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THE TRUE VINE
"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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. 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 15:1-5 NIV.
Jesus and His disciples had left the upper room where they had eaten their last Passover meal together. They made their way through the dark streets of the city towards the olive grove called Gethsemane. As they walked slowly through the vineyard outside the city wall, Jesus must have stopped and fingered the vine leaves, recalling His intimate knowledge of the Scriptures.
Israel was symbolically God's vineyard. In Isaiah 5, the prophet sang a song about His vineyard - "I will sing of the one I love, a song about His vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut a winepress as well."
Imagine God's disappointment when, after all the preparation and care He had given His vineyard, it produced a crop so bad that it was worthless to Him. "Then He looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it only yield bad?"
Because His people had failed to fulfil His destiny for them, He had no option but to send them into exile, away from His presence in His temple and from their land so that they would learn to distance themselves from the idols and the wickedness of the surrounding nations.
"Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.
"The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines He delighted in. And He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress." Isaiah 5:1-7 NIV.
There was only one "vine" that could satisfy the desire of the Father for good grapes and abundant fruitfulness -- Jesus Christ, His own Son. Instead of Israel, He was the true vine that represented and took the place of God's people who had failed to live up to His expectation. Jesus was not only the true vine but the way for God to replant His vineyard and reap crops of good grapes through those who would believe in Him.
The way of fruitfulness is the way of abiding or remaining in union with the true vine. Being joined to the vine and remaining in fellowship with Him is the only guarantee that we will produce the fruit that will bring delight to the heart of the Father. The vine, the stock, is perfect and needs no cultivation. It is the branches that need constant attention so that they will be as fruitful as they can possibly be.
The vinedresser has ways of improving the fruitfulness of the branches. He lifts up, cleans and reattaches the branches that trail down into the dust, not "cutting them off" but treating them so that they will become fruitful again. He prunes the fruitful branches, removing everything that will hinder the production of grapes.
The branches have no other responsibility but to remain in the vine. As long as we are attached to the vine and receiving the sap of its life, we shall be fruitful -- revealing the nature of the vine in our lives. The Father's role is to cultivate and prune the branches according to His skill as the vinedresser so that the fruit we bear is the fruit that reveals the true nature of the vine.
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