Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 23 2020 - John 15:1-27 – The vine and the branches

One of the trees in our garden was a variegated Asa or Maple. It had beautifully shaped leaves with a darker green at the centre and the palest of green border, accentuating the shape. However, this tree had a serious flaw; it had a tendency to revert to the less attractive but more vigorous Maple from which it was developed. Every year it put out a few shoots with non-variegated leaves. If left, these seem to grow more vigorously than all the others, spoiling the symmetry and beauty of the whole tree. Every year, as the leaves began to form, I had the task of cutting back the offending shoots before they developed into branches and spoilt the beauty of our tree. It was a never-ending task.

We also are a species that is deeply flawed. We were created to bring glory to God and bear fruit in his kingdom. Yet there are ugly branches that shoot up in our lives which bear none of the fruit that God is looking for yet seem to have such vigour that they threaten to dominate our whole being – shoots of anger, greed, pride, lust, self-centredness... They need constantly to be pruned back – cut out at source – if they are not to dominate our lives and spoil all that God made us to be.

Jesus speaks of such things in John 15. He speaks of the pruning work of the Father who cuts out those branches that bear no fruit and cuts back the fruitful branches that they may be even more fruitful. The only way of bearing fruit is for Jesus and his word to live in us – showing ourselves to be his disciples and bringing glory to the Father.

Jesus tells us that the way of fruitfulness is for us to remain in him. What does this mean? I believe that Jesus is calling us to live in conscious fellowship with him. We cannot live the Christian life without him; we need constantly to draw on his strength and his power. He lived a life pleasing to the Father; he has the power to live such a life while we do not without him – without him we can do nothing (15:4,5). In a sense, our lives are to be lived as a continuous prayer. This does not mean we are to develop an unworldly spirituality. On the contrary, through living in dependence upon Christ we are to live well and usefully in this world, bearing fruit for the Father. Think how Jesus lived in this world – a life that brought blessing to those around him. We are to live like that as he lives in us and his life animates us like sap in the vine.

Jesus says, “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” (15:15). Jesus calls us to intelligent discipleship. He has revealed the heart and purpose of God. God’s purpose is to redeem and transform all that he has made so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. He calls us to live the life of the kingdom now and to show the world the beauty of life as it was meant to be. He calls us to be like Christ and to live as witnesses to him (15:27).

Lord Jesus, help me to live close to you. Help me to cut out of my life anything that would drive you away from me. I know very well that without you I can do nothing but that I can do all that you call me to do as you live in me and fill me with your strength and resurrection life. Help me to live in communion with you moment-by-moment, day-by-day that I may bear much fruit and show that I am your disciple.

Peter Misselbrook