I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. John 15:1
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
This is the last of the seven great “I AM” statements of Jesus. He has been imprinting a facet of His identity on the disciples with each statement. He knows He is going to the cross and soon. He knows that they don’t really understand what is ahead despite his declarations that He will die and rise again. So He takes them back to something they will understand – the vine.
If you were an Israelite, you would understand from the Old Testament scriptures that Israel is described as a fruitful vine that God cares for tenderly. Isaiah speaks of “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. (Is 5:1-7) Perhaps the disciples had passed by vineyards on their way to Jerusalem. It would have been something they were accustomed to seeing and hearing about in synagogue readings.
The closest I get to a vine is looking out my window and seeing the pumpkin vine in my neighbor’s garden. I have seen it grow, blossoms appear and then the real result begins to form – an orange orb that is enjoyed for two holidays this fall. But no one in my neighborhood equates anything spiritual with those vines unless you believe in the great pumpkin like Charlie Brown.
So what was Jesus trying to say with this metaphor? It is really simple but also hard to wrap our American minds around. He tells us He is the vine and we are the branches and more to the point, we can’t do anything apart from Him. Most of chapter 15 talks about the Father’s love for us and that we are to love others. As Americans, we think we have the ability or talent to make our own way in the world. Jesus teaches us that we really can’t do anything and most especially love others without being in union with Him. We really don’t have the ability to love others without the love of God poured into us through the Holy Spirit.
In over 50 years of marriage, my husband and I have moved 10 times. Most of those moves were to a different city in Indiana. Each time, we had to find new grocery stores, doctors, dentists, mechanics, etc. We had to search for resources that would help sustain our lives in a new place with new challenges. Each move brought new people into our lives; some to enrich it with friendship and love; and others that challenged our ability to have a civil conversation. Each time, we had to choose whether or not we would embrace with love even the people giving us the hardest time. In every instance, we didn’t have it in ourselves to love others. Any love we gave to others came from God because He sent us to these places with one goal – to share His love with others.
In the First John 4:7-12 passage, we read that love springs from God and helps us understand God better. He further states that God lives in us and His love is perfected in us. Our union and communion with God completes us. So loving God benefits us tremendously. We get to know God better when we love Him and others. It has also been my experience that I get to know myself better and see just where I fail to love others when I am confronted by a difficult person or situation.
These Scriptures are an invitation to me. Jesus, as my vine, wants me to experience God’s tender care for me. He also wants to empower me to love others with the love of God. In doing so, I will get to know God better and my relationship to Him becomes stronger, fuller, and more complete. I know God is inviting each one to that same loving relationship. Will you accept the invitation from Jesus, the True Vine?
Linda Johnson, Vine Clinger