‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes* to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed* by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become* my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
They are walking now through the Kidron valley, between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. And Jesus stops there, within the ancient vineyard, and points out to them the vines bearing fruit. Here, at least, it seems that everyone understands that he is speaking not just of the physical vines before him, but is speaking of the relationship with the Father. The Father is the owner of the vineyard, the grower of the plants; Jesus is the plant, the root, the solid trunk – as if the entire vineyard came from one plant, from one stock, and must stay connected to that stock. The disciples are the vines growing out of that plant. They rely on the roots for nourishment; without the nourishment that comes through the roots, they will wither and die. The same, of course, is true for us – without the nourishment of the Spirit, we wither and die spiritually.
Some of the branches, however, although they produce luxuriant foliage, never produce fruit. Those the farmer will prune; they are not useful branches. Sometimes he prunes a part of a branch so that the remainder may be more productive – just as we prune a rose bush that is getting out of hand growing in odd directions, so that it will produce more flowers. The word for pruning (“Every branch that has fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit”) and for cleansing (“You have already been cleansed by the word I have spoken to you.”) are words from the same Greek root. Once again, the author is playing with words to make the point, the word of Christ is the cleansing, as well as the nourishment, that we need.
“Whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit.” Fruitfulness depends on abiding in Christ – to abide means to remain in relationship in Christ. We think today of these words as reflective of a personal salvation, and they are. But we also do well to remember that the author is speaking to the community – they must love one another; they must abide in Christ and in the community. It is necessary to remain in relationship to Christ and to one another in the community of the church in order to be fruitful. In the intertwining of the love of Christ and the Father, the Christian community is shaped by love. Those who bear fruit are those whose lives reflect love, of one another and of the neighbor, and of Jesus.
The photo attached is of the Kidron Valley, looking towards Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It is mostly a cemetery today.