Parable of the Barren Fig Tree on Death Row:  Hood & Johnson

Parable of the Barren Fig Tree on Death Row:  Hood & Johnson February 23, 2024


The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree on Death Row:  Jeff Hood & Bart Johnson



Bart Johnson, Prisoner on Alabama’s Death Row

The Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Death Row Spiritual Advisor



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. 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?” He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”


-Luke 13:6-9 (NRSV)



The parables of Jesus have a variety of meanings.  Honestly, it seems that fluidity might be the point.  Here we find a fig tree that holds an unbelievable amount of significance.  Indeed, it is the epicenter of all time and space.  The fig tree is the fulcrum of both God’s judgment and grace.


Time is of the essence.  Jesus makes that crystal clear.  While some might assume that this parable is about the end of time or time running out.  Such an assumption neglects the grace of God that is already clear based on the ministry of Jesus.  This is someone who has come that all might have life and have it in abundance.  This is someone who is proclaiming a love for the world.  Jesus is not known for closing doors…he is known for opening wide the doors for all.  This parable is about the patience of God not the restriction of God.


Think about it, judgement comes multiple times to see if a person is bearing fruit.  After three instances have passed, time is up.  Then, Jesus (the great gardener) steps forward and saves the person.  This parable is about the unbelievable love of God that is exhibited in the message of Jesus.  Time will not run out.  Love will not run out.  Jesus will always be there asking for more time until all come to a fruit-bearing knowledge of love.


Why are we so determined to destroy that which God loves?  The patience of God does not run out.  Why is our patience so short?  God is endless love.  The sooner we learn that…the sooner we will be able to bear fruit.

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