Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just 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. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Grape vine cultivation was one of the leading cash crops in the Israel of Jesus’ day. You would have seen vines growing all over the semi-arid land from Galilee in the north to the hills around Jerusalem. Grape vines flourished on the rocky hillsides that provided for good drainage and were privileged to sunshine and a cool evening breeze. But grape vines required close attention and care by vine-growers. A successful vine-grower knew his craft and was a student of soil, slope, weather, insects, disease, and markets.
In today’s scripture Jesus identifies His Father as the “vine-grower” and Himself as the “true vine”. Jesus felt secure throughout life knowing that His Father was caring for Him and for the branches. He knew the wise and loving Father would always provide what was needed for producing fruitful lives.
Jesus speaks of His Father as the “vine-grower”, picking up on a theme running throughout His life: living reliantly on the Father. Jesus had said earlier in the Upper Room that it was the Father who spoke and worked through Him (John 14:10-11).
As Jesus lived each day reliantly on the Father, He asks the disciples to live reliantly on Him: “Abide in me as I abide in you.” On this dark, troubling night Jesus’ disciples can know that they are one with Jesus in the way that branches are vitally one with the vine. The life of the Father flowing into Jesus will flow to them. As the branch of a vine is nourished by the life of the vine, so we are nourished in our vital oneness with the true vine, Jesus.
The apostle Paul celebrated this marvelous mystery of the believer’s oneness with Jesus: “And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), and “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
This means that the Christian life is not the imitation of Jesus but the participation in Jesus’ life. “The Christian is not called upon to strain over a role as an actor would agonize over lines poorly learned. The Christian life is infinitely more blessed and compelling. ‘We are made partakers of Christ’ (Hebrews 3:14). Exceeding and great promises are given to us, ‘that by these we might be partakers of the Divine Nature’” (2 Peter 1:4). (F. J. Hugel, Bone of His Bone)
I once preached sermons exhorting people to go out and bear fruit for Jesus. Then I discovered that Jesus puts the emphasis elsewhere: abiding in Him! “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”As we live our lives centered in Jesus, it is the life of Jesus in us that will bear fruit, much fruit. The pressure is off! We have a wise and loving Father, a vine-grower who knows what He is doing. Abiding in Jesus, the vine, is truly living the life!
- Here is a thought experiment. Take a few moments to imagine a grape vine; see if you can distinguish where the grape vine ends and its branches begin. How does that illustrate my oneness with Jesus?
- What would it mean for me today to “abide” in Jesus? Talk with Him about this.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)