New International Version (NIV)
The Vine and the Branches
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
The World Hates the Disciples
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
The Work of the Holy Spirit
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
ABIDING IN THE VINE
by Diane Fernald
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. …I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:1- 2, 5 NIV)
The picture of Jesus speaking of the vine and branches isn’t as meaningful for us in modern, city-living life. We don’t grow grapes or have the deep understanding of what pruning is as did the Jews of Jesus’ day. To a Jew living in those times, wine was a part of everyday life, and growing vines to grow grapes was as necessary to their lives as tending sheep or fishing was for survival. Jews knew about pruning. The gardener not only cut away the dead branches, but in order to grow good, healthy grapes, he also had to cut away some of the healthy branches to encourage more grapes, better growth, better wine. A good gardener never hesitated to cut down the branches because if he didn’t do so, the entire plant would suffer. Eventually, it would not bear good fruit and maybe even die.
When I think of pruning, I often think only of removing dead branches, and that doesn’t hurt, right? What’s dead is dead, and we welcome the release of all that dead wood in our lives. However, cutting off a branch that is bearing good fruit? That seems crazy! And it hurts! Nevertheless, as Bob Sorge mentions in his book, “Secrets of the Secret Place”, sometimes God has to prune away our fruit-bearing branches in order to encourage healthier, bigger, juicier, and better fruit. When He did this in my life, I got angry and thought maybe I was doing it all wrong, If God was cutting off my “good branches”, maybe my fruit was no good after all; maybe I was kidding myself, and the fruit wasn’t as good as I thought. I got angry, bitter, and I was tempted to simply walk away. After all, if He was cutting off the fruit of all my hard work, what was the point?
Eventually, as I read and re-read this verse over several years, I realized that God’s intent for my life is that the ENTIRE grapevine be healthy, not just my few branches. If Jesus is the Vine, then all of us are part of that Vine. The Vine is the Church, and each branch must be healthy for the Church to survive, thrive, and grow. God will often prune what seems good and right because He’s looking for the entire Vine to be healthy; He wants bigger and better and sweeter grapes. He is looking for a strong healthy Church, bearing sweet, juicy, healthy fruit.
Abiding in the vine means many things, but as we consider the pruning of healthy branches, though, it means that we are present when God prunes us. We pay attention. We enter into the process with God. Abiding in the vine means we know that we are not a single branch in the True Vine of Jesus, but we are ALL a part of the grapevine called the Church, and sometimes - for the good of the entire vine - my beautiful, fruit-bearing branch will be pruned away. The challenge is to rejoice with Him in the pruning of the good fruit-bearing branch in my life, knowing that the next season will bear better, healthier fruit for the Kingdom.
- Think of a time in your life when you were angry or upset with God because you thought He was taking away something in your life that you saw as “good” — a branch bearing good fruit that was being cut away. Thinking of that painful time, can you now see the better, bigger fruit that you are now bearing for the Kingdom?
- Are you in this period of your life now where some of your healthy branches are being pruned?
- How is abiding in the Vine, in Jesus Himself, helping you go through this time in your life?
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