Not many of us have a vineyard in our backyard or even within driving distance. However, if the opportunity ever presents itself, take the time to stop for a visit to see all the vines and branches. John 15 will come alive to you as never before! Such was the case for Jana and me this past weekend…
We were invited by some friends to take part in the “vendemmia” which is the harvesting of the grapes after a year of painstaking labor so that they can be made into wine. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus and the disciples likely passing endless rows in the local vineyards as they walked from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper. Despite the darkness of the night, there was no better time for the Master to fashion an agricultural metaphor. Undoubtedly, the disciples caught the nuances of the vine and branches image given their agrarian society and the immediate context around them.
In our instant-gratification world, where agriculture makes us think more about a supermarket than a vineyard, Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and branches doesn’t hit home at first blush. In fact, the concepts of abiding in the vine, pruning branches that they might bear more fruit, and the danger of sucker shoots only came to life for me in a tangible way after working in a vineyard myself! Our Lord goes to great lengths to enable us to bear fruit in Him that the Father might be glorified. However, are we ready for the pruning that is necessary to make that possible?
One of the many obstacles that the vinedresser must address to make his vineyard fruitful is the sucker shoot (see picture inset). These sucker shoots are sprouts of growth on the vine that are fruitless, but nonetheless suck nutrients and energy away that would otherwise be used in the process of fruit bearing. If the vinedresser fails to continually remove these sucker shoots, his vines will produce far less fruit.
What sucker shoots exist in our lives that are siphoning away energy and resources–crippling us from bearing fruit to the glory of the Father? A dear pastor friend of mine skillfully described sucker shoots as: (1) things, activities, or people that cause us to become bored with God, (2) things, activities, or people that we turn to to fill us up when our soul is empty, and (3) things, activities, or people that cause us panic at the prospect of being removed.
May we let our perfect Father have His pruning way with all of the sucker shoots in our lives that we might bear much fruit to the glory of His name!