Parable of the Fig Tree: "Perish" Luke 13:1-9

Post your ideas for teaching the parable of the Fig Tree here.

Here are three lesson ideas posted by Neil MacQueen in the Teachers Lounge in response to a member's request for lesson ideas about Luke 13:1-9

13 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘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?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘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.’”




Three Fig Tree Lesson Ideas:

  1. One acting out what Jesus says about the subject --after discovering what the word "perish" can mean (and it doesn't necessarily mean what you think it does).
  2. Two is a Christian song that's super popular these days.
  3. And three is important facts about fig trees.



--Neil

(1) Acting out and discussing the word "perish."

The Greek word translated as "PERISH" in the Greek of the Gospels is very interesting and the VARIATIONS of its meaning can be acted out to illuminate what the Gospel writers say Jesus is talking about.   Lost vs die vs ruined vs cut off, etc. Read on....

Left untranslated, your passage will literally sound like a harsh death warning from Jesus, "repent or else," but that may not be what Jesus intended.  Indeed, the Gospel writers and translators THEMSELVES use the same word in other verses but do NOT translate it as "perish" --a word which to English speakers has a sense of finality (where "lost" does not). .....And looking at the original Greek and these other verses/translations is inexcusably EASY with online tools, and it helps a teacher's mind begin to think of creative ways to discuss and illustrate the story. Start at https://biblehub.com/greek/622.htm

According to Strong's Concordance, the definitive translation resource, "Perish" can mean "dead," but it can also mean "destroyed," or "ruined," or "lost."  After doing this study with them, I would then begin to ask them "how does the meaning of the verse change with these alternate translations (and images that come from other verses where Jesus uses the same word!)   (This deeper way of exploring the meaning of scripture is something older kids should be introduced to.)

For example, in Matthew 10:6, the same word is translated as LOST to describe the House of Israel that Jesus had come to save  https://biblehub.com/text/matthew/10-6.htm.  (And FYI: "House" can mean "Family.") 

And Matthew 18:14 uses the term same word ("perish") to describe how God will NOT let his children perish:  "he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.    (So apparently "perish" is a synonym for "wandering off" (getting lost in _________) which is something all children do and can relate to. 

  • What does it mean to be "ruined" (rather than dead), such as, have a ruined life or reputation?
  • What does it mean to be "destroyed" in a spiritual or self-esteem sense of the word rather than a literal physical destruction?
  • Have you ever been lost? What did it feel like? What kinds of things can make a person "lost"?  (wrong directions, bad guides, not paying attention to 'the way' etc.)

How do you find your way "back" ??   Who "finds" you?  How does that happen? Can you  refused to be led back?  Does God ever give up???????

You can check it out for yourself using various Greek resources, such as Strong's Condordance at https://biblehub.com/greek/622.htm   LOOK AT THE RIGHT-HAND COLUMN and you can see in Strong's Concordance, the Gospel writers use the same word many different times in different sayings and the translator's use these different translations of the same word. 

 If you have the ability to SHOW these web page tools on a screen to your Middle Schoolers, you'd also engage their visual focus and love for technology.

(2) Reckless Love of God

The 2018 Song of the Year Dove Award winner.

Here's one online version of the songwriter performing it at the awards ceremony with LYRICS on screen.

There was CONTROVERSY over this song. Is God's love "reckless"???  What does that mean?  There are videos on YouTube of the songwriter talking about these ideas.

(3) Facts about Fig Trees

Look at and show your students the pics of FIG TREES found at bibleplaces.com https://www.bibleplaces.com/fig-trees/

The point of a fig tree is to produce good fruit. Whatever does not produce good fruit is cut off so that a new branch can grow. Fig Trees need to be managed. (Remember Jesus saying in Matthew 5:30 that it's better to cut off a hand than to lose your life? Same idea about getting rid of the 'parts' of yourself/life that are causing you to perish/wander/be ruined.)

What needs to be PRUNED from YOUR life? 

What part of your life needs to PERISH? go away, be destroyed?  What good branches do you need to be grafted into your life?

Original Post

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