But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also,
until I dig around it and fertilize it.’ – Luke 13:8
It’s Springtime, the time of year when we fertilize and prepare our gardens and plant flowers and vegetables. It’s also the time of year when flowers are beginning to bloom and trees are budding. It’s a time of color and warmer weather. It’s a time of newness. It’s a welcome change from the darkness and gloom of the winter and time just preceding Spring. Now why am I talking about Springtime? Has dear Pastor Claude waxed horticultural? Well, not exactly. I love flowers and Spring, but I have another “culture” to discuss beyond horticulture.
I want to talk to you about fertilization. Jesus spoke of fertilization you know? He spoke of it to illustrate a spiritual preparatory action to help us be fruitful. God desires we are fruitful in life. A producing saint is a beautiful saint to the LORD. A fruitfully productive saint attracts others and is a welcome sight. What do I mean when I title this message, “If You Are Wise, You Will Fertilize”? How and why should we fertilize? Let’s see.
In Luke 13 Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. And along the way He is given some news. Here we will look at what Jesus thought about the news reporting of His day. We will find that He appears Jesus doesn’t think too much of the reporting of current events. What He does care about is the personal repentance of people. There’s a great lesson to be learned in this.
13 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
We have no record of the actual events referenced here in these verses. The Galileans of Jesus day were known for being rebellious. Pilate was very much known as a politician who would not hesitate to make examples of people in vicious and violent ways. And apparently what he had done to these Galileans was breaking news being circulated among the people. This was the current headline, the breaking news story of the day.
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no;
An Act of God? When something bad happens to someone, we often do one of two things. First, we attribute the tragedy to God. Insurance companies won’t cover things they define as “An Act of God.” Why do people automatically assign blame to God for tragedies? While God is sovereign and nothing happens that doesn’t go across His desk for approval so to speak, He is not the Author of all tragedy. In Job 1 we discover the hand of Satan in the “great wind” that brought the house down on Job’s children (Job 1:18-20). God gave Satan permission to afflict Job, but it was Satan who brought the storm. We shouldn’t be quick to assign blame for tragedies to God.
The judgment of God is on them! The second thing people often do when tragedy hits is that they blame the victims of the tragedy. They say, “They must have done something to bring this tragedy upon themselves and God is judging them. This is also disproven in the book of Job when we see Job described as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). In Job 1 and 2 we discover that the tragedy and affliction experienced by Job was instigated by Satan. The bulk of the book of Job has Job not only afflicted greatly in various ways, but answering the accusations of his “friends,” who seek to blame him for what has happened to him.
Look deeper at tragedy and hardship. People of Jesus time would have been perplexed at this because they thought evil only happens to evil people. They frequently looked at their world in superstitious ways. Jesus goes on to dismiss this notion and points the people to more important things. “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no;” Sometimes the tragedy that comes on people is at the hand of God in a disciplinary way (e.g., the captivity of Israel in the Old Testament). And sometimes tragedy comes upon people as a consequence of sinful choices they make. But Job and Jesus tell us here that, that isn’t always the case. We know from scripture, (and these people should have known), that bad things, evil things also happen to “good” people, even righteous people. Job is an example of this. Therefore, we need to look deeper at tragedy and hardship.
but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Don’t let the news or current events keep you from repenting and getting right with God. Jesus points to the greater, more relevant issue of the day for these people, i.e., “but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
The people of Judea looked down on those of Galilee because of they were mostly Gentiles. Jews referred to this area as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (cf. Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:15). Because they were Gentiles, it was assumed they were less spiritual, and they were discriminated against by the Jews. Jesus is having none of that and tells them they themselves needed to repent.
God is not racist. While the gospel came to the Jew first and then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16; 2:9 and 10), we shouldn’t assume God is bigoted or racist. Indeed. The Bible tells us very clearly, “For there is no partiality with God” (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; see context). There was a planned sequence of sharing the gospel, but the gospel plan of God was always intended to reach the world, bot Jew and Gentile.
It’s more important to repent. To “repent” (Greek metanoeo) means, to think differently, to reconsider, to change one’s mind. To repent means to confess and forsake one’s sin. Repentance is integral to getting right with God. God is patient and long suffering with us in hopes that the sinner will repent (Romans 2:1-4). God desires none to perish but for everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). And repentance is a big part of that.
