A Unique Thought On The Vine and the Branches (John 15)

One of the passages I’ve heard used a lot when it comes to our relationship with Jesus is John 15. Jesus talks about the fact that He is the Vine, we are the branches and, if we want to bear fruit, we need to remain in Him. We can’t bear fruit by ourselves; we need to stay connected to Him.

I’ve heard that passage referenced in many sermons and talks and I’ve used it a number of times myself. It’s a clear image of how we grow in our relationship with Jesus.

Recently I started reading Beth Guckenberger’s latest book Start With Amen. In one chapter she offers a unique perspective on the opening verses of the chapter.

In verse 2 of John 15, Jesus says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

One view of that verses – and the view that I had – is that if a branch doesn’t bear fruit, the gardener cuts it off. The one that bears fruit he prunes. If the branch is not producing, it will be cut off.

Guckenberger admits doesn’t know much about pruning and tending vines (neither do I). She writes that she had the opportunity to listen to a Bible teacher talk about this passage while they were in an actual vineyard. She retells that a vinedresser, when coming across a branch that is laying on the ground and it’s fruit is drying up, wants to protect the future potential of the vine. So instead of cutting off the branch, the gardener would take a small wooden stake and prop up the vine, with the hope that it would receive sunlight and moisture and learn to grow more fruit.

The Greek word used in this passage is airo. It could be translated as “cut off,” but also as “pick up.” Guckenberger points to other scripture passages that translate the word as “pick up.” The potential take away is that instead of cutting off the branch that is not bearing fruit, the vinedresser picks it up.

That is a pretty cool picture of what Jesus does for us. We don’t always bear fruit. We sometimes go through seasons where maybe we wander away, we lose focus, we are overwhelmed by difficult circumstances (among other things) and we don’t produce fruit. Because Jesus sees the potential in us, because He is able to see into our future, He picks us up, brings us into the light so we can learn to bear fruit again.

I’m sure there are times where a branch needs cut off, but Jesus also demonstrated compassion and care and picked up people who were struggling, hurt and bruised.

What a great reminder that The Vine doesn’t just look for branches to cut off, but invites us to stay connected to Him. He sees the potential fruit in us and picks us up so we can learn to once again bear fruit.

Problems = Potential

In our staff meeting today, we were talking about leadership styles and drawing some thoughts from a book one of our staff members read called Jesus CEO.  Part of the time was spent talking about different leadership styles, but then we talked about “wilderness experiences.”  We were all asked to think about a difficult experience we have gone through that has helped us identify our gifts.

As we were talking, I thought about a chapter out of Mark Batterson’s In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day.  I read this book a few years ago and am re-reading it now (review coming soon).

In one of the chapters I read over the weekend Batterson wrote this:  “I have a theory:  The more problems you have, the more potential you have to help people.  One of the most paralyzing mistakes we make is thinking that our problems somehow disqualify us from being used by God.  Let me just say this:  If you don’t have any problems, you don’t have any potential.”

All of us have problems (most of which I’m sure we wouldn’t post in a blog), but it was reassuring that in spite of our problems, God still sees potential in us.  Rather than allowing our wilderness experiences to force us to feel disqualified, we can see them as tools God uses to refine us.  Think I’m still learning that one.