“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit… Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” – John 15:1-2, 4-5 CSB
My favorite Gospel is definitely the Gospel according to John. Unique and recounting many stories not contained in the other gospels, John’s recollection of the story of Jesus has touched me in ways I will never fully understand. This gospel is famous for the story of the vine and the branches. In our key verse taken from John 15, Jesus compares our relationship to him and the Father as that of a vine and its branches, calling himself the true vine, God the Father the gardener and us, his children, the branches. Why did Jesus use the metaphor of a vine and its branch to describe our relationship? And what is this pruning business all about?
Well, as it turns out, pruning is the most important step in terms of wine making. Pruning is the process of selectively removing unsuitable or extraneous canes (the portion from which comes the grapes during harvest season). This selection is based on two factors: first producing fruitful shoots in the coming season (present need) and second in choosing healthy shoot for the next dormant season (future need). Without the pruning process, a gardener would never get new fruit since it can only be produced on shoots growing from one-year-old canes. Hence, if he wants to see more grapes produced, pruning is essential. Without pruning, a gardener or winemaker can say goodbye to his vineyard, which will soon die.
Likewise, God as our gardener or winemaker has to prune us every time that season comes around. There’s simply no getting around it. The process itself is not always pleasant, yet it is the way by which we can expect to become more like Jesus, to see the fruits of the Spirit multiplying in us and be rid of our ‘fleshly’ nature and carnal ways. God has to remove the excess and unnecessary portions of us that could prevent us from growing and getting better.
Like branches of a vine, we have two options: abide in Jesus and allow God to prune us, or choose not to remain in him. Jesus clearly describes our fate based on the choice we make. If we abide or remain in Christ, we accept to be prune, to produce more fruit, quality fruit, and to be a vessel of honor for God. We also receive the incredible promise that we can “ask whatever you will and it will be done”(John 15:7). Not only will God be glorified through us, as children bearing much fruit but we will also be proven to be the disciples of Jesus. Bearing fruit is a mark of true discipleship. (verse 8)
However, if we do not abide or remain in Christ, Jesus also confirms the sad future that awaits us. Essentially, those who are not connected to the vine cannot bear fruit independently. They are thrown aside, whither away, and are thrown into a fire to burn. No unfruitful branch will remain connected to the Savior. Indeed, they must be removed from the vine.
Everything that the branches need to grow and produce more healthy fruit comes from the vine. Its roots are nourished by the essential nutrients coming from the earth. The roots receive water, soul, and vitamins which when combined with the rays of sun result in a healthy tree producing healthy branches. However, remove the branches from the tree and they cannot survive on their own. In like manner, as human beings, we are to be dependent upon Jesus who provides all that we need and is the source of godliness and righteousness. Only his grace and love can change our hearts. We cannot do it of ourselves. Only his blood is able to wash our scarlet sins to make us white as snow. We need Jesus and we must be willing to abide in him, to stay fixed on him and his love for us, waiting on him with excitement, anticipation and complete obedience. We must acknowledge and recognize our need for the Savior on a daily basis. Also, we must be able to recognize how truly privileged we are when we choose to abide in Christ. Not only is he there for us helping us to become more like him and less like our sinful selves, but God the Father also becomes available to us. The scripture tells us how God is the gardener meaning the one who cares for the vine and its branches. The gardener does the pruning, watering, and every caring activity needed to keep a healthy and prosperous tree.
Friend, when you choose to abide in Christ, God the Father takes care of you personally. He does not send a servant to care for his vineyard and branches but He does the caring himself. Every time you feel like the pruning or perfecting of your character is hard, remember that it is the Father himself who removes what no longer serves you so you can be more fruitful and prosper. The Father is caring for you as He prunes you.
Like the branches of a vine, we will all go through many seasons of pruning. God is not trying to hurt us instead He’s caring for us and loving on us. Remember that pruning must precede harvesting, so in order for you to harvest much, you must allow God to take you through the pruning process. He knows exactly how to do it, and when to do it. You see, pruning cannot be done at any given time. It is strategically done during the late winter before spring so that during spring there will be growth. In the same way, God often seems to prune us in what seem like difficult seasons so we can grow and produce much fruit in the next season.
So friend, if you’re feeling like you are in a pressing or pruning season, do not fear. God is simply preparing you and making way for growth and a more Christlike version of you. Remember, just as pruning a vine takes place on a yearly basis, we too need to be pruned often, each time becoming more like Jesus and bearing fruit in greater abundance and better quality than the previous harvest season. Therefore, next time you find yourself in a pruning season, don’t resist it. Lean into it, embrace it, and let God do his best work in you. Say yes to God, say yes to pruning, and say yes to abiding in Jesus.
Father God, I must confess that I don’t like being pruned. While you are pruning me, it feels uncomfortable and at times painful but I know that I can trust you with this process. Help me to trust you more and to abide in Jesus. I want to be more fruitful but I confess that I don’t want more pruning. Teach me to trust your ways because your ways are not my ways and your thoughts are not my thoughts. I surrender myself to you this day and choose to abide in Christ as he also abides in me, in his name I pray, Amen.