I never really gave that much thought to it, but vineyards were a big industry during the Bible days. Actually they still are. People who own vineyards today and produce wine tend to live in gorgeous Tuscan inspired decorated houses where I'm sure they cook scrumptious pastas and consume as much gelato as they desire. Or at least I would if I were them. I eat pasta like it's going out of style people (I'd do the same with gelato if I could get away with it). I fantasize about feta cheese, olive oil, and artisan bread. I'm not ashamed of it either. (Can you tell that I watch more than my fair share of Giada?)
In John 15 Jesus starts talking fruit. Specifically grapes. I like grapes. Have a bowl out of fresh grapes and it won't be long before I'm popping them in my mouth. I like that we get wine from grapes. Normally I wouldn't bring up wine, as I know it sends some Christians into this frenzy of sort: "She mentioned wine?!!! How dare she! I always knew she was a heathen deep down!" No folks. I grew up Lutheran. Lutherans enjoy their beer and wine. You can try to argue with them, but trust me, they will take you down faster than lightning. And I sit back and watch while figuring out how to perfect bruschetta. (I think the secret will be in the feta chesse. Feta is flippin' magical! It's the unicorn of cheeses.) Where was I? Oh, wine. Yes. Whether you ever read my blog again or not, wine is good thing. And Jesus said, "Amen!" Back to grapes though...
At the beginning of chapter 15, Jesus tells us here that He is the vine, God the vinedresser (meaning one who cultivates and prunes grapevines), and we are the branches. ("He is the vine and we are the branches, His banner over me is love..." Sunday school... good times.) The Hebrew word for branches here is an interesting one: Klhma (from Klaw). It means tender and easily broken to bits. How true is that for you and I, depraved human beings with fragile hearts. It doesn't take much to break us does it? Jesus continues:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. ~John 15:4&5
Abide (Men'-o). What a great word. In the Hebrew it means to stay in relation to Christ [in this context]... to remain expectant, to continue on, to dwell, endure, remain, or tarry.
Do you happen to know the growth cycle of a vine? Neither did I. Until I just so happened to stumble across this really neat chalkboard drawing of one on another blog two days ago. (Good timing Lord.) Winter is pruning time. The vine dresser predetermines how many buds he wants on each shoot of the vine. Throughout spring, buds come forth, eventually turning into grape flowers, and then into berries. In late summer grape cluster will be harvested, the juice squeezed and crushed out, and left to ferment until it's made into wine. In autumn the leaves fall from the vine and the vine dresser prepares the soil for winter. The process begins again.
Fruit cannot be harvested all year round. Fruit takes time, it takes cultivation. Then it's taken and made into something sweet. Poured into stemware and enjoyed by others. This reminds me of Hannah. Hannah, a barren woman who longed for a child. God did hear her cries and prayers, and a son, Samuel, He gave her. But here's the amazing thing about Hannah (and speaks greatly of her character), she gave him back to the Lord (see Nazarite vow). She knew that her fruitfulness was God's doing, and in response she'd bless others with it.
You and I go through this vine season in a way spiritually. We have our winter seasons where we are barren and without fruit. But God has not forgotten or left us. He's using this season to prune us though. He has specific spiritual fruit He desires for you, but it takes cultivation for a spell. We have our springs and summers where we're growing and swelling into these "berries." Then we enjoy the harvest season, wine is made, wine is shared... wine is probably served with tiramisu if you're like me... but then we start back over again. And that's ok. Because we should be able to look back and say, "There was a time when there was fruit, I remember. God is faithful. He will bring the fruit again. He's cultivating me for a new harvest for the time being." All we need do is abide in Him. Remain expectant and hopeful. To tarry and linger in His presence. Stay in relationship with Christ.
The first miracle Jesus preformed at the beginning of His ministry took place at a wedding where the they'd run out of wine. Talk about putting a damper on the party, and it didn't reflect well on the family throwing the whole thing. But Jesus turned jars full of water that they brought Him into wine. And it was THE very best wine anyone had ever tasted (wine connoisseurs be jealous).
Jesus always brings the best wine not the cheap boxed stuff. He brings the bottle that's been sitting and fermenting for a long, long time. Everybody prefers the vintage wine because of this. Apart from Him, you and I can't even pull off boxed wine, but provided we remain in Him, He will make us into the best vintage wine... in order that we may pour into another's life... let them taste His sweetness and partake in Him... so that they may abide in Him as well. Over and over and over again.
Live near to Jesus, Christian, and it is a matter of secondary importance whether thou livest on the mountain of honor or in the valley of humiliation. Living near to Jesus, thou art covered with the wings of God, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Let nothing keep thee from that hallowed intercourse, which is the choice privilege of a soul wedded to THE WELL-BELOVED. Be not content with an interview now and then, but seek always to retain his company, for only in his presence hast thou either comfort or safety. Jesus should not be unto us a friend who calls upon us now and then, but one with whom we walk evermore… ask to be refreshed with the spiced wine of his pomegranate... -C.H. Spurgeon