John 15:1-8 Abiding in
the true vine
I pointed out last Sunday that the keeping of sheep would have been
very familiar to the Palestinians of Jesus’ time and of course so too
was the tending of vineyards. Genesis chapter nine verse twenty tells us
that “noah, a man of the soil was the first to plant a vineyard.” Seeds
of grapes have been found in ancient burial grounds and there are wall
paintings in Egyptian tombs showing cultivation and harvesting of grapes
dating from 1500 B.C. Olives,, figs and vines were characteristic of
Mediterranean agriculture and geography, so Jesus is once again using a
metaphor that everyone would have understood. As I have mentioned before
my gardening skills are nonexistent so I knowless about pruning than
about sheep. I do have some familiarity with the fruit of the vine
(notably the red sort) but I do not propose to examine that this
The vineyard is used in the Bible as a symbol of Israel very often in
the Old Testament and recognised also in the New. Jesus begins then by
telling his disciples that he is the true vine, once again affirming who
He is and that he has come to restore Israel. he makes it clear also
that His father is the owner, planter and nurturer of the vineyard. He
then turns his attention to the future: Jesus knows that he will leave
his disciples (Jesus also knows how this will happen) and like any
departing leader he wonders what will happen to his people , he knows
their fragility, he knows the trials they will undergo and that these
will be against the background of his death and the disbelief of the
people around that will surround them.
He gives them, and us an enduring word of advice couched in an image
they can grasp and will never forget.
“Abide in me. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it
abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”
It is worth thinking about that word “Abide.” Dictionary definitions
include word such as to remain, to continue, to dwell, to remain
faithful. The intimacy in which the branch lives with the vine is total.
there is perhaps an irony here, after all from the disciples viewpoint
Jesus is the one who will leave them yet here they are being exhorted to
stay, to remain faithful.
they and we must remain in contact for the fruits of this will be
Christian temper and disposition, Christ like life, conversation,
devotion and designs. We cannot bear these fruits on our own. We must
abide in Jesus.
And how do we do this? by being part of the worshipping community, by
being fruitful branches together as part of the whole, by reading and
studying the Bible allowing us to be cleansed and pruned by the word of
God and above all by praying.
We must keep in contact - it is a dry branch that is separated from the
root. To receive nourishment we need offer the activities of our daily
lives in prayer: Before we visit a friend, before we have a
conversation, before we make a decision let us just pray a little - even
a very little, even a moment before because if we do and if this becomes
a reflex our lives will be changed and the fruits we bear will be
multiplied beyond our imagining.
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