On the evening before his crucifixion, Jesus washed the feet of each of his disciples. This signified that he was giving the disciples forgiveness of sins and cleansing them. He then partook of the meal called the “Last Supper” with the disciples. In that meal, He instituted the sacrament of eating bread together and drinking wine together to commemorate the events of his crucifixion. Thus, the time was approaching when Jesus was to be arrested and crucified. So Jesus used the remaining time he had with his disciples to tell them a number of very important teachings. One of these is the teaching of vine in today’s Bible passages.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” Do you like grapes? In autumn, all kinds of grapes are available in the shops. Grapes can be eaten as they are, or they can be dried and preserved. You can also squeeze them to make juice or wine. Grapes have been produced since the earliest days of the Old Testament and have been people’s food and drink. But in order to produce good fruit, the grapevines have to be tended. So the gardeners who worked in the vineyards tended the vines, leaving the branches that bore good fruit and cutting off the excess branches. Jesus taught that God the Father is the gardener when he said, “My Father is the vinedresser.” He then said, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
What does this mean? It means that among Jesus’ disciples, those who really believe in Jesus, God the Father will make them bear the fruit of eternal life, but those who do not really believe in Jesus, God the Father will remove them from among his disciples. Among Jesus’ disciples, a man called Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and delivered him into the hands of those who wanted to kill him in exchange for 30 pieces of silver. And in the end, he committed suicide and died. What about Peter? When Jesus was on trial before his crucifixion, Peter denied three times that he was Jesus’ disciple. Normally, this would already disqualify him as a disciple. However, after Jesus died on the cross, the resurrected Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” three times, to which he replied three times, “You know that I love you.” And once again, he was able to abide in Jesus as a disciple.
In verse 4 of today’s Bible, Jesus says: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” Jesus knew the weakness of the disciples’ faith. That is why he taught them in this way about the importance of abiding in Jesus, even in the face of setbacks and failures. Peter experienced a great setback, but because he was abiding in Jesus, he was able to do a great work of proclaiming Jesus as a disciple again. We may think, “It’s too hard to live as a disciple of Jesus, so let’s stop!” But if we continue to listen to Jesus and love him in his church, we can live as his disciples and bear the fruit of eternal life.