Vines, Branches and Friends

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

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When I came home from church today, I really sensed a need to take a bit of an in depth look at John 15:1-17. I’m not really sure why, but I decided to spend a little time there.

This passage is familiar to a lot of us and it is commonly referred to the Vine and the Branches passage. It is the last segment of Jesus’ talk with His disciples before His crucifixion, which covers chapters 13-15. I have always liked this passage, but to be honest, there are parts that I didn’t feel comfortable with and at times, even frightened by it, due to lack of understanding. This passage is too long and complex to fit into one blog post, but I would like to pick out a few things that might encourage and challenge us.

First of all, there is the Vine. In this passage Jesus plainly declares that He is the true Vine. He is not a fake. Many have come after Jesus claiming to be “the vine,” if you will, but they are all fakers. The symbolism of this passage also refers to disciples as the branches. The branches get their life from the Vine and indeed, share the life of the Vine. We have a living union with the Vine-Jesus, so that we may bear much fruit. That fact in itself, should amaze us and cause to want to do all we can to remain close to Him.

Then there are branches. In this symbolism the branches are us, true believers in Christ. A branch can do NOTHING on its own. The sooner we learn this, the better our relationship with the true Vine (Jesus) will be. When we try to produce fruit on our own, we fail. Jesus plainly states, “…as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me (verse 4).” This passage talks about the only way  for a branch to survive is to ‘abide’ in the Vine. To abide means to that we keep in fellowship with Christ. Pastor Brandon talked about today that our relationship with Christ must take first priority in our lives. That is totally true but I wonder if we really take that to heart. If we are to be fit to fight and survive the battle, we need to realize the importance of maintaining a close relationship with God.

This passage also talks about a vine dresser and Jesus states that the work of caring for the vine is His fathers–“My Father is the Vine dresser.” What is the Vine dresser’s job? It is to prune the vine so that it will be more fruitful. He does this by cutting off dead branches, but sometimes it also requires that live branches be cut off so that the good fruit that is currently produced will even produce better fruit. God is always pruning our lives in order for us to make us more fruitful. Pruning is the most important of the process of bearing fruit. Sometimes we pray that God will make us “better followers of Christ or more fruitful” but we don’t want to go through the pruning process. It makes us evaluate things in our lives, sometimes good things, that get in our way of being more fruitful. I read today the statement that, “your heavenly Father is never nearer to you than when He is pruning you.” Pruning hurts and we don’t usually enjoy it. But it is one of the best things that God can do to and in us. What we must do is to keep abiding and let the pruning process complete itself.

Finally, there is the fruit. In my reading today I learned that branches don’t eat the fruit, it is for others to eat. Fruit is not for our enjoyment, but for the enjoyment of others. What exactly is fruit? Well, it is obviously others won to Christ. But it is also a life that grows in holiness and obedience. Galatians 5 talks about the fruit of the Spirit and when these are demonstrated in our lives, God is glorified.

There is so much more to this passage, but I don’t want to make this too long. At the end of all this Jesus also calls us friends and talks of obedience. Obedience doesn’t seem to tie into friendships but it does. But that will have to wait for another day. Suffice it for now to say that Jesus calls His disciples friends if we obey His commands (v14). You may be friends with your boss but you also serve him (at least if you want your paycheck). It is the same way with us and Christ.We are friends with the King of Kings, but we also serve the King and that takes obedience. My prayer is that we will learn that we are mere branches and can do nothing for Him on our own power. We must abide in Christ and allow His Spirit to work out our walk with Him. May we humble ourselves to God and see Him work in and  exalt us in His time. God bless you!

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