I began to regularly eat fruit when I started my weight loss journey about 50 pounds ago. Before then, my consumption of fruit was limited to Fruity Pebbles, Hostess Fruit Pies, and Fruit by the Foot. But I’ve learned to enjoy and even appreciate fruit. One of the obvious attributes of fruit is its beauty. When I look at a ripe piece of fruit I marvel at the color and shading. Maybe that’s why you’ll never see an oil painting of bacon in an art museum. Don’t get me wrong, I like bacon. Bacon is pretty good, but it isn’t pretty. Fruit is also appealing. When you see it, you desire it. Which was the problem Adam and Eve ran into. What if the serpent would have approached the innocent Edenic couple with lima beans? Would things have turned out different? Can will really think in terms of the “forbidden vegetable?” Not only is fruit beautiful and appealing, it also satisfies. It’s edible, tasty, and nutritious.
Fruit is an important metaphor throughout Scripture. The Psalms, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all utilize the metaphor to describe the special relationship God desired to have with His people. Israel got the imagery. In fact, according to the ancient historian Josephus, above the main entrance of the Temple in Jerusalem there was a grapevine with a cluster of grapes as tall as a man overlaid in gold. Israel understood the image but ultimately failed to live out the purpose of the image. Isaiah 5:7 states God’s disappointment this way, “The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence” (NLT).
It was against this Old Testament background of Israel as the vine that failed to produce good fruit that Jesus said, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:1-8, NLT)
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples on the night he was betrayed and I believe He continues to speak these words to his Church. What does this have to do with our discipleship to Christ? Tomorrow I’ll unpack the important concepts from Jesus’ teaching in this incredible text.