Lenten Reader | Day 32

I Am the True Vine

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:1-8
I must confess. I never much appreciated this “vine and branches” metaphor that Jesus used. My ignorance led to my confusion. Raised on a farm in Ohio, I experienced plenty of vines, the southern Ohio type growing along Blackwater Creek. Vines sometimes enwrapped the corn stalks, interfering with the harvest. Vines climbed fences and walls, making a mess. We farmers disliked most vines, thinking they were troublesome and worthless. But we had never seen the strong grapevines producing beautiful grapes in a well-tended vineyard along the Mediterranean Sea.   
My childhood experiences caused me to misread the vine analogy our Savior employed. Grapevines in Israel connoted goodness. One vine supported the life of the plant and assured its continued fertility. Many branches connected the vine to the grapes, the fruit. While essential to the overall function of the plant, the branches served as mere conduits. The vine sourced the nutrients from the good earth and transported them to the branches, which delivered them on to the developing grapes. This agricultural concept clearly illustrates the truth Jesus was relaying: “You cannot accomplish anything to advance God’s kingdom unless you stick with me.”  
 Jesus says: “Stay connected to me or you’re useless!” We, the branches, do not become fruit. The branches just pass Jesus’ nutrients to the developing fruit. Branches are not really the stars of the show. When we are full of Jesus, we have a greater purpose than being full of ourselves. A collection of branches (the disciples? a church?) which produces no fruit is merely “throwing shade.” If we do not abide in Jesus, the life-giving blood of Christ cannot flow through us to develop the fruit of Godly living.  
Those vines in my father’s fields back home served no good purpose. They came to destroy and choke life. The Father sent The Vine, Jesus, to save (John 3:17) and to give life (John 3:16). That’s the Vine this farm boy wants to cling to in this season of reflection and celebration.  
Dick Delong