Imagine the scene: Jesus and the disciples have just finished the last supper. Judas has been released to go and do what he has to do (the disciples are not aware of what will happen yet). They are walking from the upper room where they have just eaten, to the mount of Olives. There are many vines on the way and Jesus uses another metaphor to reveal more about Himself. He has recently talked about His closeness with the Father and His true believers being close with Him (John 14), a very close and inclusive relationship, which He will do everything to protect.
He now looks at the vines and continues the theme:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8)
Jesus knows His time is nearly up so He wants to highlight again the importance of staying close to Him, not physically because He will soon leave, but spiritually, so we can connect to Him in the same way as His disciples.
This message is simple but profound, as so many simple messages are.
Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. Just as the branches not attached to a vine will die, so we branches will die unless we stay attached to the vine. We receive all our sustenance and life from Him. We will not produce any fruit unless we are attached and fully connected. And we remain connected through bible reading, meditation and prayer and spending time with other branches (the church).
Another aspect of vines is that they are very heavily pruned. Some years ago I pruned a bush (not an actual vine but similar) for my Grandma. I cut it back so far that I was sure I had killed it, but she knew that in the spring it would come back to life again, which of course it did and indeed flourished. This is such an important lesson for us. We should never worry when going through trials. The Father as the vinedresser will cut and lop off any branches that are in the way so that we can produce the maximum amount of fruit. This can be so painful at the time but in due season we will reap the rewards.
The words of Jesus don’t “abide” without effect. When they take root, they produce faith and holiness. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus says; “your word is truth” (John 17:17). So when His words abide in us, sanctification happens. We are transformed. Holiness, Christlikeness, happens.
It’s pretty simple isn’t it? Spend time with Jesus and produce more fruit. We tend to try and make it more complicated than that but it really isn’t!