(Today's post by Adam Cooper)
Jesus and the disciples have just finished their supper in the upper room. Judas has gone to fetch the guards and betray Jesus. Jesus has begun and is in the middle of a tremendous teaching moment with the remaining disciples. John 14:25 picks up with Jesus telling the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit and also preparing them for his death and resurrection. Before they begin the walk to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray one of His most intense and meaningful prayers in all of scripture He gives the disciples a number of nuggets of wisdom:
- He tells them “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit” will come to them when He leaves providing them comfort that even though He will no longer be with them God is sending them the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus to be their guide.
- He tells them He leaves them peace and He leaves them in peace. Again comforting them going so far as to tell them to not be troubled and “do not be afraid.”
- He again reiterates that He is leaving and is telling them that letting Him go in peace is a sign of their love for Him.
- He tells them that what he is telling them will be proof to them that He is who He has said He is.
- He warns them about the “prince of this world”, satan, and makes sure that they understand that satan does not control Him but God alone is who sent Him.
As Jesus and the disciples leave the upper room and begin their walk to the garden Jesus begins to speak to them again imparting wisdom. Knowing that a great deal of the first hearers of this story will be from a primarily agrarian society Jesus uses imagery that He knows they will all understand. He begins to talk about the vineyard and the vineyard keeper and how, in order to make sure each vine produces its best, the vineyard keeper must prune off branches that are unhealthy. Jesus describes Himself as the vine and God as the vineyard keeper. He is telling the disciples that if they remain in Him they will grow and flourish and bear fruit. He is also cautioning them that if they do not remain in Him they will be as useless as the limbs that the vineyard keeper clips off the vine and throws to the ground. He is telling them to remember His teachings, remember His words and His lessons, and if they do, and live by those words and lessons they will be productive for the kingdom of God. For a primarily agrarian society this would have been easily understood; however, I believe that we sometimes lose the meaning of this small bit of Scripture.
Understand for a minute the intent of the pruning of the vines: On every vine you will have limbs that produce good grapes and some that either produce smaller grapes or no grapes at all. These sub-standard limbs suck nourishment from the main vine and do not use it effectively. BY pruning off these sub-standard limbs the nourishment that would have been sucked off by them is made available to make the better producing limbs that much more effective. But how does this basic gardening wisdom apply to our lives?
The good thing is that Jesus actually told us in these verses. Jesus is the vine. He supplies us with our nourishment through His word and teachings. As Christians we can take that nourishment and use it and produce fruit for His kingdom OR we can live our lives going through the motions without intent and become withered and ineffective like those sucker limbs that the gardener lops off and allows to fall to the ground. Along a similar thought we can also have “nourishment suckers” in our lives. Those things that we do that do nothing to further the kingdom of God. Those things that sap our time and energy and prevent us from becoming as surrendered to God as we should be.
Just like it is important for us to use the nourishment we get from God’s word to produce for the kingdom of God we must also prune those things from our lives that minimize the effectiveness of the nourishment we do receive. We must learn to abide in Christ and realize that abiding is an active verb. It takes action to abide and this action is daily study of the Word (receiving nourishment), prayer without ceasing, loving God with all of your heart, mind, and soul, and loving others like you love yourself (remembering Christ’s teachings and living them out).
As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow remember why you are thankful: we have a God that loves us so much He gave His Son to die for our sins. Evaluate your lives and prune those “nourishment suckers” so that you can be as effective for God’s kingdom as He intends you to be.