Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, celebrated the last Passover, and felt the sting of betrayal as Judas stormed out of the upper room. Then, late in the evening, with the disciples following closely, He walked out of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, headed for Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Along the way, He paused by a grape arbor.
He might have said, “Hey guys, look closely” as He placed His soon-to-be-scared hand on the gnarled post at the end of the row. Then Jesus proceeded to give His disciples a horticulture lesson and tell a parable, The Parable of the Vine and the Branches.
The Gardener who tends the vineyard represents God. The vine, the trunk of the plant with roots growing deep in the rocky soil, represents Jesus. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener” (John 15:1, CSB). The branches growing out of the vine represent Christ’s followers. That’s me and you. We’re branches.
The central truth of the parable is pretty simple to comprehend. The word “abide” (ESV) or “remain” (CSB) appears eleven times in the first sixteen verses of John’s fifteenth chapter. Obviously, if a branch is cut away from the vine, it will never produce fruit. Just as the branches must stay attached to the vine, Jesus emphatically taught that His followers must abide in His presence if they are to produce spiritual fruit. “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, CSB).
It is only by abiding in Christ, or remaining in Christ, that a disciple can produce “the fruit of the Spirit ... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23, CSB).
There’s another lesson. The Vineyard Keeper wants his plants to produce grapes, but He knows that untended vines will grow lots of leaves. Big, green leaves block the sunlight from reaching the fruit, thus reducing the desired production. So, the Gardener takes his shears and lops off unnecessary leafy vegetation. He prunes.
I don’t like it when God takes His shears to me. But He does. He needs to discipline me so that my life can produce the spiritual fruit He desires. The Vinedresser also disciplines the branches by wrapping them around the trellis. This keeps the branches from falling into the dirt. God is a good Father who disciplines His beloved children. It’s not fun, but its healthy.
God wants His disciples to “produce fruit” (John 15:2), “more fruit” (John 15:2) and ever “much fruit” (John 15:5). Jesus concluded, “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit!” (John 15:8, CSB).
We want bushels and baskets of fruit! So, let’s try this.... Oh, Lord, I invite you to train me around your trellis, to discipline me, to remove the unnecessary vegetation, to make the needed adjustments in my life, so that my life can be fruitful in Your Kingdom!