AN ANCIENT VINTAGE
Amidst all the shuffling footsteps treading down the path toward the olive grove, only one person, eternally tuned to listening to the unseen world, recognized the slithering rustle of my own movement among them. Darkness had gathered as the twelve walked Passover streets, now silenced. When the group drew near the temple, clouds broke overhead, spilling moon beams directly upon the vine engravings twining their way around the temple doors. At that moment, His eyes met mine, the others remaining oblivious to my presence.
“I am the true vine; my Father the gardener.”
Said for my benefit, those words. A reminder of that other time; that other place.
He erred, then. He erred, now.
“He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit.”
I couldn’t contain my laughter, its hissing echo rolled across the valley, filling the skies.
“Never!” My lip curled at the sheer impudence of His words. “I left, of my own choosing. I wasn’t cut off then, nor will I ever be cut off. But You, You will be cut off, forever.”
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in Me.”
That statement, the most laughable of all, filled me with derision for this One, and His absurd claims. As if reading my thoughts, His eyes sought mine once more. I held His gaze; my unspoken challenge stretched taunt between us, as it had from the beginning of beginnings.
Holding His eye, I raised my cup to my lips, drinking deeply of the tantalizing nectar born in an ancient garden. A taste we both knew, both remembered. A heady wine first filling my outstretched cup when a delicate hand reached forth, drawing the forbidden fruit to her lips, its juice filling my cup with victory.
Now, only a sorrowful shake of His head acknowledged my lifted cup. I could wait. His time to drink my victory would come, sooner than He knew. As the little group quietly entered a cluster of olive trees, His words hung in the air.
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.”
Those words made my most recent vintage the sweetest yet. A vintage He was about to drink as flickering torchlight drew nearer and nearer. And when a betraying kiss touched His check, His eyes once more locked with mine.
I raised my cup, savoring each drop.
Throughout the long hours that followed, the darkness grew blacker and thicker with each passing moment. I celebrated every denial making a greater mockery of His words.
“Remain in Me and I will remain in you.”
At the third vehement denial, “I tell you, I don’t know the man,” my cup overflowed.
Yes, all others left Him, but not I. I became His shadow, drinking my fill. Though He grew strangely silent, our eyes met continuously.
At last, at last the victory was in hand, the “cutting off” a certainty. My rightful place would no longer be denied me. Each bloody, flesh-torn step up the rocky hillside brought success one-step closer.
As the hammer fell, finally He spoke, ending His silence, this time directing His words straight at me.
“I am the true Vine.”
With the words still hanging from His lips, His body firmly fixed upon a wooden stake, He was lifted up, crushed beyond recognition.
“True Vine, indeed!” Beholding the end was near, the new beginning at hand, celebratory laughter spilled from my mouth.
As the final breath ushered forth from His battered body, I held my cup aloft. Meaning to drink to my long awaited, hard-earned victory, I brought the cup to my eager lips. It was empty!
It was then I beheld an abhorrent thing. Wine began flowing, Redemption Wine from the crushing of the Vine spilled freely, filling every uplifted cup around me. My own left with only bitter dregs, other cups filled with life abundant.
And that Voice, that Voice filled the air, leaving room for no other words, no other outcry.
“I AM the true Vine!”
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