“But this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” John 15:8
The timelessness of Jesus’ stories is truly extraordinary. After two thousand years, we can still understand the message of Jesus’ stories that teach, because even today we have farmers, fishermen, travelers, fathers, sons, brothers, and lost items we are searching for (usually keys and phones). In John chapter 15, Jesus once again employs an agricultural illustration. We often call these stories parables. A parable is just an understandable story that points to a much greater, heavenly truth. Jesus begins speaking about a vine. Now to most of us, vines are intrusive and require hours of frustrating, back-breaking work to uproot and clear out. Of course, vines are, for others, a welcomed addition to a well-manicured yard or garden. Even older buildings look more historical and distinguished when draped in vines. The vine that Jesus was speaking of was likely a grapevine (Cue: “I heard it through the grapevine”). The care and management of a vineyard were important and could be very profitable.
My wife and I have a grapevine in our back yard. We have surrendered to the fact that for the time being it will just be decorative. The vines drape over some metal fencing that is bent into a 30-foot long tunnel. We affectionately call it the tunnel of love. Our kids do not like the name. A couple of years ago when we finally tackled the, clearly out of control, vine, we found that there were major vines that had branches with little buds. Other branches were clearly dead, so we, like Jesus’ story, chopped them off, directing the nutrients from the main vine to the fruitful branches. Again, we do not expect a vineyard anytime, but the maintenance of the grapevine gave us some deeper insight into Jesus’ words, “I am the true vine.”
We are not solely dependent on our grapevine for grapes. We can just stop by the grocery store. But to people in Jesus’ time, having a purely decorative, fruitless grapevine would seem, and rightfully so, absolutely pointless. The luxury of just maintaining a vine to impress the neighbors or provide some shade would be reserved for kings. Normal people would require fruit to sustain their labor.
The crux of Jesus’ story is fruit. He is the vine and we, if connected to Him, will bear fruit. What exactly that fruit will be is described throughout Scripture. Paul in Galatians chapter 5 lists, what the Scripture calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.” The Spirit of God produces and causes to blossom forth in our life “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). When we are connected to Christ we will bear fruit. Jesus calls us to, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
A fruitful life brings glory to God. He is the vine, providing nutrients (the Holy Spirit) necessary for each us to produce a spiritual harvest in our lives. We do not get the glory, but we do get the privilege of being connected to the Lord. Not only does God get the glory, while we enjoy a fruitful life, fruit is proof to ourselves and the world that we are disciples (branches) of Jesus Christ.
God’s glory, the joy of living a Christ-connected life, and the opportunity to show the world what a true disciple of Jesus looks like are what Jesus was saying when He told the disciples, “I am the true vine.”