A connection to the vine is essential for any branch in the vineyard. Everything the branch is, will be, and will produce during its existence is contained in this relationship. After all, the vine is the source of life. The vine supplies the branch with the necessary nutrients needed for its health and livelihood. Any gardener or vinedresser knows that a branch alone has neither the capacity nor the power to produce its own fruit. The fruit upon the branch is determined by the life of the vine flowing within it. Thus, the most important question for any branch in the vineyard is "what is my connection to the vine?"
It is no wonder why Jesus looked to this image when describing our spiritual lives. In John"s gospel we hear Jesus" well-known statement "I am the vine; you are the branches" (15:5). Like the branch to the vine, Jesus invites us to remain rooted in him. Our life is to be intertwined with his. This internal connection to Jesus is fundamental to our lives as disciples.
To that end, Jesus speaks a profound invitation to us all. In our connection with him, we are invited to receive the abundant life that he offers (John 10:10). Jesus infuses our lives with his divine joy (John 15:11), and calls us to receive himself as the source of all spiritual satisfaction and life. As we are connected to Jesus, we can be assured that the life of Jesus flows through us.
This means, as we live in this inward connection with Jesus, his presence helps us whenever we hit a wall of spiritual discouragement. It can be easy to doubt ourselves or question our faith experiences. Similarly, we may struggle to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We are finite people, after all. Yet the question before us is never how much fruit we manage to produce ourselves. Nor are we asked to compare ourselves to the perceived strengths of other branches. A branch is called to one thing: to abide in vine. The vine does the rest.
Importantly, this connection to Jesus is to be long-lasting. The word Jesus uses in this discussion is the word "abide." To abide in Jesus is to live our lives in him. In return, he promises to live his resurrection life in us.
Just as any connected branch lives in the vine, so too does the vine live in the branch. Jesus describes how a branch cut off from the vine yet lying in proximity to it, is still removed from the source of life and health.
The same is true for our spiritual lives. We cannot just be vine adjacent. Nor can we say "Well, at least I am connected to another branch!" In a vineyard, the grapes that are connected to the vine are the healthiest. Happily, Jesus responds to this by inviting us to receive his life-giving presence. Jesus consistently, faithfully, radically, calls us to himself. We are never disconnected. A deeper connection with Jesus is always available.