The life, testimony, ministry, and teachings of one Jesus from Nazareth
The image of the grape vine is a vivid example of how our relationship with Christ ought to be. It consists of a main vine that extends out to many, many branches pruned by an expert gardener to spread far and wide and bear much fruit. Have you ever seen a vineyard of well-maintained grape vines? It is pristine and beautiful to behold, with endless, perfectly straight rows of greenery stretching to the horizon. If you’ve ever visited or passed through Napa County California you’ve seen what I’m trying to describe.
A well-tended, healthy vineyard is a thing of beauty; it is not wild, overgrown, and primitive looking, but displays cultivation, planning, and a vine-dresser. So also, our lives should show careful nurturing, forethought, and a Master Gardner, and we should be fruitful branches stretching far and wide to further God’s kingdom.
Jesus used the allegory of the grape vine to reveal the utter dependence we must have on Him. As a branch cannot live without the vine, so also, we cannot truly live outside of Christ. For Jesus is the Vine—the Provider of all life, sustenance, nutrition, and strength—and we are the branches, mere extensions of the main vine, and must thus reflect and share the same characteristics of the plant we are a part of. Just like a grape vine does not resemble an apple tree, we cannot say we abide in Christ and yet look like an olive branch. No, we must look exactly like the One we’re growing from. And we should be totally dependent upon Him for our strength and daily sustenance, for the branch has no nutrients or water of its own but gets it all from the vine. Without this energy source, a branch cannot do anything; it can’t bear fruit, grow, or even simply function! Likewise, we must be completely plugged into our Vine in order to receive the things we need to grow, bear fruit, and thrive. And this is the type of abiding that Jesus wants us to experience with Him.
Another important aspect of the branch given in this word picture is that of bearing fruit. And while this concept is straightforward and self-explanatory, one verse pops out as Jesus shares something slightly unexpected:
“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
What stands out in this verse is the branch that gets taken away—the one that does not bear fruit. Not that it was merely a fruitless branch, but that it was a branch that was in Christ! In this verse, Jesus isn’t talking about unbelievers or non-abiders in Him. No, He’s saying that every branch that does abide in Him and yet does not bear fruit will be taken away by the Vine-dresser. What a conviction! It is not enough to only abide or be at home and comfortable in Jesus, we need to also bear fruit. And as the second half of this verse states, those who bear fruit the Father prunes so that they may become more fruitful. Now this is encouraging, since seasons of pruning are often painful, unpleasant, and met with some resistance. However, in light of John 15:2, we should rejoice when the Father brings out His pruning shears because it means that our branch is bearing fruit!
So the question is…are YOU abiding in the True Vine or are you trying to make it on your own? And if you are abiding in Christ, are YOU a branch that needs pruning because you’re bearing so much fruit or are you one that needs to be taken away due to fruitlessness?
Now when beautiful fruit is produced, does one say, “Look at this wonderful branch!”? No! All the glory is given to the productive vine and to the vineyard as a whole. So also we must not strive to produce fruit in order to receive glory for ourselves, but that the whole kingdom of God may be glorified and honored. Therefore, may we be abundantly fruitful branches so that those who come and partake of the fruit may exclaim at the goodness and accomplishment of the Vine and the Vine-dresser!
“By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Author's Note ~
If you've been encouraged by this post, I would highly recommend Andrew Murray's book The True Vine. It is a short devotional book centered on this powerful allegory.