It’s been a while (too long, really) since I dove into a passage of scripture. Let’s discuss John 15:1-8 and why it’s important all the time but particularly now. The gardening imagery and symbolism gives us a lot to chew on–bearing fruit, being pruned, growth in general, abundance and vitality (the abundance of God’s grace and blessings, how the Word is refreshing and rejuvenating), simply being alive (and how cool it is that nature is technically alive), appreciating the inexplicable wonder and beauty of creation (and how God values us more than all that), etc.
A few words on the Book of John
The Book of John stands apart from the other gospels in a couple ways. Mark is the shortest gospel with a handful of parables and the most crucial details of Jesus’s ministry. Though Matthew and Luke each have some passages unique to their books, they are basically two sides of the same coin. Oversimplifying the contrast a bit: Matthew was a jew speaking to jews, and Luke was a gentile speaking to gentiles. Hence, we see a greater emphasis on “outsiders” in Luke and more references to Israel in Matthew. There’s more to say on their differences and what they imply, but perhaps I’ll make a post on the gospels someday. For now, let’s get back to the point–
Unlike Matthew and Luke, John is not chocked to the brim with parables, yet it’s not as short as Mark. So, what’s taking up all the space? John is a very ‘spiritual’ book. It starts of with those cryptically beautiful sentiments that in the beginning, the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The book contains a lot of theology on the relationship between God and Jesus and also great images that are unique to John–Jesus as the great shepherd, the true vine, etc. Some stories like Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and praying for them only appear in John.
Jesus=the vine, God=the gardener
In John 15, Jesus calls Himself the true vine and God the gardener. The gardener cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit and prunes those that bear fruit so they can do so more effectively. We must stay connected to Jesus, the vine, so we can continue to grow.
Of course, this is all symbolical, so what does it mean? When the phrase “bear fruit” is used in scripture, it refers to leading lives that reflect our beliefs. If we claim to love God and follow Jesus, do our actions and heart reflect that? Look at the mission and ministry of Jesus. He reached out to the marginalized–the orphan, the widow, the poor, the sick, the sinners. He modeled a posture of humility and servitude. He said that we need to take up our crosses and follow Him–not just go through the motions but make sacrifices and take risks. He calls us to forsake idols like materialism and detrimental qualities like pride and idleness. He was repulsed by arrogance, injustice, and hypocrisy. He urged people to turn away from selfishness and evil ambitions to seek true salvation through Him.
So, considering those standards, how much fruit are we bearing?
And in case we needed further clarification, Paul literally lists out “the fruits of the Holy Spirit” in a letter to the church at Galatia.
If we are connected to Jesus, the vine, we bear fruit; in other words, He guides us through the Holy Spirit to have traits like generosity, love, humility, empathy, meekness/peacemaking, patience, etc. Through the process of sanctification, we will improve upon those traits with time. God, the gardener, trims back the fruitless branches. Though we will never be perfect, He can help us become less bitter, less judgemental, less gossip-y, less lazy, less cold-hearted, less rash, less petty, less self-centered, etc.
Abide in Jesus
Jesus goes on to instruct the disciples: Abide in me.
Especially now, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and the American presidential election, we must abide in Him. If we abide in anything else–anxiety about the future, hopeless anger, a superiority complex against those we disagree with, our possessions and privileges, etc.–we can’t bear fruit, so we can’t be the light the world needs every day but especially today. Also, we won’t have that inexplicable strength and peace Jesus offers. If I get busy and don’t make time for God several days in a row, there’s a definitive difference in my spirit. I’m more easily riled up, I’m more easily stressed out. But when I abide in Jesus, I can live into His strength and peace and continue acting as the hands, feet, and face of Jesus in a divisive, uncertain environment.
Thanks for reading! Do you have anything to add about this story, the Book of John, nature imagery in scripture, etc? Let me know in the comments.
P.S. Here’s my latest video; thanks in advance to anyone who watches! I pull in so few views that I get excited about each individual one, haha.