What did Jesus Christ mean when in one of the last parables he shared referred to himself as "The true vine"? I have lived in Walla Walla for 10 years and continue to be impressed with the rich soil and amazing agriculture of this area. I grew up in Eastern Oregon on a farm and learned to appreciate the blessings of hard work, perseverance, good weather and farming technology.
I have learned even more, however, the importance of faith in and acknowledgment of He who provides all. There are so many activities bidding for our time and resources. We all have the opportunity of learning at the Saviour's feet as we discover charity and the power of selfless service.
There is a great allegory that deals with vines and farming entitled, "The Olive Tree:"
"For centuries the olive branch has been associated with peace. When the dove returned to Noah in the ark, it carried in its beak an olive leaf, as though to symbolize that the earth was again at peace with God. (Genesis 8:11) The olive branch was used in both Greece and Rome to signify peace, and it is still used in that sense in the great seal of the United States where the American eagle is shown grasping an olive branch in his talons …
"There is further symbolic significance in that the olive tree is different from most other fruit-bearing trees in the manner of its beginning. If the green slip of an olive tree is merely planted and allowed to grow, it develops into the wild olive, a bush that grows without control into a tangle of limbs and branches that produce only a small, worthless fruit. (See Harold N. and Alma L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible, p. 159)
To become the productive ‘tame' olive tree, the main stem of the wild tree must be cut back completely and then a branch from a tame olive tree must be grafted into the stem of the wild one. With careful pruning and cultivating the tree will begin to produce its first fruit in about seven years, but it will not become fully productive for nearly fifteen years. In other words, the olive tree cannot become productive in and of itself; it requires grafting by the husbandman to bring it into production.
One remembers the figure used by Jesus to describe himself, his Father, and those that serve them:
"I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." (John 15:1-3)
The word purgeth in Greek means ‘pruned,' and in Greek verse 3 keeps the metaphor and says, "Now ye are pruned."
God is the husbandman and prunes off the wild branches of our spiritual lives if we will but submit to his tender care. Thus we become like the tame olive tree …
During this time of the year, I reflect on the words in John chapter 4:35-38. How truly beautiful a field that is "white, already to harvest?
As a young man, I recall working in the wheatfields picking out rye and other weeds. It was good, hard work with a powerful effect in teaching a young man many wonderful principles for life.
I testify that there is no greater harvest than to see the transformation in life that occurs in an individual that is truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that we may always remember and follow the True Vine.
Bishop Brent Clark serves in the 1st Ward of the Walla Walla Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should telephone Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org