I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Before we explore the nature of the True Vine I want us to explore the purpose of the parable: Was it to encourage production, performance, or perfection? Was it only to give a scathing indictment of wild and woody branches? Was it a lecture on sound horticultural practices?
I am going to go out on a limb and say No. And that is where Jesus begins. He doesn't begin the parable to explain how we can perform better or how we can produce more or how we can persist, heal, or overcome. He begins with the Source by which we may do all these things. Religion is useless, production is vain, work is wearisome, unless it be from and for the glory of Christ.
As you read the first seventeen verses of the chapter note that they all go back to verse 1, specifically to this first phrase, "I am the true vine." The meaning, method, and message of every verse returns to one this one truth.
The Greek phrase that John chooses here for "the true vine" is the "he alethinos ampelos," which is the straightforward mirror image in English. He simply means "the," and indicates uniqueness and exclusivity. There is no other true vine through which we receive life; not of works, not of religion, not of winning souls. Our life is merged with the life of Christ within us (Romans 6:3-4).
Alethinos conveys the idea of being completely genuine to the name given to describe it, the complete opposite of anything fictitious or counterfeit. Not only is Jesus exclusively the source and the means of our reconciliation and rejuvenation, but He also exists as The Vine in its purest and most effective sense.
The ampelos that Jesus refers to is the lifeblood of the branches. They live by no other life and produce through no other sap.
Often times, as branches, we search for peace, comfort, retribution, or reward through every medium except for that which is true and genuine and nourishing. We try to alter our personalities, change our view of the world, or shift the mere circumstantial fabric of our lives. Christ's spirit does not pulse through our branches for convenience or luxury, but as the ultimate resource and help-meet: the living complement to our spiritual depravity.
Perhaps instead of striving to be a good branch or a productive branch, we should start by asking ourselves, "Am I living in the True Vine through the blood of Jesus, or am I fabricating a spirituality based on my own wisdom and tradition?"
Father, help us this day and everyday to realize that it is through submission to the vine that fruit is produced and that any fruit not produced of the vine is in vain. Please help us to rest and abide and seek comfort and nourishment in Christ Jesus through His Blood, His Word, and His Spirit. Bring us close to Him alone, the only cause for comfort, the only Truth, Light, and Hope for all man. Before we act, before we produce, before we wind about wildly, bind us up to simply commune with Him.