“There are two remarkable things about the vine. There is not a plant of which spirit can be so abundantly distilled as the vine. And there is not a plant that so soon runs into wild wood, that hinders its fruit, and therefore needs the most merciless pruning. I look out of my window on large vineyards. The chief care of the vinedresser is the pruning. You may have a trellis vine rooting so deep in good soil that it needs neither digging, nor fertilizing nor watering, but pruning it cannot dispense with if it is to bear good fruit. Some trees need occasional pruning; others bear perfect fruit without any; the vine must have it. The more vigorous the growth has been, the greater the need for the pruning. And why? Because it would consume too much of the sap to fill all the long shoots of last year’s growth. The sap must be saved up and used for fruit alone.” Andrew Murray
I think most of my life I misunderstood the verses in John 15 about pruning. I remember thinking pruning was some kind of punishment or part-random/part-divine hacking away of something I held dear to make me a better Christian. We are living through a pretty historic time when it may be easy to attribute our hardships to a finger-wagging God that is fed up with our disobedience and dishonor of His name. That may be collectively true to some point, godlessness creates a vacuum that inevitably will be filled with all kinds of evil things, sickness included. However, for a Jesus-loving Christian, that’s little comfort. Is God just hacking away at our lives to teach us a lesson? Or is there some method to this madness? Where there has been a great growth, there needs to be much thoughtful pruning. It’s a wonderful thing to understand that our Vinedresser is not acting at random, or in reaction to events, but in fact, He is most thoughtful about where He applies the shears.
The whole point of pruning is that we are able to bear more fruit (v.2). For those that have some, He wants more. For those with much fruit, He desires there to be fruit in abundance. We may become comfortable with our very long branches and beautiful green leaves, but Jesus knows these are not the things we need. Last year’s growth may have been amazing, but we need to be cut back to allow the new to come. What a convicting thought that those big branches we grow and hold on to only suck up the energy needed for new fruit. They spread the vine too thin to grow anything worthwhile.
I think it’s difficult for us sometimes to understand that what Jesus wants from us is fruit in great abundance. We are worried about how we look, how leafy we are compared to some other vine, and things totally unrelated to His goal for us. I for one, was quite attached to all my leafy things before this pandemic hit. They were good things. Activities, events, calendars full of good things… but lots and lots of leaves. The thought of being cut back to almost nothing makes us cringe, but here we are, feeling small and exposed. Once new growth begins though, the sky is the limit. Come harvest time, that naked little vine becomes the greatest treasure because it yields much fruit.
This is a passage I come back to time and time again because it reminds me that I never need to fear this process or the Vinedresser. We are “already clean because of His word” (v.3) and therefore have no need to worry about His intentions toward us. We aren’t being chastised when we are cut back, we are actually being cared for and loved. It’s difficult for us to let go of all that extra stuff, but the Vinedresser demands it. It’s such an amazing analogy that the vine can produce the finest wine but at the same time go completely wild if not tended to properly.
We will go wild if not cut back. Our sap will be wasted on leaves instead of fruit. Jesus wants us to have deep roots in Him that get stronger with each season.
“There have always been a smaller number of God’s people who have sought to serve Him with their whole hearts, whereas the majority have been content with a very small measure of the knowledge of His grace and will. And what is the difference between this smaller inner circle and the many who do not seek admission to it? We find it in the words ‘much fruit’. With many Christians the thought of personal safety remains to the end the one aim of their religion. The honest longing for much fruit does not trouble them. We need not judge others. But we see in God’s word everywhere two classes of disciples. Let there be no hesitation as to where we take our place.” The True Vine
The promises for us in John 15 are widespread and quite incredible. He simply asks that we give ourselves over to being a branch. As we allow the Vinedresser to do His work, as we submit to the seasons of growth and rest, we become fruitful just the way He intended. The world needs disciples who are ready to go all-in and bear ‘much fruit’. We’ve become too content with small, cheap fruit. It’s like settling for Asti Spumante when you could be having Dom Perignon. Champagne is my love language, so let me just say that’s a very large difference. Don’t settle for less. Let Jesus take away everything that is making you grow wild and leafy… let Him cut you back so in time you can produce good and lasting fruit.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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 NKJV
Featured Image by Alex Gorbi