I Am the True Vine
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
I love it when Jesus speaks in metaphors. Taking an intangible spiritual reality and making it real enough to feel, like the Bible in your hands (or the iPad on your lap, or the smartphone in your hand… wow, metaphors are hard when you have too many options).
However, our job is to take the metaphor and make it real as well, by applying it in practical and intentional ways. Here’s the biblical model we see throughout Scripture… He says it, we do it. If we get this pattern down it will simply fix a lot of junk.
It’s the same with the metaphor of John 15. Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches. It’s a great statement of our connectedness, of the closeness of Christ and our security in Him… but, what do we do with it.
Here’s the low down, if you are ‘in Christ,’in other words, one of the branches off of the Vine, then there are two options for you.
- You do nothing. You just kind of hang around, connected; you’re just there to be pretty. You have leaves, you’re a part of Christ, but you bear no fruit. While you are a branch off of the Vine, nothing beneficial comes off of you (out of you). You may argue that you behave, you make good moral choices and you’re a ‘good person,’ but that’s just being a branch on the vine free of disease… you’re still not bearing any fruit. Fruit is something that can be picked off and used by someone else for their benefit. That’s what it means to bear fruit.
- You bear fruit. You live in such a way that your life inspires others, that you intentionally serve the other branches and you produce in a way that benefits those off the vine, too. You obey, you pray, your serve, you sacrifice, you submit, and the result is that your life bears fruit.
It looks as though your life as a branch has these two options. When it comes to being the branch that this Vine is looking for, you either bear fruit or you don’t.
Now comes the scary part. While Jesus is the Vine (you’re the branches, don’t forget), God the Father makes an appearance as the Gardner. He comes in to inspect the plant, and while He is happy with the Vine (Jesus), He makes some hard decisions about the branches.
For the branches that bear no fruit, He does the only thing He can to be a good Gardner: He cuts them off and throws them away. He knows that a branch that bears no fruit is not doing it’s job, and in fact, it is only robbing the rest of the plant in a parasitic way. It may look good at a distance and appear healthy to the untrained eye, but when the Gardner comes near and sees no fruit… it’s snip, snip.
I can’t say exactly what it means for the one who is ‘in Christ’ but is not serving, sacrificing, or submitting to bear fruit. But, I can tell you this, it’s not the option you would choose.
To be clipped form the vine must include feelings of separation, disconnect, confusion, and lostness. To the clipped branch it might feel like you can’t find the right church, or a distrust for those in authority. Each individual branch may experience the clipping differently, but the reality is the same. If you don’t bear fruit, the Gardner will cut you off.
So, this must mean that a caring, loving Gardner would then turn His attention to the fruit-bearing branch and began to sing it a song, right?
Wrong. They get the clippers, too!
I’m sure that if a branch could protest, it would cry out, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m the good guy! Pick a grape, look again… I’m good for something!”
But, the Gardner still approaches with clippers in hand… snip, snip. But, this time the clipping is different.
It’s still painful, but this branch is not clipped off, it’s clipped back. Although I am sure the branch feels wounded and hurt, the Gardner has done for the branch what it could not do for itself.
By pruning it back, this branch that does bear fruit will regrow in a way that will make it able to bear even more fruit. While it has been clipped, it is left securely on the Vine (Jesus) in a place to grow back stronger, more mature and able to bear the weight of even more fruit.
I can’t say exactly what it means for the one who is ‘in Christ’ and is already bearing fruit, because it will be a different experience for each branch. A little confusion at first, some joy in knowing the Gardner is with you, satisfaction in the new fruit your able to produce and deeper connectedness to the Vine as you regrow in His strength.
As painful as it my seem, this pruning is a reward. Many branches may protest and say, “But, I was happy producing the fruit that I was before!”
The Gardner, however, wasn’t satisfied yet, because He knew how much more you could do. He’d raised you from the seedling you were and has great plans for you. And, don’t forget, in the world of gardening there is only one other option that our fruitless friends have already experienced.
That’s not what you want.
So, with metaphor in hand, the question is, what kind of branch are you? Whether you bear much fruit, or not, there is still time before the Gardner comes around and verse 4 tells each branch how to get healthy: “Abide in me.”
Think on Jesus, talk like Jesus, act like Jesus, share Jesus, act for Jesus and offer all to Jesus. It’s the Gardner’s recipe for His own personal Miracle Grow.
Now, I’m going to stop writing this and get something to eat. For some reason I am really craving Fruit Loops.