Our home sits on ten acres of pines, maples, and tall oaks and has been in our family since my childhood. Taking walks around the property with my children, I have often found myself filled with gratitude, peace, and a sense of wonder.
“We get to live here,” I often say, as we walk the wild trails of our back woods. Wrapped in the smell of pine and the sound of the leaves crunching beneath our feet, childhood delight bubbles up from inside me and I feel the need to share it!
“We know,” my patient children respond. The tone of their voice always reminds me that we have had this conversation before. From there, our conversation ebbs and flows through topics big and small. Lessons are learned from the sturdy oak, the colorful leaves, and the beauty of God’s creation. I am thankful for this wooded classroom. I know the lessons taught here with stick with my children for years to come. Just like they stick with me.
“I am the true vine…”
During the time of Jesus’ life here on earth, Israel was known for its grapevines and olive trees. They were scattered along every countryside – a familiar sight to all who lived there. So, it is no stretch of the imagination to picture Jesus walking with His disciples past vines heavy with juicy grapes or under the shade of a large olive tree. This would have been common – much like my walks with my children through our woods.
Knowing this, it is no coincidence that when Jesus wanted to paint a picture for His disciples of what abiding in Him looked like, He would use the “vine” and it’s “branches” to define it for them – making a new concept understandable by associating it with something familiar and common-place.
We also see in scripture that God often likened His people to trees and other plants when speaking to them of their destiny. Isaiah 61:3 calls Israel an “oak of righteousness.” Jeremiah 2:21 calls Israel a “vine.” Hosea repeats this sentiment in chapter 10 verse 1.
“Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.”
Knowing that this was a “common place” and familiar topic for Israel - both in their everyday and in their communication with God over the years- adds so much to our understanding of John 15:1.
“I (Jesus) am the true vine…”
The word “true” in the original language means, “genuine, real, and sincere.” It means that He, Jesus, resembled the very nature of a vine and that, in studying the vine, Israel would uncover His character.
In a very literal sense, Jesus was saying: “I’m not just calling myself a vine. I AM your vine. This isn’t just a name. It is the very reality of who I am.”
As the “vine,” He was the part of the plant that provides “sap and productiveness,” the source and sustainer of the branch. My favorite part of the definition was the idea of the vine being the “life-giving conduit” for the plant. This is who Jesus was to Israel and who He is to us now. We can’t live without Him.
John 3:16 tells us that anyone who believes in Jesus “will not perish but have everlasting life.” In the book of John chapter 10 verse 10, Jesus says of Himself, “I have come that you may have life and may have it abundantly.” This is literally translated “life to the full.” Take a moment to let that sink in to your heart. Jesus offers us “life to the full.” No wonder He told the woman at the well that if she drank of the Living Water (Himself), she would “never thirst again (John 4:14).” Jesus is our life-source! He is our vine.
When you break a branch off of the trunk of a tree, it immediately begins to die. Why? Because life comes through the connection. Apart from the trunk, a branch cannot survive.
When Jesus called Himself the “true vine,” He was emphasizing the disciples’ complete and total dependence on Him and their desperate need for constant connection. Apart from Him, they would not survive.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
This story has always been one of my favorites. Martha often gets a bad rep, but in truth, her heart was to serve the Lord and that is a beautiful thing. However in all of her serving, Jesus said she had forgotten the “one thing that is necessary.” This word in the original Greek means, “needed,” but in a much deeper sense, it means, “that which is absolutely necessary to supply life;” the very thing that is needed “for the journey.”
Jesus was telling Martha: “Martha, I am your Vine.”
Not a day goes by that I miss a meal. Like clockwork, you will find me at the table for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even the occasional afternoon snack. Why? Because I love food and because I know I need food to survive.
Plants feels this same desperation. “Tropism” is simply the bending and turning of the plant to reach for the things that stimulate life. Last year, my children and I watched video after video in our science class of grass seeds grown in a box bending toward the light peeking through a small hole poked in the side. This led us on hikes into our woods to seek out trees that grew towards the sunlight – often bending around objects in their path to create hilarious paths upward. We found the same awkward growth by the water’s edge, where the plants instinctually began to spread out towards the drink it offered.
If I believe that Jesus is my vine – than I must acknowledge that I cannot live without Him and, like the grass seeds in the science video, I must reach for Him by any means possible. He is what is “absolutely necessary.” Like food, like water - in Him, is life (John 10:10).
To live without Jesus is to live my life starving.
Do you look to Jesus as the source and sustainer of your life?
Do you see time spent with Him as an option or the “one thing” that is “necessary?”
How have you treated your relationship with Jesus? Casual? Consistent? Important? Life or death? Forgettable?
How can you grow in your relationship with the Lord over the course of this next month?
***Enjoy this Bible Study? Be on the look out for "The Abiding Life" in 2023 - a part of our PlantedU Bible Study Curriculum***