The Dude Abides: The True Vine and the Gardener

A few years ago, my wife and I started a garden in our back yard. When I say “my wife and I”, I really mean “my wife” started a garden. My part was simple: build a couple of raised beds and put some dirt in them. Some wise green thumb told us to start with plants as opposed to seeds which ended up being a great idea. It was a simple set that first Spring: tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and cucumbers. It was hard labor but it was all pretty satisfying work at the end of the season. The mint we planted hung over into the grass and was a sweet aroma every time I mowed. I had no idea how obnoxious cucumbers were going to be, though. Their aspirations of conquest would have taken over the garden unless constantly cut back.

Jesus alluded to this garden motif (“vineyard”) to His disciples in John 15 saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” Israel had been referred to as a vineyard on more than one occasion in the Scriptures: “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:1-7); “I planted you as a choice vine” (Jeremiah 2:21); “Israel is a luxurious vine” (Hosea 10:1). Israel’s great misunderstanding led them to believe being in Abraham equaled salvation. Hence Jesus’ reinterpretation of the vine in John 15: “I am the true vine… apart from me you can do nothing.”

Says William Barclay:

“It is a curious fact that the symbol of the vine is never used in the Old Testament apart from the idea of degeneration. The point of Isaiah’s picture is that the vine had run wild. Jeremiah complains that the nation has turned into “degenerate and a wild vine. It’s as if Jesus said, “You think that because you belong to the nation of Israel that you are a branch of the true vine. But the nation is a degenerate wild vine just as the prophets saw.”

The Father is the gardener and He never lets the True Vine run wild. He is fastidious in maintaining the purity of the body of His dear Son. Jesus didn’t use the image of cucumbers but He very well may have. Instead He spoke of grapes. Eager shears cut away branches that don’t produce.

“I am the true vine… apart from me you can do nothing.” A common misunderstanding of this passage has led many to believe branches indicate individuals. The Gardener doesn’t cut away a person that has been grafted in to a real and loving relationship with Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). The passage is figurative in nature and speaks of how the entire body of Christ is dealt with to bring it into eternal seasons of endless fruit bearing.

The only reason to worry is if God has left you alone while you are running wild. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us that God– “…disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” He will not allow a true child of His to go through long uninterrupted seasons of sin without addressing it. If you’re in that position, repent. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” David contemplates in Psalm 32:5 saying “I acknowledge my sin to you, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

John MacArthur notes these three words used for sin in this Psalm are respectively seen as rebellion, failure, and perversion. The verse can be translated as, “I have fully disclosed my failures, and have not gone at length to hide the insidious nature of it. I mused “I’m going to confess my open and shameless rebellion to the living God,” and you freely forgave even the nature of my failure. Now I’m going to chew on it for a while and sing your praises heedless of anyone within earshot!”

Anyone that is not in Christ is a wild cucumber vine in need of the Gardner’s attention. If you call out to Him, He will answer you! Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37).

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