Q. Thank you for this ministry – I have grown in my faith and understanding from reading your articles. I was reading Luke 13:6-9 and I realized I had never read about (or heard discussed/preached about) the meaning of this parable. I recognize the man who owned the vineyard was God, and the visiting the tree over three years’ time was Christ’s ministry on Earth, but I wondered who might the vine dresser of the vineyard be? Also, when the vine dresser asks to be allowed to “dig around it and fertilize it,” what does that infer? I notice there’s no time period mentioned for waiting to see if this action produces fruit before the decision is made to cut the tree down. Is that a reference to the Church Age?
A. The context in which this parable was set is revealed in the two previous examples of Luke 13:1-5. They tell us the Lord was speaking of the need for Israel to repent or they would perish. He had been doing this since the beginning of His ministry (Matt. 4:17). Repent means to change one’s mind, and what Israel was being told to do was to change their mind about their need for a Savior to save them from their sins.
As for the parable of Luke 13:6-9, I agree that the fig tree belonged to God. Most scholars believe that when used symbolically both fig trees and vineyards represent Israel. The three years represented the earthly ministry of Jesus, and I think the one called a vine dresser in the King James translation and a gardener in the NIV was Jesus Himself.
This parable shows the Lord Jesus pleading with His Father for mercy on behalf of Israel. He was cultivating and fertilizing with the Gospel and asked His Father for time to see the effect of His efforts. But He agreed they couldn’t wait forever, and within a generation Israel was cut down for their failure to bear fruit.