Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lent, Day 16: VINE

Recite the Primo Credo Today in the Morning and in the Evening:

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. ~Mark 12:29-31

Today, on the Sixteenth Day of Lent, we continue to discuss the Primo Credo. We will be meditating on it over the period leading up to Resurrection (Easter) Sunday; and we will be trying to remember to recite it daily, once in the morning and once again in the evening. For over two weeks now, we have stressed the importance of intentionality; thinking, feeling, and meaning the words as we repeat them- not just hollowly reciting them. Our goal is to let the words work in us, and hopefully through us, and back out of us.

Today’s Scripture Reading: John 15:1-17, esp v. 5

I am the vine and you are the branches; If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; Apart from me, you can do nothing John 15:5

There is something poetic about the word “abide”. It brings to mind thoughts of safely and stability. These are concepts that are meaningful and necessary to an effective Christian walk. The actual word in the Greek text is “meno.” In chapter 15, John stresses the importance of believers abiding in Jesus by attributing the word “meno” to Jesus eleven times in this chapter. Interestingly, John utilizes the word twenty-seven times in his epistles (I, II, and III John). There must be significance to the concept and we can perhaps understand it if we take time to understand the point Jesus was making with the VINE analogy.
First, we need to read this passage and hear it with First Century Middle-Eastern ears (not 21st century American/Western ones). When Jesus used this analogy, the disciples were sure to have understood it in the context of “the vine” being Israel.  There are lots of passages in the Old Testament where the term vine is used for Israel, such as: Ps 80:8-16, Isa 5:1-7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1-8, 17:5-10, 19:10-14, and Hos 10:1. The vine to Israel was as symbolic as the bald eagle is to America. In fact, the vine was even put on some of the coins made by the Maccabees in the century BC. Additionally, this symbol was pominently displayed above the gate of the Temple- according to ancient historical accounts, including those of Josephus, there were golden vines and grape clusters as large as a man over the Temple gates.

To the people of Jesus’ day, the symbolism of this was similar to the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty- we can be quite sure that the symbolic significance would not have been missed on them. So, Jesus was not making a new analogy, per se, but he was attributing the symbolism differently- and that was what was so novel about what he says in John 15. When He says: “I AM the TRUE VINE”…that is one heck of a claim to be making! So here Jesus re-cast himself in the role of the true vine, making a clear statement that Israel as the vine was insufficient. He also re-casts the disciples (for they were Israelites/Jews) as branches.

Then, Jesus makes it clear that the branches have a responsibility. Johns uses the imperative verb “abide”- which indicates that direct and deliberate effort must be expended in order to maintain a close personal relationship to the true vine. Now, to be clear, we do not expend effort to abide in Christ, to gain salvation, or even to keep our salvation; we abide in Him because our fruitfulness as believers directly correlates to our intimacy with Jesus. Our Spiritual health and  our Christ-walk are inseparably connected (entwined and engrafted) to Him, and apart from our continued intimate connectedness to Him, we can do nothing…we cannot bear fruit.

It is important, also here to understand that Jesus spoke of “abiding” in two senses. He used it as a synonym for saving faith (6:56). However, He also used it to describe the intimate relationship that those who have exercised saving faith need to cultivate with God (8:31). All believers abide in Jesus in the first sense, but all do not abide in Him in the second sense (John 5:10; 1 John 3:24). It is in this second sense that Jesus spoke of abiding here (cf. vv. 9-10). He stressed the importance of believers abiding in Him by using the word meno (“abide”) three times in this verse.

In John 15:5, Jesus continues to stress the importance of believers abiding in Him (i.e., cultivating intimacy through loving obedience, 14:23; 15:10) to bear much fruit. So abide then has two distinct qualities or senses: the first is security (which includes, but is not limited to salvation); the second is a healthy, vibrant and flourishing intimate relationship.

I can think of nowhere else in scripture where the sense of security and healthy intimacy are captured than in the following scripture passage:

Psalm 16:8-9 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

8 I keep the LORD in mind always.

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely.

It is clear from this passage that a life lived in “abide-ience” (under the Lordship of Christ) is hallmarked by…



-joy, and


Today, as you reflect on your relationship With YHWH, may you experience and ever-growing sense of that unshakable confidence we have in and through the person of Jesus Christ.


  1. Dear Tracy,


    Jesus was very clear in what we must do in order to have Him ABIDE in us and we in Him.

    He left this command for us in John 6:53-57, and it is the only place in Holy Scripture in which you will find it:

    53 " Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (the taken away branch);

    54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

    55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.


    57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me."

    What does "Truly, truly" mean to you in verse 53? What does "unless" mean?

    The body lives because it receives real food sustenance. Starve the body and it will die.

    Just as the body needs real sustenance, so does the soul, else it will not bear fruit.

    The soul lives by real Divine sustenance, the true presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

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  3. Michael,

    First, I want to wholeheartedly thank you for reading my blog. In a world where people do a lot of talking and very little listening, it is an extreme honor to have someone take the time to seriously consider my thoughts as you have. I don’t practice the type of spirituality that finds it necessary to bludgeon another with my opinion, nor do I feel it necessary to use my blog as a platform to do so. I am always hoping that it will be a safe place for people to come where they can bring a formed or nebulous opinion and reform it even more. I admire anyone who is willing to continually learn more about the vastness that is God, and I strive to also be such a person.

    The Eucharist is indeed a diamond with many facets, so I thank you so much for allowing me to look at the Eucharist via your unique prismatic perspective!

    It is probably more likely that the meaning of Jesus’ words in the passage above were meant to be taken allegorically, rather than literally, but for our purposes here, I will be generous in my reading of it.

    I agree that participating in the Eucharist is indeed a powerful way in which we can tap into the Divine presence. Further, it is an effective way to both symbolize our commitment of our Lord, recognize (remember) all that He has done for us, and to display solidarity with Him and his mission in the world. I’m sure that you will agree with me when I say that there is something very mystical about what happens in the Eucharist. The elements that our Lord provides at His table (the bread and wine) are extremely important, and when we come to the table, we come with very little to offer…we come with only a few seemingly meaningless things- our humility…our reverence…our gratitude…our brokenness…our very selves. These things pale in comparison to what HE brings, so much so that we might feel that we may as well not even bring them. But bring them we must. On a frequent, if not daily basis, as we remember Him and bring to Him these, we lay ourselves before Him and give ourselves wholly to Him. This is what Jesus was describing –a “Shema-shaped spirituality”- that is essential for us to practice in order to flourish. (Mark 12:29-31) It is this radical, relationship-centered, wholehearted love of God that Jesus calls us to, over and against the rote, ritualistic practices of the religious practitioners of the day.

    For this reason, I feel most sure that Jesus himself would caution us to beware of trusting in our own actions (even if those actions are ones that promote participation in religious rituals), and that He would strongly encourage us to instead cultivate an intimate and reverent relationship with Him through loving obedience, gratitude, and a humble daily offering of our broken selves to him.



Thanks for commenting. I am honored that you have come over to spend a little time at the Nacreous Kingdom. Your comments will be posted after I get the pleasure of getting the first read. So tune back in soon...Peace!