Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide 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. I 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.”
I was once uneasy about Jesus’ words in today’s scripture. I was troubled when Jesus says that the Father, the vine-grower, “removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.” I was fearful that I did not have enough “fruit” and the Father might “remove” me. I was anxious that I did not measure up.
Then I began reading Jesus’ words in the original Greek and understood His words differently. The word “removes” is a translation of the Greek verb airo that can also be translated as “lift up”. Translated this way it would mean that the Father “lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit.” (Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the New Testament) In fact, airo is translated in other portions of John’s Gospel as “lift up” (e.g. 5:8; 8:59; 11:41). R. K. Harrison writes in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia about the need for drooping branches to be “raised up” with meticulous care so they can heal. The vine-grower looks for branches that are not bearing fruit and lifts them up on a trellis or stake so they will receive needed sunlight and air and bear fruit.
John G. Mitchell writes in his commentary on John’s Gospel about the meaning of the Greek verb airo and the importance of the vine-grower “lifting up” a branch to bear fruit:
“What is the purpose of the husbandman? He goes through the vineyard looking for fruit. But here is a branch on the ground, not bearing any fruit. What does he do? Cut it off? No. He raises it up, so the sun can shine on it, and the air can get to it. Then it will bear fruit…The husbandman must come along and lift the branch, raising it up and bringing the individual believer back into fellowship in order that he or she might bear fruit. God’s purpose is to gather fruit, not render judgment.” (John G. Mitchell, An Everlasting Love: A Devotional Study on the Gospel of John)
As God’s purpose is to produce fruit, He will also prune fruitful branches so they will bear even more fruit: “Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” Our wise and loving vine-grower prunes away disease, sucker shoots, and damaged tissue that hinder the growth of juicy grapes.
I am always reticent about pruning bushes and trees, fearing I will harm them. But come springtime I am reminded that pruning is essential to all living things, especially humans. The loving Father carefully, meticulously prunes away those things in our lives that hinder our fruitfulness. He lifts us up!
- How have I experienced God’s pruning?
- How might I now be experiencing God’s pruning?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)