April 3, 2015
One of the oldest productive grapevines in the world is said to be located at Valentines Park in Essex, England. It is thought to have been planted around 1768. In 1800 its girth was approximately one foot. The crop of grapes is usually harvested in September and it takes the vine keeper around three weeks to remove all the grapes – about 500 to 700 pounds. Incredibly, the branches extend out over 120 feet. Life has to flow a long way through the vine to the small branches in order to make the fruit.
In like manner for Christians, life has to flow from the source to the branches in order to produce fruit pleasing to God. Jesus declared himself to be the True Vine (John 15:1-8). God referred to Israel as the vine (Psa. 80:7; Isa. 5:1-7), but Israel failed to produce the fruit that God intended. The Lord Jesus is succeeding where Israel failed. The Father is presented as the vinedresser. He is the ultimate giver of life. Unless the disciples misunderstand the metaphor, Jesus gave them comfort by quickly affirming their never ending connection to the vine (John 15:3).
Jesus refers to Himself as the Vine and His followers as branches. The symbolism is clear. Christ’s disciples are like branches connected to the life-giving vine, Christ. Unless the branch abides in the Vine, the life from the branch will not flow through it. His spiritual life flows from Him then out through those who belong to Him. We cannot produce anything of spiritual value to others without the life of Jesus Christ flowing through us (John 15:5).
The Father removes every branch that is not productive. This would indicate that the branch is dead (Judas Iscariot comes to mind). He then prunes the branches that are productive so that they will be even more productive. This pruning involves chastening and scourging every son whom He receives (Heb. 12:5-10). This process ends by producing the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).
Fruitfulness is the big idea of this metaphor. The quality and quantity of the fruit is not the issue here. Fruit will come from the flow of life coming from the vine (Christ), then out through the branches (disciples). Therefore, the branches must abide in the vine. Abiding involves maintaining a close, personal, private, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (vs. 9). Jesus said that if His words abide in them (the disciples), their prayer life will also be enhanced. I take this literally. It is a good idea to spend time memorizing the words of Christ, filling our minds with them.
The metaphor crescendos by teaching that “much fruit” produced glorifies the Father. The word “glorify” means to shed light upon. The spiritual fruit that disciples produce by abiding in the vine sheds light upon the invisible God so that others may come to know Him. So shall we be His disciples.