The Vine and the Branches

I’m not the best gardener, but I know it stems more from my laziness than it does lack of a green thumb. When I take the time to tend and care for my plants, and read up on how to take care of my African violet, my effort proves faithful in time.

As I’ve learned about gardening, it’s given me new eyes for certain parts of scripture, particularly John 15:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

I know that pruning is a vital part of gardening, one that is often overlooked by inexperienced gardeners. This year, I pruned the rose bush that has seen better days, only to realize that the pruning was what made it look as beautiful as ever. My African violet which I adopted from the abandoned clearance bin at Walmart gave double blooms after I pruned its leaves. In the year that I attempted growing tomatoes, I read that in order to have better fruit, I should be pruning the leaves. When done correctly, pruning enhances the whole plant…and it does require some knowledge and knowhow on what cuts to make, what kind of cuts, how much, and when.

A little gardening book lists a few reasons to prune, including
-To train the plant
-To improve the fruit, flowers, leaves, etc
-To restrict growth
-To maintain the plants health

The word “prune” in Greek is καθαίρει which means “to cleanse, of filth impurity”. God is certainly the most qualified gardener to tend to His garden and we all need pruning, despite the discomfort. I just love that and find so much encouragement in that knowledge!

I’m sure that this correlation from John 15 to gardening has been said before, which is why I’ll pause the plant analogies. My true purpose of this post was to pick at a particular verse…or phrase…within this chapter.

I’ve found that when truly studying a part of scripture, including the knowledge of the Greek or Hebrew words elevate my understanding of God’s Word. Why leave that knowledge only to those pursuing seminary? We are all God’s children who are led by the Holy Spirit to know Him more and to become more like Jesus, it’s just as important for us be as knowledgable as we can about the Bible. That was among the reasoning to why I started digging into Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon.

The Strong’s concordance is a very useful tool for studying the scriptures. It takes every single word of the Bible and lists where each word can be found in the scriptures. It is useful for locating scripture verses that you know the words to, but don’t know the book, chapter and verse. For example, let’s say that you know of a verse that says our hairs are numbered. You could look up the word “numbered” in a Strong’s Concordance and it would give you a listing of all the verses that contain the word “numbered“. Also beside each verse reference there is a number. That number represents a Hebrew word (if in the Old Testament) or Greek word (if in the New Testament). In the back of the book it lists Hebrew and Greek words used to translate the bible into English. Each has a a number beside them so that we may only need to know the number to locate a Greek or Hebrew word. Then we can do a word study by reading the meaning of the original word.

Certain words, when translated, can lose their meaning in a different language. Like the word ‘love’, which I studied in-depth in 2015. In English, when we say the word ‘love’, we can mean it to be “I love pizza” to “I love my son”. One word, many meanings. In the Greek language, there are a several words that are used to describe the different types of love…so when Jesus uses the word love, it’s not the same word in English. The comparison is more difficult. Hence why, a little digging can be helpful. I’ll show you how using John 15 (The NIV version is not used in the Concordance, only NASB and NKJV, that’s what I’ll be referencing moving ahead):

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

I always interpreted “takes away” (or cuts off in NIV) as literally lobbing off the bad fruit or the bad branches, the people who fall away from Christianity…but my opinion has been proven to be false.

Now like I said, in the concordance, you can break down every single word and find verses that share the same Greek word. The greek word for “takes away” (or “cuts off” in NIV) is αἴρει . I’ve come to understand that both versions have a hard time explaining the meaning from Greek.

The same word αἴρει is used in Matthew 16:24, “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up (αἴρει ) his cross, and follow me.”

The most common Biblical usage of αἴρει  is “to raise up, elevate, lift up”, “to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear”, “to bear away what has been raised”.

If we apply the same meaning to John 15, it could be “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He lifts up every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

I’ll jump back to the gardening analogies for a minute now…

The art of pruning means the gardener uses a shears to trim and cut branches and leaves. A gardener may choose to prune, but they also need to lift up plants for more support. A tomato plant or wall shrubs are commonly known for needing tending to in this way. The gardener needing to train the branches to grow a certain way, or hold up until it’s strong enough to stay upright on its own.

Our God is our gardener, He holds us up when we don’t bear fruit and He prunes us when He wants us to be more fruitful. And one day, we won’t need to be pruned or lifted up anymore. What a beautiful thought!

Published by Samantha Sali

Image-bearer. Jesus-seeker. Wife. Mother. Writer. Artist.

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