Vineyards were familiar to Jesus’ disciples, so the image in today’s Gospel is a good image for them to imagine. People passed vineyards as they walked from place to place. Some owned their own vineyard or work in a vineyard. They were able to discern fruitful branches from those that will drain the vine’s energy. They trimmed unfruitful branches, all the while feeling good about the surgical purpose of their work. The pruning might seem cruel, but it renews the vine’s vitality. Useless vines drain the plant’s strength. To leave them in place serves no purpose, and reduces the value of the vineyard. The vinegrower cuts away unfruitful branches and, finding them unusable, burns them.
We are told that whoever is not united to the true vine, those who do not have their foundation on something solid (and something truly solid that gives life can only be God), will not only sink, but will wither and die. Christ is not only the foundation, but the sap, and the all: without him, we can do nothing.
We are invited to bear good fruit, and so be a real disciple of Jesus. The word “disciple” means one who learns from the teacher—and practices what the teacher teaches. While none of us will ever follow Christ perfectly, this verse tells us that there is a clear connection between fruit bearing and discipleship. The person who bears fruit (Christ-like living) becomes Jesus’ disciple. The implication is that the person who does not bear fruit is not Jesus’ disciple.
Friends, let us examine ourselves to see if the fruit our lives are producing is that of a true disciple of Jesus. He wants the best!