The Vine and the Palm Branches
By: Danny Saavedra
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper . . . I am the vine; you are the branches . . .”— John 15:1, 5 (HCSB, emphasis added)
Have you ever given flowers to a loved one? Maybe you’ve been the recipient of a lovely bouquet. Flowers are truly a wondrous part of creation. They’re bright, vibrant, fragrant, and delicate examples of God’s creativity and beauty. We use them at weddings and funerals. We give them to one another on anniversaries, birthdays, and Valentine’s Day—and sometimes on a random day just so we can make someone feel special. We use them to say, “I’m sorry,” “Congratulations,” or “I love you.” They adorn vases, lapels, and even gravestones. It’s safe to say flowers are firmly planted into the fabric of life, in more ways than one.
The interesting thing about our practice of giving flowers is that, in most cases, in order to give flowers, we must first cut them off from their source—which leads to their death. If you’ve ever had flowers on your desk or in your home, you know that, no matter what you do, the petals will wither, turn black, and fall off. Why? Because they are no longer connected to their source, to their vine. They can’t bloom or blossom apart from their vine . . . and the same is true of us!
In John 15:1 (HCSB), during what is commonly referred to as the last supper, Jesus says to His disciples, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.” Now, when Jesus uses the word “true” here, it’s not in comparison to any other falsehood. Instead, true (alēthinē) alludes to the real, perfect ideal. It’s the only one, the genuine article, complete with a certificate of authenticity as opposed to everything else. True emphasizes the organic connection (authentic unity) between what is true and its source or origin. And in this case, what makes Jesus the true vine is His connection to the vineyard keeper, God the Father.
As He continues, Jesus tells His disciples, “Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me” (John 15:4 HCSB). What a sobering and powerful reminder of our helplessness and hopelessness apart from Christ, our Savior and Redeemer! When we remain connected to Him, the Father prunes and perfects us (sanctification) and produces fruit in our lives. He is able to do great things in and through us—exceedingly, abundantly great things beyond what we could ever ask, think, or imagine.
It’s fitting that today, on Palm Sunday, we get to reflect on this “I am” statement. On that day when Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem, and the palm branches were laid before Him, we see the perfect example for what we should be doing each and every day—the tried and true method for fruit production in our lives: to lay it all down at Jesus’ feet. When we surrender our will, our heart, our desires, our very lives before the feet of Jesus, that’s when our lives truly begin, that’s when we experience true connection to the vine, and that’s when the vine can produce amazing fruit in us.
So, as we begin the Passion Week and reflect on Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem on that colt, ask yourself today, “Am I laying down my branch in order to experience true connection to the vine?”
DIG: Read John 15:1–8.
DISCOVER: What does abiding in Jesus mean to you?
DISPLAY: As we celebrate Palm Sunday, spend time reflecting on all that Jesus did for us during this week. Pray that the Lord will prepare the hearts of the many people who will hear the gospel for the first time.