The grape vine was the first plant in Biblical history recorded as cultivated. It was a symbol of fruitfulness and its harvest season was a time of joyous festivity. When He spoke, Jesus used vines to explain spiritual truths. For example, pruning a vine involved four things. Let’s take a look at them.
1: The Vine Itself
Jesus referred to vines because the people He spoke to understood them well. Vines grew in every part of Israel. The Israelite system of agriculture was to grow wheat, vines and olives together. The balance of the three crops varied with the different regions; and the different rhythm of the agricultural year. Vines were necessary to sustain life.
2: The Vine’s Foundation
Vines must “grab on” to something to grow. I live in Georgia, the Kudzu capitol of the world, and when someone says Kudzu covered their car overnight, I can almost believe it. Down here we’re used to seeing entire groves of trees covered in Kudzu. Kudzu grows up telephone poles and along fences, over bridges and up underneath the eaves of the house. It doesn’t grow straight up like a sunflower. If it finds nothing to cling to it spreads out all over the ground. It needs a base. We Christians need a firm base for our spiritual lives. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
3: The Vine’s Season
Grapes do not spring forth fully mature and ripe. They take time to grow. A wise vinekeeper tastes the grapes before he picks them, to ensure they’re sweet. At the local grocery, the produce department puts out sample grapes for shoppers to taste. One or two bites reveals immediately if the grapes are ready to eat (and buy). Before grapes are in season they are bitter and leave a dry feeling on the teeth. Buy a pound in season and you will savor every bite. Sometimes, we want to hurry up the things of God. This results in corrupt fruit. There is “a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted…” (Ecclesiastes 3:2) God is rarely early, but He is never late. To put forth good fruit, it must ripen according to God’s timetable.
4: The Person Who Prunes The Vine
The KJV calls this person the husbandman, from the word husbandry, which meant gardening. John 15:1-2 quotes Jesus, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” If we’re part of the vine and we’re clinging to Jesus, then we can expect to be cut back from growing in a direction which will not enable us to bear fruit.
Matthew 7:16-20 has much to say about the vine also. “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Hosea 14:7-8 – “They that dwell under His shadow shall return: they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, what have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found.”
To be a Christian is to be born again – to become a vine. To be a Christian is to grow on the foundation of Christ. To be a Christian is to grow in spiritual maturity. And to be a Christian is to feel God’s hand on your life. He is the perfect gardener – faithful, skilled, determined, gentle. When the sting of pruning shears enters our lives, we can be sure it is to help us change direction, seek to deepen our roots, and to bring us closer to our foundation: the Lord Jesus Christ.