The Gardener Prunes The Vine To Make It More Productive
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Pruning for Profit
God the Father is pictured here by Jesus as the gardener. He is in the role of vine-dresser, and as such, has the responsibility for the vine bearing the greatest amount of fruit. And just like a gardener, He removes the branches that are consistently unproductive. When a gardener does everything that he can to get a particular branch to bear fruit, and it does not, it must be culled so that it will stop taking the sap from the vine that the other more productive branches need to bear their fruit.
And when a branch of the vine IS productive, He removes the dead wood from it, pruning it so that the productive part of the branch becomes even more productive, and grows to its maximum potential, bearing as much fruit as possible, and honoring the gardener with its produce. Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. We must take these things to heart, for although we cannot earn our way into Heaven, we are expected to bear fruit once we receive the nourishing sap from the vine. Whether the branch is grafted in, or grows from the vine, the gardener expects it to bear fruit. After all, faith without deeds is dead.
Jesus reminds us here that He has already cleaned us up. His blood has washed us white as snow, as white as wool. We only need to have our feet cleaned as we walk in the dirty world. In the same way, the Father prunes us as branches, cleaning us from the dead wood that is weighing us down, sapping our strength, and not producing the fruit of righteousness as we are intended to do as His image-bearers. God has already joined us spiritually to the source of life – the vine.
Sap from the Source
It is the sap that provides the life and nourishment that the branches need to live. Jesus uses this illustration because it for the agrarian society in which people lived, this would have had immediate recognition and understanding, as this is how they lived their lives. The stories would have had significant impact, and immediately have been understood. It is important to remember that without the life-nourishing sap from the vine, the branch is dead or will die. If we are not joined to the source, we will not be able to bear any fruit.
The only way to bear much fruit is to be firmly attached to the vine, drink up the life-giving sap, and use that to grow fruit. Any branch that cannot – or refuses to – draw life from the vine is removed. Once removed, it will surely dry up and die. We are, like the vine and branches, to do what we were intended to do. We are to bear the fruit of righteousness:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
When we are bearing fruit in accordance with righteousness, we are able to be used by God to bear other fruit as well. Whether we are spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, building God’s kingdom by building God’s people, or whatever other activity God intends for us to accomplish, we are only able to do them through a solid relationship with God, and relying on His strength and wisdom from His word, which is our sap, to nourish us into becoming the most bountiful fruit-bearing branches that we can be.
A Qualifying Question
Let’s ask a question: Am I bearing fruit in accordance with the purpose that God has intended me to bear?
A short prayer of preparation:
Father in Heaven, You have taken great pains to ensure that I am firmly attached to You, and drawing strength and nourishment from You and Your word. Help me to bear as much fruit as possible for You. Prune me of anything that would impede my growth and usefulness. Help me to do that which You intended for me to do from before the foundation of the universe. Guide me and empower me to honor and glorify Your name. Sanctify me that I would draw close to You in holiness. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.