by Bill Spaans:
Luke 13 may be one of the darker chapters written by Dr. Luke. In it he tells us the story of the women who had been crippled for eighteen years. The Bible says “she could not straighten up at all”. Jesus saw her one sabbath, had mercy on her and said “woman, you are set free from your infirmity. Then He put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” No doubt! What joy she must have felt at being released from her affliction! Talk about an occasion for thanksgiving. The synagogue leaders saw it differently however. They told the people “there are six days for work. So, come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” It is difficult for us to relate to that kind of hard-heartedness!
Dr. Luke also recalls the parable Jesus told about an unfruitful fig tree. The owner of the tree said to his gardener “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” But the gardener replied “Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”
Which begs the question – have we produced any fruit for the Kingdom lately? Or are we simply going through the motions, like the synagogue leaders. Do we deserve to be cut down like the unfruitful fig tree in Jesus’ parable? Thankfully, as was the case in Jesus’ parable, we too have a patient gardener – the Holy Spirit – who is willing to work with us to make us fruitful!
The chapter ends with the sad scene of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” He says, “you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” This lament begins Jesus’ journey towards Jerusalem and His eventual murder on the cross. So, what are we to do with these stories of hard-hearted religious leaders, unfruitful followers and a saddened Saviour? Let’s redouble our commitment to follow Christ where He wants to lead. In Philippians 1:11 the apostle Paul wrote “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (NLT). May it be so for us today – and to God be the glory!