“I am the real vine and My Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of Me but fails to bear fruit, He cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned.” – John 15:1-3
Jesus is the vine we have been joined to by the Father. Our Father is the gardener who takes care of all the plants in the garden. The vine is planted in the soil, and gets its nutrients from the soil. Life flows into it from the soil, through every part, and into the fruit. There is no life apart from the vine. Though there are nutrients in the soil, the soil cannot produce fruit on its own; only the vine can produce fruit. Jesus said He is the real vine, which seems to imply there may be others that are not real.
The gardener is the One that tends the garden, checking the plants regularly. This involves giving them water when needed, pulling weeds that would compete for soil, water, and sunlight, getting rid of pests that would try to attack and kill the plants, and fertilizing them when necessary. It is interesting that Jesus used this analogy, given that when man was created, he was placed in a garden to tend and take care of it.
Man was created from the earth itself, from the soil which nourishes the vine. I believe this speaks of how we minister to the Lord. When He spoke to the woman at the well, asking her to give Him something to drink, perhaps He was speaking of this. He gives us life that enables us to bear fruit, and then we can satisfy His longings by producing fruit. The Shulamite in Song of Solomon spoke of being a garden that her lover comes into, to taste of the choice fruits that are there. The apostle John wrote that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). In reality, we have nothing to offer to God except that which He first gives to us.
To be cut off means to be separated from the life source. A branch that is cut off cannot continue to live, much less bear fruit. These branches, Jesus said, were part of Him, they were not some strange growth or shoot that popped out one day. They were a part of Him, but they weren’t producing any fruit. I believe this speaks of the separation that occurs when we continue in our own ways despite His attempts to draw us into life-giving intimacy. It doesn’t mean He ever leaves us, for He promised He would not. It means we have withdrawn from Him, and the feeling of being cut off is His way of getting our attention.
The Father prunes the branches that bear fruit for the purpose of producing more fruit. Both scenarios require cutting, and cutting is always painful, even when it is for good. The truth is though, the less of the branch there is, the more fruit it can produce. It doesn’t need as much sap or life force to nourish the branch and that energy can then go to the producing of fruit. He prunes off the parts of us that take energy away from the fruit, parts that are dead or dying, parts that are growing in an unruly fashion. The energy that was being directed to keep those parts alive are now being used for bearing fruit. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Pruning, when done by a master gardener, is done very carefully so as not to damage the branch. He alone knows the areas in our lives that need to be cut away, and the pruning always allows for fresh, new growth to come forth in the branch. The Word was what brought the pruning. It is able to divide between soul and spirit, judging the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The Word exposes what is in our hearts and brings forth truth because it cannot lie. It has the ability to cut away those areas that are dead, diseased, or otherwise unproductive. Jesus IS the living embodiment of the Word. He spoke the Word, and the words He spoke and continues to speak are spirit and life, flowing in us and through us as we allow them to, bearing fruit for His glory.