I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener . . . you are the branches.
John 15:1, 5a
When I was growing up, my father was an amateur viticulturist, passionately tending to the grapevines in our backyard. I quickly bored of the tedious work, but he would spend hours in his little vineyard, pruning, twisting, tying, digging, watering—doing all he could to ensure a full harvest come autumn.
Throughout the Old Testament, the vine was used as a symbol of Israel, often to show how she was lacking in some way. God carefully tended His vine, protecting it from harsh elements and creating an environment for it to flourish, yet Israel rebelled. God was just to judge her harshly, but He graciously provided another Vine.
In contrast to Israel, Jesus is the True Vine. He is the faithful One who fulfills all that Israel failed to do: whereas she was wild and rebellious, He was submissive and obedient; while she yielded bad fruit, He produced good fruit in keeping with righteousness. He was in every way the epitome of all God called His people to do, and He calls us to union with Him so that we may also produce good fruit.
“We belong not because of what we do but because of who Jesus is.”
Left to ourselves, we cannot produce good fruit any more than Israel remained faithful; we are subject to the same weaknesses and sin-impulses as they were thousands of years ago. By ourselves, we would go the way of rebellious Israel. So God snipped our branch from the wild vine, grafted us into His family through Jesus, and tenderly creates the opportune environment for us to flourish.
If you wonder about your spiritual fruitfulness, Jesus’ last conversation with His disciples before His death offers a beautiful opportunity for prayerful reflection: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). These were the very men who in a few hours would abandon their Teacher, but afterwards repented and went on to spread the good news of Jesus throughout the world. So there is hope for any one of us who has walked away but returns with a repentant heart; the Vinedresser will prune us to produce outward fruit that demonstrates inner transformation.
Surprisingly, Jesus does not call us to work hard to be more fruitful; rather, He calls us to abide in Him, to wait on Him. Fruit will naturally follow for those who remain connected to Him, because His Spirit is the One who produces the fruit (Gal. 5:22–25). We belong not because of what we do but because of who He is. He is the Vine. We are the branches, and He will bear fruit through us as we remain in Him.
As the True Vine, Jesus both fulfills Old Testament prophecy and makes possible our inclusion in God’s family. He sustains us, connecting us with the nourishment we need to bear fruit. He pulses out healing salve to bind our wounds when the Gardener prunes us to be more fruitful. He supports us when the weight we carry seems too much to bear.
Jesus is the reason we’re part of the Vine. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. In Him, we can bear much fruit for His kingdom. We need only to abide, and He will do the rest.
Recognizing our destructive bent toward self-reliance, Jesus urges His followers to “remain in me” five times in only eight verses. Today, read John 15:1–8 and reflect on the invitation to savor a close connection to the True Vine. Are you as close as He invites you to be? Take a few moments to rest before God. Become mindful of His presence both in deep moments of worship and in the dynamic movements of your daily life. Throughout the day, recognize His life pulsing through you and energizing you for His work even as you learn to rest in Him.
My Vine, thank You for being faithful when I—and the rest of the world—was unfaithful. What we were unable to do, You did perfectly, and You invite us into sweet fellowship with You so that we may learn from You and bear much fruit through the Spirit. Forgive me for trying to produce good works on my own; help me to rely on You and to rejoice in my connection to You.
Psalm 80:8–16; Isaiah 5:1–7
by Asheritah Ciuciu
Most Christians agree that Christmas is all about Jesus, yet most of us spend little time preparing our hearts to celebrate Him. Why is this?...
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