Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending The Parish in Atlanta where I heard Rev. Eddie Kirkland preach on John 15:1-8. His wisdom and teaching inspired this little blog.
In this passage, Jesus is talking to the disciples on the night before his crucifixion. On his final evening of teaching his good friends and followers, he gives them a metaphor about their relationship with himself and God the Father:
“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… 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.” (John 15: 1-2, 4-5 - NIV).
Let’s unpack this:
Jesus is the true vine. Jesus is who he says he is: the messiah, the fruitful shoot from Jesse’s stump (Isaiah 11:1), and a member of God’s chosen people (in the Old Testament, the vine was often a symbol to the Israelites of being “transplanted” from Egypt to the promised land [Psalm 80:8-11]).
The Father is the gardener. God, like a gardener, has a plan for his vine. He will water it, protect it, and prune it. He prunes it not to damage the vine, but because the vine will be more fruitful that way. He prunes it because a vine left alone will wind its branches so tightly around itself that it will wither and die.
We are the branches. We are offshoots of Christ. Without Jesus, our vine, we are just broken branches destined for fire (v 6). We cannot possibly hope to bear fruit without remaining in him, for he provides our nutrients and life. The Greek word used here for “remain” (which can also be translated as “abide”) is “meno,” which means “to continue, to endure, to remain, to be present, and to stay.”
I love words that seem to mean two different things: to continue and to stay... The tension in the word “abide” brings this metaphor to life. Following Jesus means we must remain in him, but it isn’t a static, lazy kind of staying: it’s active! We abide by enduring and continuing and being present in Christ.
And here’s the best part: as branches on a vine, we are connected by that vine. Together, we endure. Together, we continue. Together, we stay rooted and bear fruit. There is no expectation that we do this alone. In fact, we simply cannot.
I find it incredibly beautiful that on the final night with his friends, Jesus reminds us that we are all connected through him and must stay connected to one another through him. It is essential to bear fruit in this world. Do not despair, for the gardener has always had a plan for his vine.
- Katherine Ey