“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit. You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.”
What does it mean to be fruitful?
Depending on the subject, you might answer that question two very different ways. When we think of plants being fruitful, we think of the edible things we harvest from them; berries from bushes, gourds from vines, roots from carrot and potato plants, and so on. Read that way, Jesus’ lengthy statement here about bearing fruit remains a little unclear. If disciples bear spiritual fruit like grapevines bear grapes, we can debate until the cows come home about what spiritual fruit looks like.
There’s another understanding of being fruitful, though.
When God tells Adam and Eve, and later Noah and his family, to “be fruitful and multiply,” this other understanding is at work.
When a business says it’s been a fruitful fiscal year, this understanding is at work.
Even when farmers say they’ve had a fruitful harvest, this understanding is at work.
This understanding of fruitful is that something fruitful produces more like itself. Fruitful humans produce more humans. Fruitful business produces more business. Fruitful fields produce more of what was planted. And fruitful disciples produce more disciples.
In Glorify, Rev. Dr. Heath recounts an experience they had walking through a self-sustaining apple orchard. The trees in this orchard had been fruitful, not because they produced many apples, but because those apples in turn produced more trees, and kept the orchard alive. An apple is merely the seed of the apple tree. The apple tree’s true fruit is another apple tree. Or, if you care to be more ambitious, the apple tree’s true fruit is an entire orchard of apple trees.
When you “go public” with your discipleship, like we talked about last week, you are planting seeds. Some of those seeds may sprout. Some may not. Nurture those that do. Encourage spiritual growth in people who are receptive. Help others to travel the path that you’ve traveled. Because if you’re going to be a fruitful disciple, you’re going to produce more disciples.
How can you work to “bear fruit”?