The Two Sons, and the Barren Fig Tree
But what do you think? A man had two children, and coming to the first he said, “Child, go, work today in my vineyard.” And he answering, said, “I am not willing.” But afterwards, being remorseful, he went. And coming to the second, he said likewise; and he answering said, “I go, lord,” and did not go. Which of the two did the will of the father?
They say to Him, “The first.” Jesus says to them, Amen I say to you, that the publicans and the harlots shall go before you into the kingdom of God. For John came to you in the way of justice, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and seeing it you were not remorseful afterwards, that you might believe him.
AC 9139e. “A vineyard” is the church as to truth. This is because “wine,” which belongs to a vineyard, signifies the truth of good....
AC 9139:2. That “field” and “vineyard” have this signification has its origin from the representatives in the spiritual world. For fields full of wheat and barley appear before spirits when the angels in a heaven above them are talking about a gathering of those who are in good; and there appear vineyards full of grapes with winepresses, when the angels are talking about a gathering of those who are in the truth of good. These representatives are not from the fact that there are such things on earth, but from the correspondences, in that wheat and barley, or the bread made from them, nourish the body, as the good of love and of charity nourishes the soul; and in that wine, as a drink, also nourishes the body....
AC 9139:5. From all this it can be seen why the Lord so often likened the kingdom of the heavens to a “vineyard” ...and why the Lord called Himself “the vine” ....
AE 815:15. The cause of the unbelief of the Jews was their wish for a Messiah who would exalt them to glory above all the nations in the world; also that they were wholly natural and not spiritual; also that they had falsified the Word, especially where it treats of the Lord and also of themselves...
That neither would those in the Christian world at the present day believe that the Lord is one with the Father, and is therefore the God of heaven and earth, is meant by the Lord’s words in Luke:
When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on the earth? (18:8).
Luke 13:6–9 (compare Mat. 21:18–22, Mark 11:12–14, 20–26)
And He told this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it, and found none. And he said to the vine-worker, “Behold, three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree and do not find any. Cut it down. Why should it also make the land useless?” But he answering said to him, “Lord, leave it also this year, until I dig around it and cast dung around it, and if it indeed makes fruit—and if not, in the future cut it down.”
AE 403:20. “The vineyard in which was the fig tree” signifies the church, which contains also such people as are in externals, for in the Lord’s church there is both an internal and an external. The internal of the church is charity and faith from charity, while the external of the church is the good of life. The works of charity and faith, which are the good of life, belong to the natural man, while charity itself and faith from it belong to the spiritual man. Therefore “a vineyard” signifies the internal of the church, and “a fig tree” its external.
With the Jewish nation there was only the external of the church... Therefore “a fig tree” means the church with that nation. But because they were in external worship and in no internal, being inwardly evil, and external worship without internal is no worship, and with the evil there is evil worship, therefore with them there was nothing of natural good.
It is therefore said that “for three years he found no fruit on the fig tree, and that he told the vine dresser to cut it down.” This means that from beginning to end there was no natural good with that nation, “three years” signifying a whole period, or the time from beginning to end, and “the fruit of the fig tree” signifying natural good. By natural good is meant spiritual-natural good, or good in the natural from the spiritual. And because a church composed of such people as are not in natural good, as was the Jewish nation, is not a church, it is also said, “why also does it make the land unfruitful?” “land” meaning the church.
The vine worker saying that it should still be left, and he would dig around it signifies that they would remain, and that they would afterwards be instructed by the Christians, in the midst of whom they would be. But no answer being made to this means that the fig tree would still produce no fruit, that is, that no good proceeding from anything spiritual would be done by the Jewish nation.
Questions and Comments
- When we have acted as publicans and harlots, saying “I am not willing” to our Father, can we be remorseful afterwards and go do as our Father asks?
- What are some ways our Father calls us to work in His vineyard and bring forth its fruits? In what ways can a New Church be an especially fruitful vineyard?
- Do we hope the New Church will make us stand out in our community and in the world? In what ways might that be appropriate, and in what ways is that sick?
- To what extent do you think the parable of the barren fig tree might apply to the fallen Christian world, including to us and our children as part of that world? See AE 815:15 quoted above.