John 15:1-4 New English Standard Version) 1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. 2 He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
It’s easy to plant a seed in the ground, and easier still to harvest the fruit it bears year after year. What’s not so simple, though, is the physical cutting, trimming, or ‘harming’ of a plant in the name of proper gardening. Pruning, otherwise known as selective removal, is an important agricultural practice both today and during the time of Christ. By cutting off the dead, diseased, or rotten parts of a plant, farmers make plants much healthier and more productive in the long run. This side of the pruning process tends to make a great deal of sense to most people. After all, diseases tie down a plant, or even risk its life. Pruning sick or dead branches benefit both gardeners and shrubs. But why would farmers prune a perfectly healthy, green, or fruitful bush? For many of us, this just does not make sense. For Jesus, pruning back the ‘greenery’ of the human soul is an important part of maintaining an active, healthy, and fruitful spiritual life. In agriculture, pruning is performed on plants for many reasons. To remove dead or dying deadweight branches To mitigate disease To keep the plant from injuring or killing itself due to growing in unnatural shapes To train the plant into a desirable shape To increase food and fruit production Jesus prunes the branches of our lives for nearly identical reasons. To cut out the parts of our lives that cause us to stray from Him To guide us away from false idols or gods To keep us from hurting ourselves when growing in the wrong direction To increase spiritual fruit production To train the Christian into a model of Christ Cutting branches that seem perfectly healthy or fruitful to us may seem like pure madness, but God sees all the little details and nuances that our human selves could never fully understand. Let’s examine the second part of Jesus’ speech in John 15:5-8: “5 I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples. “ Jesus is the master pruner, and the only person ‘certified’ to prune back both the sick and healthy branches of your life. Of course, the pruning may be painful at the time, and may cause closed doors, confusion, or even grief along the way. But His promise rings true: the one who remains in Christ will bear more fruit than they ever could have imagined. As spring begins to dawn and the growing season kicks into high gear, let us be fully and wildly open to the gentle, necessary, and glorious pruning of God in our lives. Closing Thoughts: In what ways might you be preventing God from pruning your branches? Are there ways you can identify these in advance or even ‘mark’ them for cutting? How can you pray for God’s help in identification? All of us have fallen short, and no man is truly perfect. When it comes to matters of the heart, only God has the power to trim the fat and mold us into closer representations of Himself. 1 Corinthians 3:9 (Berean Study Bible) 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. Romans 11:24 (New International Version) 24 For if you were cut from a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into one that is cultivated, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!