By Claire Eva, Assistant Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: The message of the vine and the branches is one of incomparable intimacy. It paints a picture of a symbiotic relationship.
Intertwined. I remember the early movings of our first child—that little flutter that felt like a tiny fish stirring inside. What happens during this miraculous process? Science tells us that within the mother’s womb a special organ called the placenta transfers oxygen and food from the blood of the mother to the blood of the embryo. Reversely, it transfers waste materials from the embryo to the mother. The fetus does not have to breathe or eat because the oxygen and food it needs is brought to it via the placenta. This new life uses the mother’s lungs, digestive organs and kidneys to sustain it during development.
As I think of how God devised such a beautiful and intimate connection, I realize that the message of the vine and the branches is also one of incomparable intimacy. It paints a picture of a symbiotic relationship. Symbiotic simply means life together—a life that Jesus wants to share with His very own.
Jesus’ vine analogy is carefully couched in John, chapters 13 through 17.
In these pages Jesus continuously shares Himself with His own. He says, I have told you everything that the Father has shared with me (Jn 15:15). And what was the intent of His words? Firstly, to comfort His friends, to reassure them of His presence in spite of the upcoming trials. He says, ?Do not let your hearts be troubled. I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again ...You will be with Me ...You know the way for I am that way ...You will grieve but your grief will be turned to joy.?
Secondly, Christ’s desire is to tell them of the coming Spirit. He says it in
numerous ways. One such way is: ?I will send you another counselor to be with you forever.? And then, observing a nearby vine, Jesus continues to illustrate His point: ?I am the true vine ? Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine, and neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me? (Jn 15:1, 4).
The nature of things. What is the nature of this vine? History tells us that the Jewish nation valued the noble vine, comparing it to
?Jesus is not merely like a vine, He is more,? says Lenski in his Bible commentary. He is the original Vine. And G. Campbell Morgan says, ?Are we not at least inclined to think that our Lord said? ?I am the main stem of the vine ? and you are the branches?’ As a matter of fact, He said nothing of the kind. He said, ?I am the vine.’ What is the vine? The root, the main stem, the branches, the tendrils, the leaves and the fruit. The vine is not complete in its branches ?The vine is everything! Jesus said ? ?You are parts of Myself, united in a union so close and definite that I am incomplete apart from you, as you are incomplete apart from me.’?
What does it mean to remain in Him? Christ says, ?On that day, you will realize that I am in the Father and you are in me, and I am in you? (Jn 15:20). Envision with me three concentric circles. Concentric meaning, having the same center. In John 13 through 18 Jesus uses this type of expression at least eight times—His being in God, God being in Him, Christ being in us and us being in Christ. This is at the very heart of His message.
How does Jesus define remaining? He says, ?If you remain in me and my words remain in you, what ever you wish will be given ? If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love? (Jn 15:7,9,10). What command is so important that Jesus stresses it at least three times? ?A new command I give you. Love one another as I have loved you? (13:34). ?My command is this, love each other? (15:12). And again He repeats, ?This is my command: Love each other? (15:17).
So what then is the nature of this fruit? Meditate on Christ’s words and discover. ?This much fruit is the fruit of the Spirit! But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? (Gal 5:22). And over and again in these chapters Jesus expressly stresses the first three fruits—love, joy and peace. Count His mention of joy! ?I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy maybe complete ? No one will take your joy away ?Your joy will be complete ? I say these words so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them? (15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13).
And what about peace? Jesus says: ?I have told you these things so that you may have peace. My peace I give to you. My peace lasts,? says Jesus, and it is the result of this intimate relationship we share (16:33; 14:27).
And love? Who can count? In His prayer Christ says, ?I have made you known to
Them ? in order that the love you have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them? (17:26). This fruit of the Spirit is Jesus’ love and joy and peace. ?I chose you to go and bear fruit,? He says. ?By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another? (13:35).
The name of the tree. At that time there was a great famine in the land, and in that land there was a great tree heavy with fine fruit. But no one could reach the ripening fruit. The only way to get the fruit was to know the name of the tree. So the people had a counsel and all agreed, ?Let us send the hare to the chief over the mountain. He will get the name of the tree for he is fast!? So the hare hurried over the mountain to the chief. And the chief said, ?The name of that tree is Oowangalaama. Stand under the tree and say the name and the fruit will fall.? As the hare hurried back he tripped over a root, rolled down to the bottom of the hill, and when he got up, the name was completely gone out of his head.
Next they said, ?Let us send the springbok for he is swift, and he will not forget the word.? So the springbok rushed to the chief over the hill. The chief said, ?The name of that tree is Oowangalaama.? At once the springbok began on his hurried journey back. But along the way he tripped over an anthill, and before he could pick himself up, the name was gone out of his head. Now the people said, ?Let us send the kudu. He is stronger and he will not fall.? The kudu arrived at the chief’s kraal and the chief said to him, ?The name of the tree is Oowangalaama.? As he raced back, the kudu caught his horns in the branches of a tree and while he was trying to free himself, he forgot the word.
Now the people had another counsel. ?We will send the lion for he is swift and strong, and he has no horns to catch in trees.? And so the lion got the word and repeated it over and over. He was making good time but began to get tired, for the sun was hot. So he stopped and fell asleep under a bush. When he awakened, the name was gone. Now when the lion returned, he was too proud to admit he had failed, so he tried all kinds of names: Olengalaama, Oogoongalanga. And the angry people said, ?You don’t know the name! You are no better than the rest!? By this time, they were really desperate. So the elephant said, ?Let us send the tortoise.? And everybody laughed and laughed. He was too slow. He would never make it! But the tortoise agreed to go because not one else would. He went to his mother and asked, ?Mother, how do you keep such a word in your head??
?If you want to remember it, my son,? she said, ?Do not stop saying it for any reason.? After a long journey the tortoise reached the chief over the mountain. And he asked the chief, ?What is the name of that tree?? And the chief said, ?The name of that tree is Oowangalaama.? Again, he asked for the name, and the chief said, ?Oowangalaama.? But he didn’t stop there. He asked a third time for the name of the tree. On his way home, when he came to the root he stepped over it and said, ?Oowangalaama.? When he came to the anthill he walked around it and said, ?Oowangalaama.? When he arrived home his wife said, ?You are tired; why don’t you rest?? But the tortoise walked on, saying, ?Oowangalaama.? As he came to the tree the people cried, ?Tell us, tell us, what is the name of the tree!? The tortoise composed himself and said, ?Oo, Oowangalaama.? And immediately the fruit began to fall, and the people ate and they were hungry no longer.
Healing of nations. In the beginning was the Word, and at the middle, and in the end! Our work is to remain in the Word, never letting Him out of our minds and hearts-with our gaze fixed upon His matchless beauty. For it is by beholding Him that we become changed. And as we remain, the fruit that falls at the Spirit’s prompting—healing, nourishing fruit—will be much fruit. Fruit directly from the original Vine. The Christ who draws all men and women to Himself is our Life. His consuming joy is to produce in us fruit for our healing and for the healing of the nations. For don’t you know that you, too, are a member of the healing profession?