Jesus had just celebrated the Passover meal with the Twelve. When they reclined at the table, no one was there to lay aside their garments, wrap a towel around their waist, fill a basin with water and wash the disciples feet. They had walked there on the dusty roads wearing sandals, so their feet were dirty, dusty and crusted. Jesus arose, laid aside his garments, wrapped the towel around his waist and took the basin filled with water from one man to the next, washing their feet and drying them with the towel. They didn’t understand how Jesus as Lord and Master would take on the role of servant and wash their feet. It made even less sense that he would say to them that “If I your teacher and Lord have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” They still hadn’t grasp the notion of his being their example, nor being ours. Afterward he challenged them to love one another in the same way he had loved them. He promised them that after he left this world by crucifixion he would be raised from the dead on the third day. He also promised that when he left them, he would send them ANOTHER HELPER, the Holy Spirit who would be with them and us forever.
Later that evening Jesus and eleven of the twelve apostles were walking from the upper room where they had eaten the last supper to the Mount of Olives. As they walked along he said to them, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). It may be that they were walking by a vineyard and Jesus looked over at the vines and grapes as he said, “I am the true vine.” It may be that they were walking by the temple and he looked up to see the etching of a grape vine molded into the wall of the temple. With that vine molded into the wall, he said, “I am the true vine.” Either way he was making it clear that he was the real, the genuine vine of God on which the fruit that mattered was to be born.
If Jesus is the real, genuine vine, what are we? Jesus said to the disciples, “You are the branches.” Some have foolishly thought the branches referred to different denominations or religious groups. Jesus made it clear the branches are the followers of Jesus. Each member of the body, each part of the vine is a branch or individual Christian. What is the function of the branch? The branch has one function. It is to bear fruit. Grape vines have all kinds of different branches with the singular purpose of producing grapes, the fruit of the vine. What possible good would it do if a branch simply produced more branches? A branch has value when it has fruit on it that can be eaten or from that fruit can be made grape juice, jelly or some kind of pie or cobbler to be eaten. Now understand, a branch can only produce fruit when it is attached to the vine. If you cut a branch off from the vine, it will soon dry out, wither and die. To have life it must be attached to the true vine from which comes the sap that brings life and fruit.
Notice, it is the job of the Father to prune the branches. Why do you prune the branches? So that they can produce more fruit. Otherwise, they become really good at producing lots of branches but little, withered, dried up fruit. Only the Father is good at pruning the branches. If we try to prune other branches, we tend to cut away the wrong things and destroy the vine, and the harvest. But the Father knows where to cut and how much to cut back. He prunes SO THAT we may produces more fruit.
Notice, a branch that doesn’t bear fruit is useless. It isn’t the job of the grapevine to just have pretty blooms. It is all about fruit. “Herein is my Father glorified if you bear much fruit and so shall you be my disciples.” How can a branch be certain that it produces fruit in the vine? “Abide in my, and I in you. 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. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered; thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” So, our challenge as branches in the vine, is simple. It is to ABIDE IN JESUS. If we stay in him and keep his word in us we will bring forth fruit. If we attempt anything on our own the result is a withered, fruitless branch. By the way, it is worth noting that branches in the grape vine always produce the same thing. Grape vines have grapes on them. The fruit of a grape vine is a grape, every single time. Jesus is that true, real, genuine vine and we are branches that abide in him. By abiding in him we produce fruit, grapes and that brings glory to God. Never allow anyone or anything to get you away from the vine!