Reader: “I am the vine;”
Response: “you are the branches.”
Scripture: John 15:1-8
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
As Jesus so often does, he describes a theological concept with a picture from everyday life, often an agrarian example. While the metaphor is familiar, I’d like us to look a little deeper at a few of the unique phrases.
Jesus’ opening words present a new concept to the Jews when he declares that he is the true grapevine. Throughout the First Testament a grapevine or a vineyard traditionally represented God’s people, Israel. This vine had been planted and tended by God. Jeremiah proclaims God’s word to Israel, “But I was the one who planted you, choosing a vine of the purest stock―the very best. How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?” (Jer. 2:21; also Is. 5:1-5) God the Father was the gardener who tended and cared for his vine including the pruning. And God did a fair amount of pruning of Israel!
Pruning is essential for producing fruit. After three years of nothing, our avocado tree finally produced a crop last year, about 45 avocados. During the dormant time of the year, I crawled up into the tree and I cut off suckers, weak branches, and thinned things out. I put some fertilizer all around on the ground. This year so far I’ve counted 45 avocados while standing in one place. There are well over 100 on this tree. Pruning helps produce fruit. As I was cutting off branches, I could almost hear the tree saying to me, “Ouch! What are you doing to me? It hurts. Stop it!” Why should we ever think when the Lord prunes us it won’t have some pain. But, Oh, the joy of fruitfulness!
I’m sure you noticed one word being repeated several times in this passage, actually seven times, the perfect number. Five times the phrase “remain in me” appears and two other times from Jesus’ perspective “I will remain in you” and “my words remain in you.” The word menō was a favorite of Jesus. It is often translated “remain,” “stay,” “continual,” or “abide.” It describes an intimate, enduring, and deep relationship. Nothing about the word is theoretical. The idea is that Jesus’ word permeates and forms the person.
One of the reasons for these daily devotionals is to help us “remain” in him and his word. Daily encounters with Jesus builds intimacy and produces fruit for the kingdom. We learn elsewhere in John that we are indwelt by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Jn.14:10-11; Jn.14:26; Jn.17:21). God is our source of nourishment.
Jesus is the vine and his followers are the branches drawing life-blood from their attachment to the vine. But there is more. As the branch remains in the vine, the vine remains in the branch! The idea is to produce fruit. Apart from the vine, the branch can produce nothing on its own. That seems obvious! Yet how many Christians try to be spiritual through their own efforts? Jesus’ words couldn’t be more clear, “Apart from me you can do nothing!” Remaining in the vine is the key. The longer a branch remains attached to the vine, the more it begins to look like the vine itself. The branches of a 200 year old oak tree look like the trunk of the tree itself. The longer a person remains in Christ, the more they resemble Christ in speech, actions, love, and character. Jesus lives his life through us. When we are praying in the will of God, our prayers will always be answered. Believers through whom fruit is produced bring joy to the Father. Jesus gives a new meaning to “hang in there!”
Music: “Abide with Me” Sam Robson You CANNOT miss this!
Bonus: “Abide with Me” Audrey Assad
I adore you, Lord Jesus, living within my heart. As I remain in you and you in me, may my life reflect the quietness of your power, the perfection of all your ways, the brightness of your presence, the holiness of your Spirit, that I may know the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of your love, and trample down within me all the power of evil, in the might of your Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen. ―adapted, Daniel Sharp, from In the Presence of My Father, p.161