- Acts of the Apostles
- Psalm 22:24-30
- 1 John 4:7-21
- John 15:1-8
What is to be done with branches that bear no fruit?
Jesus’ seventh, final “I am” statement is featured in today’s Gospel. The desired relationship between Jesus and his followers is more easily illustrated that explained.
Not only did the disciples understand the image of a vine in its natural setting, they also understood the rich significance it carried from its use in Old Testament writing. The figure of a vine had often been used by the prophets to symbolize Israel and to demonstrate the relationship between Israel and God (Psalm 80:8-16 and Jeremiah 2:21). Isaiah’s song of God’s vineyard is perhaps the best known and demonstrates God’s sorrow over the failure of the vineyard to produce good grapes (Isaiah 5:1-7). What Israel, as God’s servant, was called to be (Isaiah 49:6), Jesus now is.
As the vine, Jesus is the sole source of nourishment. A branch has no existence apart from its attachment to the vine. Nor does it have a purpose apart from the vine. Nobody grows grape vines merely of ornamental purposes. The purpose of a branch is to bear the fruit, but the work of the branch is simply to remain connected with the vine. The vine, in processing the nutrients of the sun, soil and water does all the work and supplies all that the branch needs to bear fruit.
The fruit-bearing branch is pruned, which makes it even more fruitful. The Greek word used in 15:2, kathaira, translated “prunes,” has the same stem as the word “clean” in 15:3.
The promise of answered prayer appears again (15:7), and once again it is tied to doing the work of Jesus (bearing the fruit of the vine) and to the Father’s glory (14:13). This fruit-bearing process is the second sign of a follower of Jesus (13:35).
The Father is the gardener who does the pruning and careful tending. The branch need never worry about the gardener’s neglect or the vine’s inability to sustain the branches.
The end result of such dependence will be the enjoyment of God’s love and the fullness of joy. This joy lacks nothing and is the same joy that Jesus experiences. This joy is completely independent of any circumstances, external or internal, for its source is the communion of love between the Father, Jesus and the individual; this love is sustained by obedience.
- What meaning does the word abide have for you?
- How does the image of branch and vine apply to your own relationship with Jesus?
- What is the nourishment that the Christian receives from begin attached to Christ?
- What kind of fruit is God looking for from those who grow from the vine that is Jesus Christ?
- In what sense have the disciples already been pruned?
- What other ways do you think God prunes us?
- What happens to those branches that are attached to the vine but do not bear fruit? What would keep a branch from bearing fruit? What do you think this passage says about judgment?