By Brock Bondurant
John 15:1-17 v.1 – I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
In most stories, when a character has comprehension of their soon-coming death, they tend to offer up some final words that are meaningful, inspiring, and perhaps give a glimpse of what’s to come. Jesus of Nazareth offers something similar in John 13-17, gathering those nearest and dearest to him to share his final words prior to his temporal parting. It’d be safe to assume that these words may be among the most important that Jesus shares with his disciples, both then and now.
Among Jesus’ last earthly teachings in Scripture is John 15:1-17. This can be quickly recognized as the passage where Jesus says the words “vine,” and “abide (or remain)” about 87 times each. Now Jesus, being the most brilliant teacher who ever lived, probably had something to say in his repetition that we’d be smart to seek to understand. So, join me in a journey through this passage to do just that. But the way I’ve approached Scripture in the past won’t do it. I tend to approach the Bible more like a textbook with a topic to master, information to learn, and my own agenda to affirm, rather than letting the Bible master and form me. Informational reading is great and needed, but what might God want to say to me that I’m missing when I approach his Word to conquer it?
I’m beginning with verse 1: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser,” says Jesus. First thing I hear is that I, no matter how much I like to think so, am NOT the true vine – Jesus is. People do not need to abide in me. More of me is not what is needed. So even those that may come to me for guidance or direction, need to know the true vine – they need an encounter with Jesus, not with me.
I’m also reminded that even as I am not the true vine, neither is any ministry or political leader, or celebrity or athlete for that matter. Our hope can’t dwell in a pastor, a presidential vote, a football coach, or an artist. These, like all people, will fail us if we try to abide in them; and that’s nothing against those ladies or gentlemen either. There is only one vine to abide in. That vine is the Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God.
The second part is a great reminder as well: “my Father is the vinedresser.” Yahweh, Father God, is the one who tends to the vine and supplies the need. He is the gardener deciding if more water, better soil, or less sunlight is needed for the branches to bear fruit in their abiding. I can’t ultimately decide what I or anyone else needs. The gardener knows more than the branch. He sees the full scene.
If you believe in a trinitarian God and need to see the entire Godhead present, look back to John 14 to understand how the Spirit is the one who empowers us to abide in the vine. The Spirit is our access to the vine who is our access to the vinedresser. He is how we experience the life-giving presence of the Son and, in turn, Father.
These are just a couple things the Spirit brought to my mind as I approached this scripture. We all may thank the Lord that I am not the vine, nor the vinedresser. This is a daily check for me that I am not the point of the story of Scripture. I can bear no fruit on my own. I am simply a branch invited into a loving relationship, into the ongoing dance of the Trinity. I’d be wise to just partner with the vine and let the fruit be born as it will.