If you’ve ever tried to get rid of an invasive plant from your yard, you know the strategies. Obviously, the most effective method of annihilation is to catch it early and pull it up by the roots before they become too entrenched. If you are not able to pull up all the roots, you may then resort to poison. But for certain vines, herbicides will never penetrate far enough into the stems (above the surface) or the roots of the main trunk (beneath the surface) to kill the plant. Then your strategy probably moves to controlling the vine’s spread by hacking away at the branches wherever you see them crop up. And if you are successful in your hacking, you will at least strip the vine of some of its “fruit.”
In the first part of John 15, Jesus calls Himself THE VINE and says His disciples are the branches when we become united with Him. The goal of each branch is fruit production. Now most of us would not see a grapevine as an unwanted plant. But to many people who are of the world, the Vine of Christianity feels invasive. The spreading nature of a vine and its branches is probably one of the many reasons Jesus chose this metaphor. And when you are the new plant in the yard growing faster than the other plants, you are often seen as a threat. Here’s what Jesus transitions to right after the Vine metaphor:
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…” (John 15:18-20)
In our analogy, we might see the rest of the backyard saying to the Vine of Christ, “You are not of our yard.” So what happens? Well, you try to pull it up by the roots at an early stage. This was Herod’s strategy when he wanted all babies in the vicinity of Bethlehem killed. If this fails, you move on to the poison. His opponents tried to discredit Jesus (or poisoning His reputation) by labeling Him as merely a carpenter's son with no religious training (Mark 6:3)...or as a lunatic (John 10:20)…or as a son born out of fornication (John 8:41)...or as an agent of Satan (Mark 3:22)…or to the Romans as a no-friend-of-Caesar-revolutionary (John 19:12)…or any other designation that might keep His movement from becoming entrenched. But the Resurrection and Pentecost made such efforts futile. Christianity was going to be a reality in the world. It had developed strong roots. The poison had failed to kill the Vine. The strategy then becomes, “Let us contain its spread by hacking at the branches.”
Do you feel yourself being hacked at by the world? Of course you do. This is the world's strategy of control. But part of the message of John 15 is that the hacking aimed at stifling fruit production will only be successful if we lose our focus on the relationship to the Vine. If we hold tight, the machetes and loppers of the world will do no damage. And if over time the hackers realize that the fruit of the Vine is actually sweet to the taste, they may conclude that having such a Vine in the backyard may not be such a bad thing after all.
To His Glory,