Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35), “I am the Light of the World” (John 8:12), “I am the Door” (John 10:7), “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14-15), “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), “I am the Way, Truth, and Life” (John 14:6), and “I am the Vine” (John 15:1).
Jesus was defining Himself and describing His ministry. Each of these seven word-pictures is inspired, beautiful, powerful, and worthy of our dedicated, devoted and prayer-filled meditation and study.
The seventh of these statements occurs as Jesus and His followers crossed the Kidron Valley west of Jerusalem, heading for the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. On the following morning, Jesus was crucified at Calvary! But that evening, along the way, Jesus stopped at one of the many small vineyards on the rocky slope.
I can imagine that Jesus gently pulled back the grape leaves to expose the gnarled and twisted trunk and said, “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” (John 15:5, ESV).
Jesus is the Vine. He’s the trunk of the plant. The branches can only live while attached to the Vine. It’s the old Vine, with roots deep in the earth, that provides water and nourishment to the branches. The branches can only produce grapes if they “Abide” in the Vine. “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” (John 15:4, ESV).
Early the following morning, when Peter turned his back on Jesus, He denied the Master three times. That’s exactly what happens to me! When I fail to spend time with Jesus, when I fail to read the Word and fail to pray, I fail. I’m fruitless! Only as I attach my life to His, only as I abide in Him, only then do I enjoy the strength He freely provides.
God is actively at work in our lives, disciplining and training us. We become fruitful as we allow God to do His work in us. Jesus said, “My Father is the vinedresser. 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” (John 15:1-2, ESV).
If left alone, a grape vine’s branches will grow leaves... big green leaves. Those leaves are pretty, but you don’t eat leaves. The vineyard keeper must prune some of the leaves to expose the blossoms and blooms to the sunlight. The vinedresser wants to grow grapes, not leaves. When Jesus lops off a leaf, it might not be pleasant, but it’s His way of developing a disciple. God wants me to be fruitful. He wants me to lead others to Christ, and He want me to enjoy His spiritual fruit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). To develop those qualities in my life, He often must do some pruning.
The phrase, “takes away” in verse two can also be translated, “lifts up.” Jesus may have been saying something like, “If a branch drops into the dirt, I lift it up.” He tenderly picks up the fallen branch, dusts it off, and twists it around the trellis, putting it back into a place where it can bear fruit. I want to bear fruit. I want to stay attached. I want to abide in Him. I’m so glad that Jesus lifts me up, dusts me off, and returns me to a place of service.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8, ESV). Are you abiding? Are you bringing glory to Jesus? Are you growing grapes?