Of vines, viticulture and Life!
Vines take work-especially those that produce fruit, like grapevines. Viticulture has become big business in the state of California, where we produce a whopping 80 percent of all U.S. wines.1 Jesus himself taught the first viticulture class to his best friends, though his timing seems odd. Indeed it seems strange that though Jesus knew his end was near - as that very night he would be arrested - he took the time to talk about vines and branches.
Last words are important, and Jesus' closest friend does a masterful job immortalizing some of his last words. Here is John chapter 15 - so much meaning, application, love and hope: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2015&version=CSB&interface=print
Lean a little closer now, Friend, and let's pay extra close attention to these words of our Lord: 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.
Jesus must surely have picked up a cluster of grapes, with twisting tendrils of vine and green leaves, then talked about how pruning is necessary in order for the fruit to grow and flourish. Buttoday I should like to back it up a little further, to this verse four above ~>before there is even a thought of producing fruit, there must be life in that vine. "There can be no reproduction without proper connection."2
It is easy to skip right over the first basic principle Jesus was teaching his men here, also meant for you and me 2,000 years later: we must stay connected to him for life and for strength.
This past week, I climbed a ladder and thinned puny fruit from my apricot tree, in order to make the rest of the fruit larger and juicier. I cut off small branches so that more of the water would go to the main fruit-bearing limbs than those which contained no fruit. As soon as the little branches were cut from the tree, their leaves grew dull, then they withered, then they died. No connection, no life.
Believer, so it is with you and me. Jesus is life. When we first place our faith in him, we are grafted into that life, the Holy Spirit of God making our souls his home. Ergo, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us... read that again because that is a mind-boggling truth! The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. 3
Over and over again in the gospels we see Jesus inviting us to Come to him...4 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest ~ to Abide...5 Abide in Me, and I in you...
Why? Why does Jesus invite us to him, invite us to rest in him, invite us to come? Because he knows we get distracted and we look the other way. He knows life gets busy and we neglect getting into his presence where there is life, hope, peace and joy. We forget. And guess what? It weakens us. The longer we are away from the Source of life, the weaker we get, and we cast about without our moorings.
The other day I was watering my front garden and chatting with my neighbor and friend, Bill. He made a comment that "the best thing God ever gave us was free will; and the worst thing he ever gave us was free will". See God offers us the vine, Jesus - abundant and flourishing life - but he does not tie us with twine to him. (that's what a gardener does right? Carefully ties the little shoots and trains them the way they should go, the way they should grow in order to have their best life) Jesus invites us Come. Stay. Tarry awhile. Make your home with me. I came that you might have life . . . abundant life, Jesus said.6
How's your connection to Jesus? You can't lose it! Open your Bible (read John 15 from the link I provided earlier in this briefing), spend a few minutes in prayer...get into God's presence. You will walk away stronger, more assured that God is with you. Go ahead ... strengthen your connection today.
1 -California Wine Institute, https://discovercaliforniawines.com/media-trade/statistics/
2 - a great word by a brother I found on line https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j21O0HmTAK0
3 - Romans 8.11
4 - Matthew 11.29
5 - John 15.1-7, NKJV
6 - John 10.10