4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus was aware of current events. Jesus was aware of what went on in the world around Him. He was familiar enough with current events to reference them as He did here. There is nothing intrinsically, spiritually, or scripturally that would justify a willful ignorance of what is happening in the world around us. Jesus kept abreast of current events, we should too.
The Pool of Siloam is located south of what is called the Temple Mount today. It was fed by the Gihon Spring which fed water through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Apparently by this pool there had been a tower that fell, and eighteen people died as a result.
Jesus is not a racist. Notice, Jesus says, “do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?” The “all other men” is further proof of impartiality. I say this because it has become popular for “woke” pastors who detract from God’s word in order to exert their own authority have become to bring accusation against Jesus as a “racist.” Nothing could be further from the truth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves the “world,” and offers salvation to “whoever believes.” These are clear statements of impartiality.
In times of difficulty such as Pilates mingling of the blood of some Galileans with their sacrifices and the eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell, people seek out safe spaces. But in truth, there are no safe spaces. Evil has a way of finding people. Instead of safe spaces, we need to take refuge in a Person.
The Bible says:
- Psalm 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
- Psalm 28:8–9 – The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving refuge of His anointed. 9Save Your people, and bless Your inheritance; Shepherd them also, and bear them up forever.
- Psalm 31:1–5 – In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be ashamed; Deliver me in Your righteousness. 2Bow down Your ear to me, deliver me speedily; Be my rock of refuge, A fortress of defense to save me. 3 For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me. 4Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. 5Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.
- Psalm 46:1–3 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
The message of the Bible is not to take refuge in a place or even a “kingdom,” but to take refuge in God. That is what we will see here. There are no safe spaces, not even the kingdom of God here, but our refuge needs to be in God. Get right with God.
6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”
But be wise and fertilize. Jesus turns to a tool He often used in communicating to the lost, parables. A Parable is a method of communicating that illustrates a heavenly or spiritual truth by way of referencing a well-known or commonly known situation. Here Jesus refers to a man who had planted a vineyard. Such a reference would be very familiar and common in this agrarian society.
God desires fruitfulness. The dilemma referred to by Jesus here would be something the people He was speaking too would be very familiar with. A man planted a vineyard. He goes to get some fruit from it and finds none. This condition had gone on for some three years already. The man had had enough. “Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” he says. Now, this man would have been justified in thinking and proceeding the way he did. But Jesus conveys something further.
God desires us to be fruitful. From the first command to humanity to “be fruitful and multiply,” God desires us to be fruitful (e.g., Genesis 1:22, 28; 8:17; 9:1 and 7). In the parable of the Sower, Jesus refers to fruitfulness as the indication of true conversion (cf. Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15). Jesus says every branch that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut off by the Vinedresser His Father (cf. John 15:2). Jesus says we can’t bear fruit on our own but only by being attached to Him (John 15:4). But the purpose of Jesus choosing us is to bear fruit. He said to the apostles:
- John 15:16 – 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (cf. Matthew 7:15-19). The “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-24) are indicators of the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person. Love is the prime fruit that a genuinely saved person who has been born again of the Spirit should produce (cf. Romans 5:5). Fruitfulness is normal for the genuine born-again believer (e.g., Colossians 1:10; 2 Peter 1:5-9).
A little more time. The “keeper” (Greek ampelourgon) or vinedresser, suggests the owner give the plant more time. He says, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.” Now what point is Jesus making here? I suggest three.
First, God is merciful to give you more time to repent if you haven’t already. In Romans 2 it states:
- Romans 2:1–4 – Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
God is good, patient and longsuffering. He graciously waits for sinners to repent. However, . . .
Second, God will judge in truth at some point. While the gardener suggested more time be given to the plant, he also said that after this one-year extension of time, it should be cut down; or judged. God has graciously given the unrepentant sinner time. But that time is not forever. Eternal life is forever. But the time God gives for sinners to repent is limited. Jesus is subtly communicating that now is the time to repent! Now is the day of salvation!
