“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you abide in Me and I in you, you will bear great fruit. Without Me, you will accomplish nothing.”
John 15:5 (The Voice)
I love the image of a vineyard in full bloom. The rows and rows of luscious grapes, the thick green leaves and vines all intertwined in this glorious bouquet of color, and the rolling hills that they typically rest upon. There is no other word to describe it except “majestic.”
Now take this image of the vineyard in full bloom and let its beauty slowly slip from your head into the depths of your heart, and feel the image with me. Let’s walk together down the rolling hills and then reach out and touch some of the leaves. Can you feel how soft and tender they are in your hand? Now touch one of the grape clusters. It’s heavy isn’t it? And the grapes, oh my goodness they are enormous – so plump and juicy. The little kid in me wants to squeeze one of them until it pops, but I don’t. It’s too beautiful and I don’t want to destroy it. Do you see it? Are you there with me?
Now bring that feeling into your chest as we look at John 15.
For years I’ve read John 15:5 and found so much comfort in the fact that Jesus is the vine and I’m just one of the branches. It somehow takes the pressure off to know that he is my source of strength and nourishment. If I want to accomplish great things for his kingdom, all I have to do is stay close to him. It actually makes a lot of sense to me and is completely true. However, if we are going to be faithful to the text, we have to read the whole chapter.
Let’s go up to the beginning. The chapter starts by saying….
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. My Father examines every branch in Me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit. He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them so that they will bear more fruit;” (John 15:1-2, The Voice)
Now come back to the image of the vineyard in bloom that’s in your chest. Do you still have the feeling? Can you see it? Ok, now look down the hill with me. The vineyard gardener is here now, walking among the rows. He’s been inspecting this vineyard and it’s growing magnificently! It has so much potential to produce a mighty harvest in the years to come. But what our untrained eyes can’t see and don’t know is just how young and fragile these new vines are in this vineyard. They have so much potential, but the grape clusters are heavy and the branches are not yet strong enough to sustain the weight.
I now see what’s in the gardener’s hand as he walks along the hillside. It brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. It’s a pruning knife. Because he loves this vineyard and sees the great potential for the harvest it will someday bring, he reaches out and begins to trim the branches of the vine back to almost nothing. My heart feels sick as the beautiful clusters begin falling to the ground.
Is this right? Does this gardener know what he’s doing?
Actually, he does. What appears to be a throwing away of a great harvest is actually the most loving gesture to make these branches strong and ready in the seasons to come for the even bigger harvest it will yield.
Do you now see the imagery Jesus is giving us in John 15? Because of the Father’s great love for us, there are going to be times when what seems to be awesome growth and thriving in our lives is cut short. And though it is painful, I can promise you that it is never random or haphazard. God is a skillful gardener and he sees the potential in you. He knows far better than anyone the “great fruit” you are capable of bearing for his kingdom.
My question is… Do you trust his “knife?”
For Your Reflection…
What part of your life is God trimming away right now so you will produce a greater harvest later? Do you trust his “knife?”