“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."
Jesus likens himself to a vine, and that God the Father is the gardener. Typically, a gardener goes through the vineyard/orchard to inspect, observe, provide, weed out, nourish and care for that which grows in the garden. Looking to bring about a successful harvest when the time is right. But another factor is done to the branches as well… pruning. Cutting off a part of the branch which is already bearing fruit, to make it ready to bear more fruit.
God the Father desires fruit… and those who are believers in God and followers of Jesus Christ are referred to as the branches. True life and sustenance comes from Jesus who is the Vine. We see this emphasized in verse 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."
So, two truths come out of verses 1-2 … 1. there are branches that are “cut off” and 2. there are branches that are “pruned”. Both references of the branches appear to be “in me”. Meaning, they are connected to Jesus the vine. However, one type of branch will be cut off from the vine based on one specific thing… it fails to bear fruit. Therefore, it is removed from the vine. Why? Because it is dead and has been unproductive in bearing fruit that the Father desires. Yet, there is a branch that is “pruned” instead of “cut off”. Why is this other branch pruned? Because it is bearing fruit and the gardener desires to increase it’s productivity by pruning.
This can be a difficult passage to read because it causes us to ask ourselves… which branch am I? Truly, only the gardener can answer that question. However, taking time for self-examination is always a good place to start. Here’s a couple passages of Scripture to consider.
Galatians 5:22ff says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...”
Are these fruit being seen in your life?
James 2:14-18 reminds us that faith in God ought to produce in us good deeds (bearing fruit). Those who boast about a faith that is not accompanied by good deeds, boast about a dead faith… a useless faith.
So those who “remain” in the vine (Jesus), are those whose faith continues to bear fruit that is useful and beneficial to God and His kingdom. They also will be pruned on occasion to increase their productivity. Every year in Palestine gardeners prune their vines. They cut off the dead wood which has no life in it and trim the living branches so that their yield will be greater. In my opinion, pruning can be a painful process, however the end result is far worth it and greater than the pain that had to be endured during the pruning process.
If you will take time to have some honest self-reflection, consider what Jesus goes on to say in vs. 5-6.
“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. 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."
May you seek to remain in Jesus in everything you do. May Jesus be at the center of every area of your life ... marriage, family, occupation, finances, hobbies, thoughts, words and actions… Everything.
Remember, I’m praying for you, we’re all in this together.