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  • Writer's pictureAllison Bobzien

Roots

Growing up I found this passage of the gospel concerning the vines and the branches to be fairly straightforward. Then I began researching the various translations of the passage, specifically of verse 2, and realized that our understanding is heavily influenced by both the translation of Greek word “airo” and our understanding of viticulture. 


Jesus tells us that He is the vine, we are the branches, and God the Father serves as the vinedresser or vine grower. This term, vinedresser, connotes something stronger than a farmer of grapes, but an expert who knows his vines incredibly well and how to best care for each. Sometimes a vine’s branches extend to the ground and begin forming a shallow root system into the soil. When the branches are on the ground, they are sustained by the root system they form into the soil rather than the stronger root system of the vine. When the branches are raised above the soil on a trellis, then they are forced to rely on the more established root network of the vine itself. These raised branches create a more bountiful and rich harvest of grapes nourished from the deeper roots of the vine.


In verse 2 we learn that the vinedresser, God, “takes away” or “lifts up” the branches that fail to produce fruit. The exact terminology depends on our translation of the word “airo,” as it can mean either “to remove” or “to raise.” A cursory knowledge of viticulture leads us to believe that the vinedresser would be willing to work with the branch and remove it from the ground for the purpose of raising it and creating an opportunity for it to rely fully on the vine. The research that connects viticulture with the Greek word “airo” as “lifts up” dovetails with my understanding of a Savior who provides grace in our times of less fruitful harvest. Even those branches that do produce fruit experience pruning to ensure they receive enough sunshine. 


Obviously, there are theological ramifications for each translation, but I believe the heart of the matter remains: abide in the true vine. Whether you are in a season of resting on the soil and have started to find your comfort coming from shallow roots of the earth, or you are steadily producing fruit and leaves, the vinedresser sees you and knows what you need. Each of our hearts needs a strong connection to the source of all that is good; and the wisdom of the Father in establishing and nurturing the bond between his people and his Son. 


Abiding with Christ yields sweetness, fullness, and a bountiful harvest; but these results are formed through toil, pruning, and being removed from that which falsely nourishes us. The analogy of which root network we rely on inspires me to contemplate some of my more sour grapes and from whence I was drawing my nutrients. Even in times of abundance, aspects of my life that distract me from Christ require pruning. Parables provide us with such rich metaphor and verbiage for how we view our walk with Christ. This parable went deeper, all the way to the roots, than I had first expected and gave me a new question to ask myself: whose roots am I relying on?  



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