John 15: 1-8 (MsgB)
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of Me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing He prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken. Live in Me. Make your home in Me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with Me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with Me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from Me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with Me and My words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how My Father shows who He is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as My disciples.“
Throughout this blog series, we’ve explored the first six of the seven ‘I AM’ statements Jesus gave His followers (as recorded by John in his gospel). Let’s review them here for you:
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35,48,51).
“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
“I am the door of the sheep”(John 10:7,9).
“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11,14).
“I am the resurrection, and the life” (John 11:25).
“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
Now, Jesus comes to His seventh and final great ‘I AM’ statement: “I am the true vine”. And while each of Jesus’ earlier ‘I AM’ statements give us powerful word pictures revealing yet another significant truth about who our Lord is; it’s this final ‘I AM’ that seems to pull it all together for me.
As I see it, Jesus, in this final ‘I AM’ statement, does a masterful job of not only giving us yet another word picture of who He and His Father are in relationship to us (i.e. Jesus is the Vine, while God the Father is the Master Gardener); but masterfully, our Great Rabbi also paints you and me into this beautiful orchard masterpiece, placing us as fruit-producing branches firmly attached to Him, the Vine.
Hmm. From one branch to another, let me say this: “Hey, my fellow twig. Now that we all know our rightful place in the Master Gardener’s vineyard, how’s the fruit coming over there on your side of the grapevine?”
Think about it. Isn’t it sad how we branches waste so much of our valuable time looking over at the other branches on the Vine, comparing our grapes (or lack of grapes) with the other twigs? Too bad we can’t grasp Jesus’ words here and realize that from time to time, the Master Gardener, who knows grape-growing better than anyone else, comes and actually prunes back a fruitful branch or two, not to kill it or embarrass it, but to focus us on bearing more fruit next season?
Or what about we twigs who seem to spend so much of our time bemoaning our placement on the Vine, focusing on trivial, non-important issues like ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ or ‘how I’d run this vineyard if I were in charge?’
Or, my fellow twig, what about this scary thought?
Apparently, having too many years of being a ‘sucker’ on the Vine, taking life from the rich soil but producing no real fruit for the Master Gardener, is not a good way for us to act. Jesus warns us here that those of us who continually sit there twiddling our thumbs, sitting out one season after another, risk a horrific (yet apparently justified) removal by the Master Gardener. A permanent pruning performed by a loving, compassionate, long-suffering Father, yet One who can grow weary of nurturing selfish, self-centered branches which suck life from the Vine while choosing to never give out any blossoms, let alone fruit.
Oh yeah, and what about those of us who are independent-thinking twigs who believe we don’t need to be permanently attached to the Vine in order to bear some good fruit in life? You know the type, don’t you? Twigs who check in with the Master Gardener every few years but spend the great majority of the valuable God-given time trying to produce their own fruit for God? Jesus states clearly here that the only real fruit will come from branches that are firmly abiding in the real Vine.
Gosh. Maybe that explains why some of the fruit I’ve produced over the years tastes more like wax than the real deal? Well, my fellow twig, enough challenging word pictures for today. Here comes the Master Gardener and I want to be cleaned up and standing at attention as He passes by. How about you?
My prayer: Lord, as a branch, fully dependent on You, the Vine, for all sustenance and life; I hear You calling me to respond rightly to Your right order here. As the Master Gardener planted You, the Vine in His garden, grant me, Jesus, the continual wisdom and grace to simply ‘hold on’ to You for dear life. Holy Spirit, flow through me, making fruit in and through my life possible. Fruit in the right season. Fruit that lasts. Fruit that glorifies Your Name. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: From one twig to another, what’s the toughest part about being a branch in the garden of God? Have I strived for higher position and prominence? Am I bitter due to the Master Gardener’s past pruning? Am I willing to abide in the Vine, patiently allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me in ways only the Master Gardener knows are best?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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