Wisteria, it’s a beautiful plant, and when in full bloom it can almost look magical, but this viney, creepy, goes wherever it wants vine, has a dark side.
I can remember the day when working for a lawn company in Cape May, NJ; we pulled up to a little white Cape Cod style house, only to find a little Wisteria was staging a coup in the backyard!
Some of the vines on this wisteria were 5” around! The metal trellis installed in 1982 was 8” off the ground! The wisteria literally over time had picked up this heavy metal trellis and was starting to carry it away! Here’s the kicker! We couldn’t just hack the thing to the ground because she still wanted to see the beautiful blooms of the wisteria, so we had to be more skillful.
It was an incredibly painful process, but the results were amazing. Instead of waiting for the next 15 years to trim back all the overgrowth, there’s now a regular schedule of pruning that helps make the wisteria bloom to its fullest potential.
Boy, that sounds like a sermon doesn’t it? Think about it with me for a second.
Our lives are like that wisteria. Isn’t it true that without a regular schedule of pruning and shaping, our lives can quickly get out of control? The pruning process is painful but necessary.
From the beginning, there’s a startling revelation that I have missed before. Jesus in (v.1) says, “I am the True Vine or True Grapevine.” What does this lead us to believe? There’s a False Grapevine. Jesus is saying to his disciples; there have been many that came before me and many after, claiming, “I’m the Messiah,” but he says to them, don’t put your trust in Israel or other teachers, I’m the only one you should be concerned with. I am the true vine.
Seems like in (v. 2) there’s a conflict in language. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. Cuts off…Prunes… to our English ear, that sounds the same, but it’s actually not. The truth is, the word for prune in the ancient Greek could mean “pruning,” or “cleaning.” It was common for a vinedresser to pick up the branches that have produced fruit, clean them off, and place them in a place where they can get more sun to grow stronger and more productive.
But in the process of cleaning or “pruning” the branches, he also cuts off the diseased parts of the branches and leaves. It’s painful but productive.
Challenge for Today
What does he need to prune from you? Arrogance, Vanity, Anger, Lust, Pride, Bad Relationships, Selfishness.
But truthfully, as powerful as this imagery is for us, I don’t think it’s the main point of the message. As I was preparing and talking to Jesus about the message, I asked Jesus, “what do you want the main point to be?” He said, “I want people to remain in me.” Then Jesus said, “We spend so much time talking about fruit, but the truth is, if you don’t remain in me, I can’t produce fruit in you.”
So I went and started looking at the passage and do you know what God revealed to me? The passage isn’t about bearing fruit. In fact, nowhere in the passage does Jesus command his disciples to bear fruit. Look at it! It’s not there; you’re not going to find a command from Jesus to bear fruit.
The truth of the scripture is, without Jesus, you can do nothing! Meaning: without remaining in Jesus, you can try all you want, but you will not produce fruit!
Can you imagine a tiny little branch trying to willfully create a cluster of grapes without the help of the vine?
Jesus at no point demands the disciples to bear fruit; instead his challenge time and time again is, “Remain in me.” If we remain in Jesus today; we’ll have no choice but to bear fruit.