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The Fig Tree

Luke 13:1-9
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had
mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other
Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose
that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in
Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came
looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for
fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?' And he answered and said to him,
'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it
down.'"

On September 11, 2001 the hand of evil was loosed from the restraining hand of God and struck a
blow in the lives and heart of Americans around the world. Close to 3,000 children of God lost their lives
on that day, more than at Pearl Harbor. All this at the hands of a comparatively few men; 19 to be exact.

“Do you think the ones who died were more evil than the rest of America?”

“Do you think that America’s sin’s brought this upon her instead of others?”

“I tell you no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Pawel was driving to work that sunny morning. He was enjoying the morning sun and was happy
to be able to be out and about for a change, instead of in the studio where it was dark and pretty dirty at
times. He was delivering a new piece to the gallery in Beachwood; the show’s opening was the coming
weekend. Both he and his boss were exhibiting work, it was an exciting turn of events.
Pawel can’t remember the country song that was playing but he remembers clearly when it
stopped. The news that followed for the five minutes it took him to arrive at the gallery was grim. The
timeline of events was unclear; for some reason the radio station hadn’t announced the events occurring in
New York immediately as they occurred in real time. But as Pawel listened in his car the newsman
announced that the towers in NYC had been hit and one of them had completely collapsed. At least that’s
how Pawel remembers it today.
The sadness that overcame Pawel was palpable. He felt a great sense of loss for those in the towers
and in the planes. But more so his loss was directed at the slipping away of the integrity of the people of
our country and the erosion of the shining beacon that we had once at least attempted to be. Even at that
early hour of the day speculations were that these accidents were not accidental at all but orchestrated by
enemies who reviled our morality. As the news droned on that morning the other planes had done their
work and the country was under attack.
This had never happened before, a brazen attack on our soil. Pearl Harbor qualifies but that was a
different lifetime, and mere history to Pawel. This attack was from a new enemy, one with only hatred for
all things American. The symbolism of the targets was unmistakable.
Pawel confessed the sinfulness of his own heart as well as the sinfulness of his country’s. God
alone was in charge of this day and, for whatever reason, He had allowed this to happen. Pawel knew that
as surely as he knew that he was God’s child. The only thing to do was to repent and ask forgiveness.
Pawel walked into the small gallery as it too was listening to the news. The looks on the faces he
greeted there mirrored his own. Desperation, unbelief, and sadness, there appeared also confusion.
“Why?” their faces said. “Why?”
“Heard the news?” Pawel asked.

“Yes,” said the gallery owner. He was a slight man, thoroughly entrenched in the fallacies of his
world, completely unable to comprehend the deaths of so many and the evil that it clearly represented.

“I’m sorry,” Pawel said.

“What do we do now?” he asked. He was lost in the destruction as surely as if he had been
watching from the street as were so many in NYC.

“We pray,” Pawel replied.

Pawel knew that this man would not readily understand that statement. Prayer was not in his
lexicon. He was not a pray-er but a thinker. He was a man whose values stemmed from his own intellect
and that of those he followed politically. There was no God but self. No purpose other than self-
fulfillment.
But even still the man’s eyes averted and his head nodded almost imperceptibly at Pawel’s words.
Man had come face to face with evil and could not justify his disbelief in the gravity of that moment.
Where evil of such strength is displayed, the possibility of an even greater power must exist, for evil
cannot exist without good; it is a perversion of good and therefore it’s child.
Pawel unwrapped both of the sculptures and signed the necessary forms. Pawel left the
arrangement and the display of the pieces to the man and his staff. The time for art would come later in
the week, but it was not now.
The sun was still shining and the birds were still enjoying the dew on the grass and the cool
September breeze that lifted the branches and the heads of the late flowers. Pawel hesitated before getting
back in the truck because in the truck was depression and pain. In the truck and back at the studio would
be more of the same confusion and uncertainty. Pawel prayed again, “I’m sorry, Lord.

Pawel’s mind returned repeatedly over the next few days to Scripture for comfort and
illumination. There was little to be found. The big-headed religious of the time were all over the map in
their interpretation of this happening. Some claimed that God’s hand could not be in it for God does not
punish in this way any longer nor does He countenance evil. Others claimed that He most certainly does
and did punish the sinner, America, for her transgression. And still others claimed the events were
ultimately devoid of meaning and therefore incidental of purpose in the mind of our Lord.
Pawel was not helped by the talk or the rhetoric. It was clear to him that a great evil had been done
to America. It was clear that great pain and horror was introduced into a country that heretofore felt
invulnerable to such terror. It was clear to Pawel at least that God most certainly did have a part in this
pain. He is Lord and Master of His creation. He is the author of all things, good and evil. Nothing happens
outside of His perfect counsel. Pawel realized that the answer to the question “Why it had happened” was
not to be found, either in the world of men or in the scripture. But something might be learned from it
nonetheless.
Pawel’s had a friend who was a devout agnostic. His belief system included money, desire, and
imagination. He was an incredibly gifted man whose intelligence had allowed him many wonderful
experiences and opportunities. But he refused God steadfastly because he knew that if there were a God,
that God would most certainly require something of him. It was more practical and self serving if there
were no God at all. And so for Pawel’s friend there was not. Until 911.
On that day Pawel’s friend was shown clearly that his time upon the earth was indeed short and
unpredictable. He saw that at any moment the unexpected might and most certainly could happen. The
question for this man was not why it had happened and who was responsible but how to avoid having it
happen to him. And the only way he saw clear to doing that was to appeal to a power higher than himself,
that is, the God that He had known in childhood but had disregarded as a young adult and finally as the
man he had become.
Pawel’s friend needed no evangelist or priest. He did not need to hear a sermon or go to
confession. He needed only his own selfish desire for salvation. And with that motivation he finally heard
God calling him as He calls all of His children. The truth of the towers is that all men are destined to
perish and as such to face their eternity alone and without comfort. What must I do to be saved, this man
asked. Saved not from death in the inferno of the towers in America, or, more recently, the quakes in
Haiti, but saved from the ultimate destruction that comes in the solitude of an eternity without a Savior.
This man knew that God was there and he repented that day and was saved.

The time is given for all men to repent and be saved. Jesus died once, but He died for all. He rose
to continually offer His gift to all who would believe. The time is now, before the towers fall again and
before the last hour of your life is spent. Jesus gives us all the one more year He spoke of in the parable.
But do not miss the truth of the parable; the time is not limitless for you to come to your decision. Decide
now, and live forever in His peace.

Mike Spencer/ April 2010