not break in the action between chapters 12 and 13. The narrative flows continually between the two chapters. We are given the impression that while Jesus is talking he is interrupted by some in the crowd. It might be safe to assume, although not altogether necessary, that these interrupters are indeed Pharisees.

They want to know Jesus’ take on a recent event, of which we have no record. The fact that we have no record of it does not mean it didn’t or couldn’t have happened. Rather, the event is of a nature that fits the general pattern of behavior exhibited by Pilate and his administration (Green, 515). In other words, it was a normal, non-newsworthy event.

There were pilgrims from the region of Galilee who had made their way to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple. For some reason, and we are not told why, Pilate has them executed while they are offering their sacrifices. Luke only tells us that the people in the crowd told Jesus about the event, but we might imagine that they want to know his opinion on the matter. We can tell by Jesus’ response that the people in the crowd want to know if Jesus thinks that these people experienced this kind of end because they were more sinful than most. Jesus responds that he does not think so. He then makes reference to another event where 18 people were killed when a tower, which was most likely part of the city’s wall, collapsed.

Jesus’ response gives us every indication, that for the most part, calamity doesn’t befall those who are sinful, but that things like these are a part of everyday life. The bible does make it plain that certain actions will reap consequences, but it is not necessary that those who are sinful will be struck down by some kind of judgment here on earth. In the end, however, judgment will befall all people. Jesus is warning the people to know what time it is and to respond appropriately. Jesus seems to be saying that those who have not met an unfortunate end, like those mentioned in the passage, have remained safe, not because of their righteousness, but because of God’s mercy and clemency (Green, 513).

The important point that Jesus makes about these two tragedies is in verse 5: rather than worrying about the sinfulness of the people who suffered these tragedies, Jesus challenges his listeners to examine themselves and repent of the sin in their lives.

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree: Luke 13:6-9

As a way to further make his point, Jesus tells them a very short parable. There is a man who owns a vineyard and in that vineyard there is a fig tree. The tree has been there a period of time, long enough, we might suppose, that it should be producing figs, but yet it has not for a few years. The owner comes to his vineyard and sees that the tree has not produced any fruit. He tells the vineyard keeper that he wants the tree to be cut down. The gardener pleads with the owner to let the tree stand for one more year so that he might give it extra care so that it might produce fruit. If at the end of the year, the tree has still not produced fruit then he will cut down the tree.

This is where the story ends. We do not know if the gardener was successful or not. But the point of the story is true. Israel and Luke’s readers know what time it is: it is time to produce the fruit of repentance because Christ is bringing God’s salvation and subsequent judgment to the world. Every opportunity will be given for those who have not produced fruit to produce fruit. The God of grace and mercy that we find in Jesus Christ does not desire that any should be lost but that all should repent and produce fruit (2 Peter 3:9).

This story shows for us that God isn’t going to easily give up on us. God, through his Holy Spirit, will spend time and energy cultivating us, fertilizing us in hopes that we might grow up into trees that will produce the fruit we are called to produce.

So What…?

As we journey toward Easter, toward the in-breaking of God’s kingdom through Jesus, we must constantly be aware of what time it is. It is time to repent, it is time to turn from the unproductive ways in which we have been going and it is time to turn toward the cross. It is time to produce fruit in our lives that looks like the cross: selfless love, peace, joy, hope, and forgiveness

We know, that even when we have repented in the past, the temptation to return is great. Or perhaps the temptation is to turn only half way: to turn from sin and not toward producing fruit. But what this passage also teaches us is that even when we have not been as faithful as we should, the divine gardener is there ready to do everything possible to help us produce the fruit that we should be producing. Of course, we should not understand this as a pass to do as we please. Unproductive trees will be cut down and thrown into the fire, but God’s grace is beyond comprehension.

So today we are invited to once again repent. We are invited to turn toward the one who created us so that we might grow into the people God desires us to be, so that we might produce the fruit we are called to produce. We know that we have failed, and in some cases failed frequently, but now it is the time to ask the one who can help us to grow into Christ-likeness to help us grow. The gardener is faithful, and he will do it. We no longer have to fail to produce the fruit we are called to produce.

Practices for Lent:

This week engage in one or more of the following practices:

Read through the entire Gospel of Luke this week taking special note of each time Jesus talks about bearing fruit. Make a list of the things Jesus might think is good fruit. Share it with your group.

We collect groceries each moth to distribute to those who seek assistance from our church. Buy everything on the list (ask your Devotion Group leader for the list). If you have kids, make it a family grocery store scavenger hunt.

Identify a co-worker who is lonely. Take them to lunch or have them over for dinner.

Sponsor a child from Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Information can be found at

Compliment everyone you meet this week.

Don’t complain. At all. About anything. Pray this prayer every time you do: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Critical Discussion Questions:

What does God look like in this text/Who is God in this text/What is God doing in this text?

God is doing everything possible so that we might produce fruit. He does not want any of us to perish, but wants us all to have everlasting life. God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit within us, wants to work in our lives so that we can be good fruit-bearing people.

What does holiness/salvation look like in this text?

The Kingdom of God is populated by those who produce fruit. To be a good citizen of the Kingdom of God, we must allow God through the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, cultivating us, helping us to grow so that we can be all that we can be, so that we can be remade into Christ’s image.