Jesus, the True Vine and the Branches A Unique Relationship of Jesus and the Saved
Although many names and descriptions of Jesus are used in the Bible, they typically have reference to His relationship to the church. The agricultural references are very frequent since most of the people at the time were most familiar with these relationships. As we think of Jesus as The Vine, we will recall the song often sung, “I Am the Vine and Ye are the Branches.
From the Old Testament, such passages as Psa. 80, Isaiah 5, and Jeremiah 2, Israel is depicted as a vine. But it usually depicts Israel as an unkempt vineyard, essentially “gone to seed”. Yet the image of Jesus and the church shows a very close, nurturing relationship. Such a relationship exists for our benefit today.
The vine is the supporting vessel for the branches. Vines must have proper soil, climate, rain and sunshine and other elements. Jesus is the Father's Son and is in control of all things. The Vine is fully and unquestioningly fully supported to provide all the strength we need in our sustaining source. In trees, the tree trunk and branches are more clearly defined and distinct, often growing to appear to be almost separate entities. But with a vine, the branches grow straight from the vine, with very little distinguishing them from the vine itself. The branches are kept very close to the nurturing vine, so close it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. Our relationship with Jesus should be this way –such that it is difficult to distinguish between the nature and conduct of the vine (Jesus) and the branches (individuals in the church). We all know that the image of the church is a body (I Cor. 12) with many members, each one working in unison with others to support a healthy, functioning body. In this sense, the branches of a vine also serve a vital function to keep the entire vine alive. While the vine itself nourishes the branches, the branches must produce the flower and/or fruit that are a product of the nourishment supplied by the vine. This relationship may be considered and should be considered within the church as well. The church is a protecting, nurturing environment for individual members to grow, mature, and thrive in order to produce the fruit sought by Jesus. From Heb. 5 we have confidence that Jesus will never leave us unprotected. From 1 Cor. 10:13 we know Jesus will provide protection for us when temptation comes. No temptation is able to overcome us because our “Vine” is protecting us.
Jesus is our vine, supporting us as part of the system of branches that produces fruit. As branches, we cannot accomplish anything alone, for we are totally dependent on Jesus for our spiritual nourishment and life. He supplies and sustains the life of all the branches as noted in Gal.2:20. The implications of this relationship are important for us to understand and obey in producing fruit. If the branches are properly cared for, as a vigilant husbandman would do, the relationship will be fruitful. Pruning, removing diseased branches, fertilizing, watering, supporting and repairing the branches is critical to their ability to survive, grow vigorous, and produce valuable fruit. The forces of nature are also important, as surely every farmer/rancher knows. But those elements are surely under the control of Jesus as Lord, in the spiritual sense we are considering. As we envision a thriving vine, let us picture clearly the strong vine, the big protective (shading) leaves so lush and green, and the beautiful fruit! There can be no question that our vine is without equal in strength and purpose. “Jesus is the life and the life is the light of man”.
As branches, we have many characteristics. Not all branches are 'fruit bearers' as such, but are support branches providing shade, carbon dioxide/carbon monoxide conversion to oxygen and carbon for the benefit of the vine, the other branches, and the environment benefit. So are some in the church. Not all are created equal in all respects. Personally, I would be intimidated if I thought I had to be Brother Paul's equal in preaching, Or if I had to be like the Paul of the New Testament days. But there are other uses for the branches than just preaching, or providing shade or oxygen exchange for other vines. There are also those branches which bear fruit. I recall as a much younger fellow, being amazed that a corn stalk might produce one or two ears and then die, while an okra stalk will produce a pod of okra for practically each limb or branch. Tomatoes produce in veritable bunches. Potatoes and peanuts hide their fruit below ground but produce and amazing number of 'fruits' at maturity. Such should be our members. If properly cultivated, some will produce a couple, some will produce quite a lot, and others work tirelessly all the while producing much fruit “below the ground” or unseen at present. (Please recall the parable of the grounds from Luke 8.) Some spiritual branches are better suited for visiting the sick or bereaved. Some have particular strength in guiding/encouraging the weak to strength. Some seem to have an uncanny success in inviting others to hear the Gospel preached. Some are super in public teaching while others are vital in private teaching, counseling, encouraging. Yet others show surprising abilities making others feel comfortable and confident living like Christ. All are important. All produce spiritual fruit, and all are loved and nourished by our Lord.
The implications of this vine/branch relationship are highly important. If the branches are properly cared for, the relationship will be fruitful. If, as branches, we seek sustenance only from the True Vine we will produce fruit as God has intended.
As fruitful branches, we will be pruned, in order to bear more fruit (John 15:2). The Lord chastens those He loves, and He does so to make them better. To grow and produce more fruit, and be more active, we must abide in the vine (Jesus), for that is the source of our spiritual productivity. What a marvelous situation we find ourselves in. All that protection, nurturing, sustaining, and we are only to do that which comes naturally to each one who is IN Christ Jesus!