Third, if you are wise you will fertilize. Now fertilizer is food that has been consumed and processed through bodily functions by animals. Fertilizer is deteriorated decayed material that is rich in nutrients so that where it is spread, it facilitates growth. My further question is, “What do you think Jesus was referring to by mentioning this fertilization?” I believe it was these current event stories.
How do we fertilize spiritually? The Apostle Paul makes an interesting comment that dovetails nicely with Jesus his Savior and Lord’s words. The Apostle Paul gives us insight into spiritual fertilization. To the Philippians Paul was inspired to write:
- Philippians 3:7–11 – But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
The word “rubbish” in verse eight is translated from the Greek term skubala. Skubala is a word used to describe table scraps, trash, garbage, sewage, manure, excrement. This is a word used to refer to something to be thrown out or disposed of, something disgusting, filthy abhorrent such as a rotting corpse or partly eaten fish. leftovers to the dogs, or sweepings, sewage, muck, or dung. Hence, it connoted something disgusting, filthy, abhorrent, that which was to be rejected or thrown out. It can also refer to “pitiful or horrible remains” as a rotting corpse partly eaten by fish. 
What does it mean to spiritual fertilize? How do we spiritually fertilize? To fertilize spiritually is to “count all things loss” that keep us from “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” To fertilize spiritually is to look at the things around you and “count them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.” To fertilize spiritually is to do a self-assessment, to look around you at the things in your life, the things you watch, the things you do, your past times and things you participate in, and anything that hinders you from knowing Jesus, see it as rotten flesh or dead fish parts and throw it in the garbage and make it mulch to fertilize your life to know Christ better. That is what it means to spiritually fertilize.
Make a mainstream media mulch. It’s very easy to get caught up in the news, breaking stories, and current events of the day. The news, whether watched, read, or listened to, can be a source of distraction and even depression if we focus too much on it. I think Jesus is telling the people it’s okay to be aware of current events, but at some point, you have to pass them through; let them serve to spur you on to repentance and getting right with God. At some point we should take what we have accumulated and consumed from the mainstream media and throw it in a mulch pit and use it to fertilize us; to help us become fruitful instead of futile. That happens when we pass it all through the screen of God’s word. God’s word helps us to keep it all in perspective. Test all things and hold on to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). The rest, throw it in the mulch pit and fertilize.
Prophetic processing. Fear is often the product of a diet of mainstream media. But the Bible says very clearly, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). If we simply take the “news” at face value and the way media packages it, we will likely be reduced to terrified wrecks. But, if we process current events through the lens of God’s prophetic word, it will help us make sense of the world we live in and understand the times. We need to be like the “sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32a). The Apostle Peter was inspired to put it like this:
- 2 Peter 1:19–21 – 19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
“Which you do well to heed.” “Heed” (Greek prosechontes – Present/Active/Participle of prosecho) which means continue to pay attention to, continue to watch, be attentive to give heed to keep following, be devoted to, be concerned about. Whatever we see on the news, whatever news we read or hear about, should be processed prophetically. We should constantly be asking, “Now where does this fit into God’s prophetic plans?” Ignorance is an ingredient to fear. Understanding, especially understanding from Gods’ word, dispels fear and builds faith and courage (e.g., Romans 10:17).
Light it up! God’s prophetic word is a light in the darkness of this world. And if we process the events taking place in this world by God’s word, eventually “the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” The light will go on, the confusion, delusion, and uncertainties that feed fear will be exposed and defeated and your faith will rise up. All of this is a product of the Holy Spirit directing us, teaching us, comforting us with His word (e.g., John 14:26-27; 16:13). Jesus said, “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (John 14:29). That is the principle of prophecy; God tells us what to expect beforehand, that we might process what we see and believe.
Let’s dig in! Pardon the pun, but now is the time to process what we have been taking in. How about you, are you finding yourself locked into news reports so much so that they are dragging you away from God? Are you depressed by the darkness of what’s reported of what is going on in the world today? Maybe it’s time to pass those things through and fertilize. Maybe it’s time to take a break and examine your life and get right with God through faith in Jesus. Maybe it’s time to respond to God patience and grace and love and get right with Him.
 Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary, The – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Sigma-Omega.