In His discourse about the vine and the branches in John 15, Jesus alludes to the fact that branch that is not connected to the vine cannot be fruitful since it is cut off from the vine and the root which supports the vine.
As the snows of winter are melting in our community, we are beginning to see the devastation that our epic winter has left in its wake. Lying everywhere you look are tree branches that were sheared off from the weight of the snow.
As I was walking and praying this morning, I saw something that seems to defy the words of Jesus from John 15. I walked by some large limbs from an Quaking Aspen tree that were lying on the ground beside the tree from which they had fallen. And presently, the new leaves breaking forth on the broken branches do not look any different from the leaves on the branches still attached to the tree. At first glance, the leaves on the broken branches seem as alive and flourishing as the ones on the tree.
This is not the first time that I have witnessed this phenomenon. Years ago when I was a youth pastor in Southern Idaho, a large Cottonwood tree was cut down near our church property to make room for some new construction. It was springtime and as the days warmed leaves began to sprout forth all along this giant tree that was now laying on the ground. I watched that tree with much interest over the next few weeks. Again, the leaves on it looked as healthy as did the leaves on the surrounding trees that were still standing. Soon, the heat of summer arrived and things changed very quickly.
When the temperatures started soring into the 80’s and 90’s, the leaves on the fallen tree began to shrivel. The leaves on the surrounding trees continued to thrive. Why? The surrounding trees were still attached to their roots, drawing vital moisture and nutrients from the soil. The tree laying on the ground had since used up the storehouse of moisture stored in its large trunk and as long as it was not stressed by the heat of summer it gave off a semblance of life, even though not attached to its root.
Jesus’ vine and branch analogy was meant to show us that unless we, as branches, are attached to Him, as the vine, we might very well look like we are flourishing and prospering on our own without a constant attachment to Him. But, sooner or later, the stresses of life reveal that we do not possess, within ourselves, the necessary spiritual nutrients to prosper when the heat is turned up.
Jesus said, “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.”