“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1,5)
Jesus’ parable can best be understood when you think about the staple crop in a familiar locality: For example, sugarcane in Busoga, tea in Kabarole, sorghum in Kigezi, and bananas in Bushenyi. There are crops which carry a big importance because of the far reaching benefits. Owners of large gardens of these crops sell the produce and get money for all their needs – including medical, school fees, food, clothing, tax, and building or renting houses. Vines were such important crops in Israel, as the source of grapes for wine and sugar. Throughout the Old Testament, wine is regarded as a necessity of life and in no way as a mere luxury. It was a necessary part of even the simplest meal, and was drunk by all classes and all ages, even by the very young. This is mainly due to the climatic conditions which make fresh water scarce in the longer season of the year.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia presents the context of Vines: The land of Israel appears to have been a vine-growing country from the earliest historic times. The countless wine presses found in and around centers of early civilization witness to this. It is probable that the grape was largely cultivated as a source of sugar. The whole Old Testament witnesses to how greatly Palestine depended upon the vine and its products. Men rejoiced in wine also as one of God’s best gifts (Jdg 9:13; Psa 104:15). The land promised to the children of Israel was one of “vines and fig trees and pomegranates” (Deut 8:8). Jacob’s blessing on Judah had much reference to the suitability of his special part of the land to the vine (Gen 49:11). The failure of the wine-crop or its destruction by foreigners was a terrible calamity; on the other hand, abundance of wine was a special token of God’s blessing. “May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine” (Gen 27:28).
When Jesus Christ says, ‘I am the true Vine’, the Jew must understand him well. And when he adds, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’, the Jew remembers how indispensable the vine at home is. Our Lord here introduces himself as the only quencher of our spiritual thirst, the only source of spiritual energy-giving sugar, the true source of God’s blessing. This true vine cannot fail, and cannot be destroyed by enemies. No one can expel you from the presence of this true vine – He is with us everywhere we go. The only way to be barren in God’s Kingdom – the only way NOT to bear fruit is being OUT of the vine. And that’s also the only way to be eternally thirsty! Now, what is your excuse for not bearing fruit? Jesus’ invitation still stands for all: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.”