“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes… Remain in me, as I also remain in you… If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:1–8)
Jesus is still teaching his disciples after their last supper together, probably as they pass the temple while walking to the Mount of Olives. Overhanging the entrance was a massive vine made of gold, for vines in the Old Testament refer to God’s people, Israel. Thus for the disciples, Jesus’ teaching would have been filled with meaning. Jesus says that he is now the true vine, the fulfillment of this ancient symbol. He is the one plant, and his people are the branches.
As we think about abiding in Jesus, shall we focus on the painful and inevitable pruning that occurs as we remain in him?
Back in the first century, a new vine would be planted, cultivated, and pruned for three years before it was allowed to bear any fruit. That early in its life, the plant’s branches weren’t strong enough to bear the weight of even one grape. Then even when fully grown, the branches would be cut back after harvest for rest and nourishment to become strong for the next growing season.
We all undergo seasons of pruning. Are you experiencing one? Perhaps it’s health-related – perhaps a feared illness or the slowing down of old age. Maybe it’s relationally based – you’re single and you don’t want to be; your kids are breaking your heart; your parents are aging and infirm. Maybe it’s professional or educational – your job was eliminated or you didn’t do well in your last exam.
Whatever the particular form of cutting back, we can rest on the knowledge that the Master Vinedresser has the best plan for us. For he allows us to be pruned where we most need it so that we will become stronger, healthier, and able to bear more fruit than we ever thought possible. May we receive the strength to bear any pruning with good cheer.
Prayer: Lord, this pruning hurts. But we know that you will only take away what needs to be cut back. Help us to trust in you as you form lasting fruit.