"The Proven Vine"
The Promised Land had been filled with grape vines, with branches everywhere, weighed down by enormous bunches of fruit. The grapevine had become a symbol of the people of Israel, and gold clusters of grapes hung over the temple gate. Those listening to Jesus knew that Israel was the vine that God had taken from Egypt and planted in the promised land. They knew from the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah & Ezekiel that this transplanted vine had been a disappointment when it failed to produce fruit. It was a beautiful symbol of their intended purpose, but also a reminder of their frequent failure. Leaves and fruit on a grapevine were good, but branches that did not produce were not strong enough to build anything with; their only use was firewood, and God had proclaimed this repeatedly.
So when Jesus opened his mouth to speak about a vine on this day, his listeners may have held their breath. Or they may have noticed that he said that he was the "true vine", and that may have stung deeply. But if the people assembled there that day were listening closely, they would have seen that Jesus was giving them another and better chance to realize the destiny they so desperately desired.
Branches that produce fruit must come from a proven vine. Here stood the most reliable of sources offering the people of Israel an opportunity to overcome their failures and glorify God wholeheartedly once again. They had been chosen by Jesus, who desired to be their source of strength. If they would remain in loving relationship with him, finding their life purpose, their strength and their deepest pleasure in him, then they would be enabled to produce something that would last forever. They could achieve true significance! That gift stands available to anyone who would draw from his source of salvation-strength this Lenten season.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples."(John 15:5-8)