ACTS 9:26-31 1 JOHN 3:18-24 JOHN 15:1-8
As a preacher and teacher Jesus was quite down to earth. He took simple, common, everyday occurrences and used them to make a point that could be easily understood and retained. Today we’re reflecting on an image he used to illustrate our connection with him and the Father. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch from me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.”
In Jesus’ day vines were everywhere. They were grown on trellises on the side of homes. They were on balconies and rooftops. They were cultivated in vineyards. The people were very knowledgeable about the care and maintenance of the vine.
As Jesus spoke about the vine and the branches the people would also have been thinking of the many scriptures that referred to Israel as the vine. Psalm 80, praising God for taking care of Israel, says, “You brought a vine out of Egypt.” Isaiah said, “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.” But the psalms and the prophets also used the image of the vine to describe the corruption of Israel. Jeremiah and Isaiah condemned Israel for becoming a “wild vine,” unpruned, and bearing little fruit.
In this teaching Jesus presents himself as the TRUE vine. He’s not like Israel, the vine gone wild; he submits to the Father who continually prunes and nurtures the vine. He’s reminding his listeners that they’re the branches; they bear the fruit. He’s reassuring them that as long as they stay connected to him, the vine, the Father will care for them like a gardener. With his care, they’ll bear abundant fruit. But he cautions that “anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither.”
This a spiritual life-cycle that Jesus is describing in this image of the vine and the branches. John the Baptist articulated this same spiritual truth when he proclaimed, “He must increase – I must decrease.” Jesus is intimately connected with the Father, the source of all life. In the same way, when we’re connected to Jesus, the Father will nurture and strengthen us. The divine life will flow through us and we’ll bear fruit of the kingdom.