Let me be clear: I am no agriculture expert. Far from it. Few of us are these days. According to Market Insider, only about 1.3 percent of the American population now works on a farm, compared with 70 percent in 1840.
But I grew up surrounded by hardworking farmers in West Tennessee. Both sets of my grandparents grew up on farms and continued to cultivate their own food well into old age. That gives me no expertise, but it gives me an appreciation for the uncertainties and hardships and the necessity of balancing hard work and patience.
It also helps explain how often Jesus used agricultural metaphors to teach deep truths. The people who heard Him intimately understood agriculture in ways we do not.
I have written elsewhere about the seemingly obvious insight into the nature of sour grapes. I used to think sour grapes were grapes that had “gone bad,” whereas they actually occur much earlier in grape life cycles. Sour grapes have not yet matured and ripened. No one in the audience who heard Jesus would have made that mistake.
In one of His most well-known utterances, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:5, CEB). What wonderful shorthand to convey a deep concept! But we may need to dig a little deeper in our agriculturally distanced world.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vineyard keeper. He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. You are already trimmed because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. If you don’t remain in me, you will be like a branch that is thrown out and dries up. Those branches are gathered up, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.”…