Jesus introduced a new metaphor—The Vine and the Branches.
More than an illustration, this was the reality of their relationship. The metaphor was marvelously complete:
- Jesus is the True Vine.
- The Father is the Vinedresser.
- The followers of Jesus are branches in the Vine.
- The whole point is the production of the fruit.
The concept of “bearing fruit” invites us to imagine a wide range of products a life in Christ might produce. Vitally connected to Jesus, each of us should bear much fruit, fruit defined by the gifts and callings of our individual lives.
Pruning and Bearing Fruit
With the metaphor fixed, Jesus began to teach. Bearing fruit was both the point and the test. The Father, as Vinedresser, would constantly monitor each branch for two things:
- the health of the branch, and
- the production of fruit.
What the Father discovered in His examination determined how He must care for each branch.
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;
and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The whole point of the Vineyard was to produce grapes, not to eliminate branches. This required a healthy vine—Jesus was that!—and healthy productive branches. If a branch proved unproductive steps must be taken to make it productive. Pruning it—removing unnecessary, hindering factors—was the first option. The final option, cutting the branch from the Vine, was never a joyful choice.
Christ-followers through the ages have felt the skillful hands of the Vinedresser as the Lord has modified their lives through circumstances beyond their control. The Father’s hands are loving hands, using the circumstances of our lives—sometimes through answered prayer and at other times through unanswered ones. Branches are in the Vine to produce fruit that is powerful, sweet, and lasting. The same was true for the Eleven. The joyful bearing of fruit was and is worth the pain of the pruning.
Abiding in the Vine
The Vinedresser deals with us from a blessed proximity not from a distance. Jesus makes it clear.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”
Simply put, to abide means to live. God is closer to us than our very breath. The “Breath of God” is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in us. This is the closest of relationships: We abide in God and God abides in us. This is the secret of fruit-bearing, not skill or luck or even good intentions. We bear fruit because we are attached to the True Vine.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him,
bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
The potential of this life is unlimited. History shows the amazing things Christ-followers have done for Him and through Him. That potential remains for us today.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire,
and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified,
that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
Never simply a metaphor—this is God’s plan for us.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Lord Jesus, I want with all my heart to be a fruitful branch. Help me guard my connection to You—prayer and the Word. Just as life-giving substances flow through the vine to the branches in the plant world, Your life flows to me through my connection to You. Teach me to listen for Your voice and to sense the moving of Your Spirit. If I fall into error, help me yield to Your tender hands as the pruning begins. Correct me so that nothing hinders the flow of Your life through me! I want with all my heart to abide in You! Lord, Abide with me! Amen.
Abide with Me
Words: Henry Francis Lyte; Music: William H. Monk
1. Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O thou who changest not, abide with me.
3. I need thy presence every passing hour.
What but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like thyself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.
4. I fear no foe with thee at hand to bless,
ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.
5. Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved