Life in the Vine
Have you ever seen a pothos plant grow? What’s a pothos plant, you ask? It’s the easiest plant to grow, and it looks like a vine as it slowly grows down and around things. It’s the plant that pops into my head when I hear the word vine. The first pothos I received as a gift is the only plant I’ve kept alive for more than two years, so it conjures happy thoughts for me!
When Jesus described himself as a vine (John 15), I wonder how his disciples reacted. In John 15:1-2, 5 we read,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Maybe the disciples had an image of a massive vineyard growing with luscious grapes, perfect for winemaking. (Happy thoughts.) Or maybe they remembered some of the ways God spoke through the prophets comparing Israel to his vineyard. (Not-so-happy thoughts.)
The Lord enters into judgment . . . “It is you who have ruined my vineyard; the plunder from the poor is in your houses . . .” (Isaiah 3:14).
“The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed . . .” (Isaiah 5:7).
Jeremiah 12:10 has more vineyard imagery: “Many shepherds will ruin my vineyard and trample down my field; they will turn my pleasant field into a desolate wasteland.”
If Jesus’ disciples recalled any of these prophetic utterances, it may have brought thoughts of gloom and God’s judgment, stemming from Israel’s rebellion and inability to produce fruit.
I can picture their quizzical looks as they try to process some of Jesus’ last words through the lens of their knowledge of Scripture, their different personalities, their life experiences, and all they’d experienced in their short time following him. I’m pretty certain they weren’t thinking that Jesus was about to be arrested and sentenced to death. It’s not likely they connected the dots.
In our present time, I think we too are having a hard time connecting the dots. As we wait for Jesus’ second coming, we’ve experienced A LOT in the past few years. (Maybe an understatement.) Most of us are having a hard time making sense of it.
I think the people of Israel waiting for the coming of the Messiah could relate. They experienced the consequences of their rejection of God and mistreatment of each other but also believed in the promise of what was to come.
I think the disciples could relate. They had spent the past few years with Jesus, and still they were wondering when his kingdom would be established (see Acts 1:6).
All of us—weary, worn, and sometimes just plain confused—may wonder, “What’s the point in all of this?”
In telling the disciples that he’s the true vine, Jesus affirms who they are and who they have in him—no matter what is to come. This also affirms who we are and who we have in him—no matter what is happening now or what is to come.
In Jesus we have redemption, fulfillment, and life. He alone is the true source. Only in him can we live in harmony with the Father and with each other. Jesus knew what was up ahead—opportunities for us to find our source in things, in people, and even in ourselves—and he made sure to emphasize how important it is to abide in him. We need to know that apart from him we can do nothing. We need to remember that he provides grace when we fall short, and that he promises tenderly to care for us—pruning us, cleaning us up, and never abandoning us.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for never turning your attention away from us. We repent of trying to find our source of life outside of Jesus. We repent of ways we have perpetuated injustice. Holy Spirit, show us how to abide and yield to your pruning so that we may become more fruitful. Strengthen us in our waiting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Krystle Sanders is a 30-something native of Prince George’s County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Her passion for working with underserved peoples and communities has led her into ministry and nonprofit work with children, youth, and adults with disabilities in D.C., Maryland, Oklahoma, Thailand, and India. Krystle holds a bachelor's degree in business administration with a minor in humanities as well as certificates in missions and pastoral ministry from Rhema Bible College. Krystle brings an authentic and sometimes humorous lens to her writing—that of a Christ-follower, black woman, youngest child, and xennial. Krystle spends her working time between teaching ESL virtually and learning about race equity in her current position at a black and woman-owned talent consulting organization. In her spare time she volunteers at her church, writes blogs, and hangs out with friends and family.