May 18 – Portraits of Jesus – I am the Vine.

PORTRAITS OF JESUS – I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

This is the last ‘I am’ statement that Jesus makes in John, and this time the metaphor turns agricultural:

 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”

John 15:1

In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was often referred to as a vine. In fact coins from one of the periods of their history have a picture of a vine on it, and the magnificent temple that Herod built for them had a massive gold vine on the front of it.

The story went something like this: Israel was a vine growing in a desert, in Egypt, suffering. God then uprooted them, cleared a space in a fertile land, and then transplanted them. He watered them, watched them grow and gave them life.

As beautiful as that picture is, this metaphor had a negative slant to it: Israel became a wild and sour vine, which was a reference to their Idol worship. It often came with a warning of judgment, that they would lose their covenant blessings if they continued in their disobedience.

When Jesus then comes and says ‘I am true vine’ he is therefore making a beautiful Gospel statement: I will be your obedience and righteousness, so that the covenant blessings can be made available to you! Everything we could not do, Jesus does for us, so that ‘in him’ we have access to all that God intended for us.

Jesus goes on to warn us however, that the means of growth, or accessing these covenant blessings, will not be easy!

 “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

John 15:2

Pruning is an act of love. It shows the care of the gardener, the desire for growth, for protection.

But it’s still a cut! It hurts!

I wonder if this coronavirus season is a season of pruning? A difficult time, but a time where God is loving us and helping us grow?

What do we focus on in this difficult pruning season then? Jesus goes on to tell us, and it’s just one thing: continue to ‘abide’ in him:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5

Let’s not miss the opportunity that this difficult pruning season brings: a chance to focus on abiding in Christ, so that the pruning process will have its full effect, so that we can experience the fulness of being in the New Covenant with Jesus.