The Barren Fig Tree

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

Luke 13:1-9

The Barren Fig Tree, N.C. Wyeth 1931

The Barren Fig Tree, N.C. Wyeth 1923


The Barren Fig Tree was  painted by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), an American artist and prolific illustrator, for a set of Christmas cards depicting the parables of Jesus. (For more of Wyeth’s work, click here) These card sets can now be found occasionally on auction websites, and reproductions were used in the 1931 edition of The Parables of Jesus by S. Parkes Cadman.

From an auction site:

This beautiful vintage N C WYETH Illustrated Christmas Card “The Barren Fig Tree” Luke X111:6-9 NR . Front page Reads ” To Greet You in the Name of Him Born this Day in a Manger”quot;. There were Six in the set of Christmas Cards illustrating Parables of Jesus. Folding single-sheet cards, each measuring 8×12 unfolded. Each card with Christmas sentiment, printed in blue, with decoration in gilt and light & dark blue; text of a parable, printed in black, with a large initial in gilt and a lavish floral border, in gilt, light orange, light & dark blue, & green; reproduction in full color of a painting by Wyeth above a caption with floral border. Chadds Ford, PA: N.C. Wyeth, 1923 Around 1920 the Unitarian Laymen’s League of Boston commissioned the celebrated artist and illustrator N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) to produce a series of paintings that would illustrate the parables of Jesus in the artist’s robust, realistic style. The intention was to publish the newly-illustrated parables in book form, but that project fell through. Instead, six images were published as a group of religious Christmas cards, with decorations and lettering by Theodore Brown Hapgood, Jr. (1871-1938). 600,000 cards were printed, but few seem to have survived. As Douglas Allen remarks, “These cards are now rare collector’s items.”

For a thoughtful explanation of today’s scripture, click here.


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