I am the real vine, my Father is the vine-dresser. Phillips It is no accident that Jesus chose grapes to represent himself. Throughout the Roman Empire wine was the major drink of the wealthy and the commoners. Most of the time it was mixed with water in proportions from 10% to 90%, depending on the occasion.
Sweet wine (zero alcohol) does not keep; mold begins to grow within days. Mixing water with wine of about 10% alcohol content did kill the bacteria, making it safe to drink.
More importantly, the grapevine was one of the major symbols of the nation of Israel. Jews of the First Century understood the concept of belong to God and of God being the gardener who tended the branches of the vine. A gold vine twined around the opening to the Temple Holy Place. Keep in mind that the opening was over 100 feet tall and 50 wide. Did I mention that the vine was made of gold, solid, pure? Each grape was the size of a bowling ball, solid gold.
So, when Jesus said, I am the real vine, he was placing himself over and above the mere symbol around the door. He was also giving himself a backhanded endorsement as the true door to God.
For Jesus, God is in charge. This is a crucial distinction and one most Christians fail to make. We have become so used to giving all the credit to Jesus that we too often leave God out of the picture. We tend to say Jesus saves, but it is always God.
God decides who is living a life in the image of Jesus. He alone judges our devotion. Every branch starts with a growth spurt that yields no fruit the first season. Such branches must be cut back to just a few buds, one or two of which will develop a large grape cluster in the next season. Pruning is constant. An unpruned vine will quickly send branches into trees, grass, rocks, whatever is nearby, and eventually stop producing fruit.
Human branches need regular contact with God to keep us in the proper condition to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Just as no vine can self-prune, we cannot keep ourselves close to God by our own effort. If we listen to God—true prayer—and study His Word while listening to others who seem to know God well, we will remain in the pruned state.
Jesus used many metaphors to illustrate his relationship with God. Last week we saw him as the good shepherd. John gives us seven “I Am’s,” but the Gospels give us many more images in different formats.
The power of metaphors to express difficult ideas as found in the Bible from first to last. Every writer needs to use them, without abusing them. I read a book a couple of years ago that used the word “like” so many times, I got tired of reading metaphors. They began to get in the way of the story. All things in moderation.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.