I Am the True Vine
Michael and I were visiting my aunt’s church one Sunday. She quietly explained to us that they were about to start communion. They had two options for drinks: wine and grape juice.
As we approached the front, Michael and I gave a quick glance to each other. We couldn’t remember where the grape juice was. We took the cups on top of the tiered tray, hoping we chose correctly. We ate and drank of the communion elements in front of the leaders of their church. As we drank the cup, we tried desperately not to make a sour face. We had both taken the wine by accident, leaving us surprised! Here we had been expecting the sweet juice and instead received the bitter wine!
As we approached our seats, my aunt asked how we did. I told her we had the wine by mistake. We all tried to contain our laughter, but a few giggles slipped out, catching the attention of some unimpressed congregants.
Grapes are delicious! But they take great care to get that way. Did you know that you can’t eat the fruit off grape vines for the first two years after planting it?
The first year is meant to grow the main trunk. You must prune it back to only have the main trunk and a few branches sprouting from it. The second year might produce a few little bunches of grapes, but they won’t be of any great flavour or significance yet. You’ll have to prune the vine back up to 70% after the second year. Then, in the third year, the vine will make up for all that pruning, and you’ll produce good fruit.
Whether yielding the fruit for grape juice, raisins, or wine, great care must be taken in order to have a healthy, abundantly producing vine.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” John 15:1-5
God the Father is our Gardener. He tends to our needs, making sure we have enough of His Son (sun) and Living Water to nourish us in order to produce a healthy plant.
Jesus is the Vine. With Him being the main trunk, we are guaranteed that we will always produce healthy branches, so long as we remain attached to Him. We can depend on His nourishment and strength.
Nothing can take away the healthy nutrients we receive from the Vine. Anything that threatens that is removed by the Gardener.
The Gardener is willing to do what is necessary to see that we continue to grow and produce more fruit. He knows what’s best for the plant to grow. So, He prunes back the Vine as much as needed, in order to get a better harvest the following year.
There are environmental factors that can affect a vine negatively. Insects, lots of rain, strong winds, etc. can deter growth. In a spiritual sense, these are the things of this world. But as John 15:3 says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” The Gardener gives the right elements and protection needed to keep a plant clean. God’s word keeps your heart clean from evil. He uses His Spirit to transform you to be more like Christ.
The English Standard Version says verses 4-5 this way:
“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. 5 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.”
This passage isn’t talking about losing your salvation. Once you are in Christ, nothing can separate you from Him (See John 10:27-30). But it is talking about how to grow in Him. If you attach yourself to the Vine but don’t do anything to grow deeper in your relationship with Him, you will be useless. Jesus said, “for apart from me you can do nothing.” That’s because He gives you the strength, guidance, and wisdom needed to do anything He calls you to. However, if you learn to remain/abide in Him, He will abundantly provide all that you need.
I often like to pair John 15:5 with Philippians 4:13, “For apart from me you can do nothing…[But with Him]… [You] can do all things through him who strengthens [you].”
What is the advantage to abiding in Christ? You will produce a great harvest!
Mark 4:20 say talks about the Sower and the Seed parable, “And those like seed sown on good ground hear the word, welcome it, and produce fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred times what was sown.”
Jesus is the Word, and the Word is the clean Vine. The more you abide in Him, the more you’ll produce “thirty, sixty, and a hundred times what was sown,” by the pruning of the Good Gardener.
Do you want to live a life that matters for the Lord and produce a bountiful harvest for His glory? Remain close to the Vine. Learn from Him. Soak up His goodness. Then enjoy the harvest which He guarantees to all who abide in Him.
Don’t be the bitter, sour wine. Be the sweet tasting grape juice to the people around you, creating a greater, fresh abundant harvest each year.