There are many Bible passages that can cause apprehension at first glance. Thankfully upon further investigation we can receive some fresh light and discover there’s actually encouragement to be had in place of fear. The 15th chapter of John and Jesus’ parable of the vine and branches used to be one such passage for me.
Jesus tells us, “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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:1-3). I have to admit I have struggled in the past attempting to understand what Jesus meant by “He takes away”, and “He prunes.” The good news is I think I’ve finally come to some understanding of these statements and found peace and even encouragement in them.
“He takes away” can also be translated as “He lifts up.” Whew! That changes everything don’t you think? I mean there’s a big difference between taking the branch away and lifting it up, right? You see Jesus is talking about how the vine-dresser might find branches laying on the ground from time to time. He would come along, lift them up, and put them back on the trellis.
Jesus’ talk of “pruning” brought its own touch of fright because all I could think of when I heard the word “prunes” was those particular branches were to be cut off. Thankfully I discovered “He prunes” also could be translated another way. If you look at the verse immediately after the pruning statement, in verse 3, you’ll see where Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” The term “He prunes” and “clean” are the same. So you see what’s really happening here is the vine-dresser comes along, discovers some of his branches are lying in the mud, so he lifts them up and cleans them off.
Ultimately what Jesus is saying in this passage is His Father is the vine-dresser and His goal is to produce the most fruit He can possibly get in His vineyard. In fact Jesus said, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit…” (verse 8). So you see our role in all of this is to simply “abide.” That’s it! All we have to do is abide in Christ; and He will produce the fruit through us.