Wednesday 05 May 2010

Bible Book:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit." (v.1-2)

John 15:1-8 Wednesday 5 May 2010


The image of the vine and the branches was a common image inmany Mediterranean cultures during Jesus' time, so both Jews andnon-Jews alike would have understood the metaphor that Jesus usedin this passage.

Jewish people would have thought of an image that is used a numberof times in Hebrew Scripture, particularly in Isaiah5:1-7, where the people of Israel and Judah are called "thevineyard of the Lord". The Isaiah passage complains that, ratherthan doing justice, Israel and Judah killed and shed blood instead.Using the vineyard image, they produced wild grapes and not goodgrapes.

Today's passage from John is a metaphor that Jesus employed withhis disciples just before he was taken to his trial andcrucifixion. So what might this image from Isaiah mean for thedisciples in that particular circumstance? In previous passages,Jesus has been talking about his relationship with God as well aswith the disciples (which includes the wider community ofbelievers). He has also been talking about the centrality of love.Love, Jesus said, is his new commandment (John13:34).

This metaphor serves to reinforce what Jesus has been sayingpreviously: that what he does is in obedience to God, just as thegrapevine necessarily yields to the gardener. Jesus has also beenexhorting his disciples to follow his example, and stay grafted onto the vine. And following Jesus' example means to engage in worksof love, something that the disciples will be able to do as theydraw energy from 'abiding' in him.

Metaphors can be powerful things and this image of Jesus as thevine and his followers as the branches is a favourite image formany followers of Jesus. Branches draw nourishment and sustenancefrom the vine and disciples of Jesus today often find that there issomething about following him that gives courage and strength indifficult times. Yet the commandment to bear the fruit of love isalso there, and those who do not do so will be pruned.

To Ponder

How does the image of the vine and the branchesspeak to you about the relationship between Jesus and hisfollowers? What images can you think of that might be moreappropriate to the 21st century?

How might a person reconcile the commandment toreflect God's loving behaviour with the image of a God who prunesunproductive branches from the vine?

In what way does God 'prune' Jesus' followers sothat they can be better disciples?

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