It was Jesus’ final night with the disciples and He knew His time was short. They had just finished supper and Christ wanted to impart to His friends one last teaching while on earth. He summoned them, “Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31, ESV) and led them on a walk. Along the way He gave them this analogy:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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” (15:1-5).
What a lovely image summing up our relationship to the Son and the Father. Jesus is the vine and we are branches extending from Him; He is the source of all life flowing into us. Overseeing all of this life-flow is our heavenly Father, the gardener who tends to our growth. Could there be any more serene image of our life in Christ?
There is a lot to unpack in this one passage—and I can assure you, all of it is good. The image of a blade comes to mind, the instrument of an expert gardener—our merciful, compassionate, loving Lord. There is deep beauty contained in this parting message He gave to His church and the first key to understanding this passage is Jesus’ phrase “true vine.” Christ is telling us He is more than a mere life source to us—He’s the life source. Other “vines” may appear to promise life but none contain true life as He does. Some Christians seek life from other vines, sources that destroy life and aren’t legitimate for any Christian. Others seek life from sources that seem good and legitimate—ambition and drive, success and comfort—but these vines in themselves are lifeless. They can’t produce true life. Jesus wants us grafted firmly into Him so that we may drink deeply of His abundant life every day.