I do not think that the ‘I am’-statements Jesus made in John’s Gospel come in random order. The seventh and last statement is:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener!
I am not a gardener, but I know that a plant needs to be alive to bear fruit. Magna (my wife) is the one who takes care of our garden. However, I do quite a bit of lumberjacking and know that the roots are important for a tree or a vine. I also know what happens to a tree and the fruit when it is cut off from its roots.
The idea of being ‘rooted’ in Jesus is a central part of the Christian faith:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
The root is vital for the growth and strengthening of a tree, and for the fruit it will produce in due time. When Jesus taught about the true vine, he was of course focusing on the fruit-bearing. At the same time, he linked the effectiveness of this process to the condition of us ‘remaining in Him and His words remaining in us’ (1). This thought is also found in the Old Testament where a person who delights in the word of God is pictured in this way:
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
So when I face challenges in my life, I go back to the roots. When I question my ministry in The Salvation Army, I go back to the roots. I find that everything points back to The Root – the ‘source of the new life’, which is the Word becoming flesh. This Root did also invite anyone who is thirsty to come and drink, so that “the rivers of living water will flow from within them” (2). These rivers flowing from people filled with The Holy Spirit, will also help others to bear fruit. The purpose of fruit is to generate more fruit – and it all comes from the Root – the source of all life.
‘Manna’ for today:
I want to be like a tree by the streams of living water.
(1) John 15:7
(2) John 7:38b
Words by Colonel Jostein Nielsen.