Lectionary Year B
May 21, 2000
Step II: Disposition
I wouldn't call it a "simple metaphor," but how about an
extended metaphor. Jesus seems to be trying to explain the ongoing
relationship that he will have with the disciples in his pending absence
by use of vine-imagery.
The genre of this passage causes me to imagine myself as a student before my teacher. In addition, the mood of Jesus's devoted heartfelt concern for the disciples is so moving. The teaching thus, is for the understanding of the blessing present in Christ, and this teaching raises a prophetic voice. The tension between eternal fruit-bearing and eternal burning fire, sharpens the prophetic option of the deliverance of either woe or joy for each of us.
This passage is so full and seems to be structured also as a narrative or even a parable as well. Jesus tells of the relationship of the Caring One, the True Vine and the branches. The whole account is relative to human understanding of botanical life. Of course, historical criticism might question how many horticultural details might have been understood in the Johannine community. Thus an argument about pruning might be raised, but to any extent, Jesus teaches. He presents the illustration of the pain of being apart from Christ and the joy of being with Christ.
The symbolism is rich as is customary for the Apostle John. The branches cast away and burned in the fire and the withering branches, both are quite illustrative and warn of inevitable righteous judgement of God. The nurturing of those branches bearing fruit in order that they will produce more fruit, symbolizes the compassion and love of God, giving us a more abundant life. The power of faith is witnessed in the promise Christ gives to those rooted in his teachings; to grant what they ask for in his name.
B. PERSONAL INTERACTION
1. If Jesus is the "true" vine, who is the "false vine?"
2. What a negative and a bit threatending beginning: If you don't bear
fruit you are cut off. If you do bear fruit, you are cut back.
I remember Fred Craddock asking once, "How can you tell the difference
when you are being cut?"
3. When Jesus says "You are pruned already," does he mean to reassure his
4. How does a "word" the logos cleanse? Is this like being "convicted"
by a word? Does the word judge us? As in Acts 2:37, when the people of
Jerusalem hear Peter's sermon and are "cut to the heart?"
5. The image of vine and branches makes sense, but only to a point. Stay
connected to the vine; it is your life. Yes, I get that. But the
metaphor doesn't work altogether well: Is it really the choice of the
branch to bear fruit? Or is fruit not more due to the quality of the
vine and the skill of the vinedresser? If you want good tomatoes, plant
the right seeds and take care of it. If you choose a seed that is known
to bear little fruit or bitter fruit, you don't blame the branches!
6. I'm not sure that you don't need to go on to include verses 9-11, at
least. What it means to "remain" in Jesus seems to be connected to
doing his commandments, i.e., abiding in love. I'm not sure that you
can complete the thought of the passage if you don't go on to include
6. Notice vs. 11: Jesus has said all this (meaning the vine talk) so
that the disciples may know Jesus' joy and that their joy may be
complete. This passage is intended to be good news. It is hard to hold
on to the good news when you remember from vs. 1-2 that everyone is going
to be cut or pruned!
Does being pruned suggest only a pleasurable sensation?
Can a withering branch become healthy again?
How do we know when we have Christ's words abiding in us?
What is meant by bearing fruit?
How does one stop withering away from a johannine perspective?
Why is this teaching at the end of John's gospel?
Had the disciples been bearing fruit with Jesus?
Where, when, how are we "apart" from Christ?
Do we know what we are to ask God for?
Why does Christ offer such a magnificent promise when we know he is still teaching the disciples what they do not understand?
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