GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
10 May 2023
I Am the True Vine
John 15:1-8 English Standard Version Anglicised
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 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. 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.
Jesus the vine, are we the branches?
In the context of the proposed reading, Jesus is talking to the disciples. The fruitful branch represents the 11 faithful disciples, while the unfruitful branch represents Judas. However, it also applies to all believers throughout history as well. Sadly, there are many professing believers who seem to be saved. They go to church and seem to be connected to the vine. How can we tell the difference? The apostate “believers” don’t bear fruit while the true believers do.
Let’s go through and examine each symbol here.
Who is the vine?
Throughout the Bible God used a vine or vineyard to picture Israel. Isaiah 5:1-7 for example. He planted it and watered it and nourished it. But Israel was the unfruitful vine. It was the false vine. It didn’t fulfill the commands of God or the plans of God. Here, I believe Jesus is contrasting Himself to the failed Israel. Israel rebelled against and disobeyed God. Israel was unfruitful. But Jesus obeyed God. Jesus was fruitful. Jesus fulfilled the ultimate purpose of God for saving the world. Therefore, Jesus is the TRUE VINE. He is the Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise to use Abraham’s seed to be a blessing to the world.
Verse 7 tells us that Jesus the vine will give us whatever we wish for. There is nothing that the branches need that they cannot get from the vine. As people sometimes we go to the false vines in this world for strength. We go to our unbelieving friends, teachers, government, and think that these can give us what we need. But they can’t always. Jesus has everything that we need for life and godliness. 2 Peter 1:3.
Who is the gardener? What is His duty?
In this Scripture, the Gardener has one basic duty. When writing down my thoughts I almost wrote that He had two basic duties. He does two things in this Scripture. First, He removes the worthless branches. Second, He prunes the productive branches. But both of these are done for the same purpose, that is to get as much fruit as possible. In the New Testament there are numerous commands on how to treat apostate “believers”. Basically, believers in the church are not supposed to mix with them in worshipping the Lord or maybe we will become like them. This has a two-fold benefit. First, it keeps the fruitful branches (faithful believers) strong and keeps them from being influenced as much by the unfruitful ones. Second, it is a warning to those branches so that they will start bearing fruit. So the Gardener has one duty, to get as much fruit as possible.
So there is one purpose, but two ways the Gardener accomplishes it. First, He cuts off the useless branches. Do you think He does this immediately? No. Normally a gardener will be patient. See Luke 13:6-9. He waits and give the branch or tree an opportunity to bear fruit, but finally if it never bears fruit, He will destroy it.
What is the fire? What is a branch that dries up? So what is the warning for us here?
The warning is quite clear. My dear brothers and sisters, don’t be a worthless branch. Bear fruit! The teaching through this meditation is that there is a distinction between the real followers of God and the fake ones. The real ones bear fruit.
So God is the Gardener. That means that He is engaged with His people. He is continuously weeding out bad ones. But He is also pruning the good ones. Every good gardener knows that sometimes in order to get the most fruit you have to cut down the plant or trim it. When cutting those rose bushes, part of you wants to leave them there, not to cut off the pretty flowers. But the other part says, “no pain, no gain”. Pruning must take place to ensure that the rose bush grows stronger.
Again, a good gardener doesn’t just leave a plant to itself. What other things does a gardener do for the plant? So He waters it, fertilizes it, gets out the weeds, and prunes it. Another word for pruning is what? Discipline or trials. God disciplines those who belong to Him and sometimes sends trials. He does this to make us stronger, to build our character.
Have you experienced God’s pruning? How? Was it comfortable? Was it profitable?
We need to be quick to respond to God’s pruning. If we are stubborn we will need to be pruned more often. There are two choices.
No branch will escape either. So if people don’t want to follow Jesus because it is too difficult, or they face too many trials they should realize that the alternative is much worse and that these very trials are for our benefit.
Now we come to the branch. Who is the branch? The branch doesn’t only include believers because some are thrown into the fire. The branches are those who confess Christ, and follow Him. Some are true. Some are not. What is the duty of the branch?
The branch has one primary duty, to bear fruit! How do we fulfil this duty?
Rely on the vine. Apart from Him we can do nothing. We must not try to bear fruit on our own. The result will be nothing. How to connect to/depend on the vine?
The words Jesus uses is to abide in Him and Him in us. How to do this? For the disciples it was somewhat easier. Jesus was physically present. They could live with and be with Him. This greatly strengthened and emboldened them. For us we cannot physically live with Him. 1 John 2:6, 24 tell us how we can abide in Him. We abide in Him by letting His words abide in us. We abide in Him if we faithfully drink from His words, and live them out practically in our day to life. We are abiding in Him if before every decision we make, we ask whether Jesus will be happy. We are abiding in Him if we obey His commands in every aspect of our life including: our business life, our family life, our personal life, etc. We must be intimately connected with Him if we want to bear fruit. 2 Corinthians 3:5. Are you connected to Him like this?
The Most Revd Dr James Wong Yin Song
Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean