“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
( John 15:1-8)
Jesus did not only say “I am the vine” (v. 5), but also “I am the true vine” (v. 1). Jesus is the real vine!
All vines in nature that grow branches and produce grapes are only pictures of this true vine. Jesus alone is the source of life for us who apart from Him are dead in trespasses and sins.
God the Father is also concerned about us as branches in His vine. He prunes—literally, cleanses—the branches that bear fruit so that they bear even more fruit.
We learn this same great truth about Jesus from the statements that He is “the true Light” (John 1:9; 1 John 2:8) and “the true bread” (John 6:32). The light of day that enables us to move about and the bread that gives us strength are pictures of the life that Christ alone can give.
We draw our life and strength from Christ. He is the vine, we are the branches. Our faith in Him is our connection to Him through which His life flows to us. From His gospel word we have forgiveness of our sins and are “already clean” (v. 3).
As branches connected to a vine are able to bear fruit, disciples of Jesus draw from Him the strength and ability to do works that are pleasing to God. Without Him we can do nothing of the sort.
God the Father is also concerned about us as branches in His vine. He prunes—literally, cleanses—the branches that bear fruit so that they bear even more fruit. We understand this as the discipline by which He humbles us and draws us closer to Him.
If faith in Jesus ceases, the vine-branch connection is broken. Then, as the Savior warns here, the disciple becomes like a branch cut off from a vine, dry and withered. Nothing remains but the certain prospect of divine judgment.
There is no substitute for Him who is the true Vine. This becomes clear when we look at the things that people try to substitute for Christ.
A documentary film titled Forever (2006) furnishes some examples. In it, Dutch director Heddy Honigmann put together a series of interviews with people who had come to visit and tend graves in a cemetery in Paris where many famous artists are buried. They place flowers or other items on the graves. They tell of how they have been moved by the music, art, or literature of the person.
In itself that is not a bad thing, of course, but the impression given is that for these people music, art, and literature have become a replacement for religion. Instead of going to church to worship the living God and risen Savior, they go to a grave in hopes of communing with a dead artist. Apparently they think they have found a vine that can supply what only Jesus Christ can supply.
The same must be said of those who care nothing for Christ and the Word of God but claim to commune with God in nature.
When Jesus calls Himself the true Vine, He warns against trying to draw life from any source other than Himself. Recreation, hobbies, and work are all good and useful, but when a person neglects worship and Bible study in favor of them, isn’t that trying to get life out of some vine other than Christ?
By Word and sacrament Christ nourishes and strengthens our vital faith connection to Him. The result: much fruit—good works that glorify God.
“Portraits of Christ” in John’s Gospel:
Ch. 1 The Son of God
Ch. 2 The Son of Man
Ch. 3 The Divine Teacher
Ch. 4 The Soul-Winner
Ch. 5 The Great Physician
Ch. 6 The Bread of Life
Ch. 7 The Water of Life
Ch. 8 The Defender of the Weak
Ch. 9 The Light of the World
Ch. 10 The Good Shepherd
Ch. 11 The Prince of Life
Ch. 12 The King
Ch. 13 The Servant
Ch. 14 The Consoler
Ch. 15 The True Vine
Ch. 16 The Giver of the Holy Spirit
Ch. 17 The Great Intercessor
Ch. 18 The Model Sufferer
Ch. 19 The Uplifted Savior
Ch. 20 The Conqueror of Death
Ch.21 The Restorer of the Penitent