Summary: If we are going to grow deeper, pruning must occur from time to time. While it may be painful, it is much better than the alternative. Pruning is necessary if we plan to grow deeper.
“I heard it through the Grapevine”
There we were sitting in the middle of our neighbor’s back yard. There was no fence and we were certainly allowed to be there but what we were doing wasn’t really allowed. Our neighbor grew a variety of things in his back yard and one of those things was watermelon. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like watermelon. I was about 6 at the time.
That day in the hot sun I remember we took that watermelon which had not gotten very big—I pulled it from the vine and smashed it on a rock to break it open. And the feast began. I think it was one of my brothers who was with me and we there we sat in the hot sun eating hot watermelon. It was not until later in life that I learned two things about watermelon. (1) Watermelon is really better served cold. The colder the better. Something about refrigeration brings out the flavor. (2) Watermelon tastes much better if you let it fully develop and grow to it’s full size. When you allow fruit to stay on the vine and ripen the flavor is much better. When you yank it from the vine to early the fruit is not as good — because the fruit simply is not ready. Or it can also happen if you leave the fruit on the vine too long. It can become rotten and then it serves no purpose.
We’ve all had that experience before I suppose … biting into a piece of fruit that’s not really ready—not ripe—it’s hard rather than soft—the taste has not developed and perhaps you have also picked an apple to eat and quickly took a bite only to discover a dark spot or worse, you find a hole where a worm has gone in. When either of these things happen it’s not ripe or it’s rotten we usually just toss it and get rid of it.
The picture I have just described is much like the picture the scripture describes in John 15. In this passage we get a picture of 3 things. And here they are. The gardener. The vine and the fruit.
Vv. 1-2. So we learn right away here what two of these represent. (1) he says my father is the gardener. (2) Jesus is the true vine. How many of you have ever grown a garden? Not me. But I have benefitted from the gardens that others have grown. I’ve had people bring me fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, okra. So there are definitely benefits to having one. Jesus begins this passage by giving us these words. He says I am the true vine. It occurs to me as soon as I read this verse that there is a good reason why Jesus tells us that He is the true vine. This tells me that there are others out there who may also claim to be the vine and they are false vines; they are false sources of information. Jesus wants us to understand that there may be many vines but there is only one true vine and He is it. And He reminds us again in v. 5… “I am the vine.”
Now the vine, specifically grapevine can be defined in a couple of ways. It is a vine on which grapes grew but we also know it as a way that gossip or a rumor can be spread. Someone tells us something that we think doesn’t sound just right and we say just where did you hear that and they say oh I just heard it through the grapevine. The message is this. A grapevine contains something; information that can be true or false, something helpful; something hurtful; but the bottom line is it is like a highway to transport something from one place to another. Jesus as the vine becomes our source of life.
Now He has told us that His father is the gardener. Our heavenly Father is the gardener and he shows us two things the gardener does to the branch.
(1) If the branch does not bear any fruit, he cuts the branch off…it’s useless.. so He removes it. Now why is that? It’s simple. The purpose of the vine is to bear fruit. If it doesn’t it’s not fulfilling it’s purpose so the gardener takes one of His tools and the scripture says He cuts it off—any of the branches that lack fruit…He removes.
Now sometimes we try to take on this job. Somebody’s not doing what they are supposed to, so whack—we just cut them off. Could be a family member, could be an employee, might be a friend but we somehow determine that they are no longer any good and whack they’re gone. We need to remember it’s not our place to do that. That is the role of the gardener and you and I are not the gardener. It’s not our place to judge someone for what they are doing or not doing in Kingdom work.