Jesus had an affinity for agricultural metaphors. In reading through John’s gospel, two stand out in particular. In chapter 15, Jesus says, “I am the true vine; my Father is the vineyard keeper…I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit…My father is glorified when you produce much fruit and in this way prove that you are my disciples.
The ability to bear much fruit is elevated to be a primary marker of bringing glory to God. It is good that previously in chapter 12 that Jesus says how a disciple is able to bear much fruit. In chapter 12, Jesus says, “I assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit”.
The vine and branch metaphor in chapter 15 is significant as it speaks to the need to remain connected to the vine of Christ and exhibit the nature of his life. Missing from this interpretation, however, is the experience of the cross. In chapter 12, we can read foreshadowing of the cross and the approaching suffering and death of Christ. John presents this metaphor for the disciples to see their suffering and death as following in the pattern modeled by Christ.
The term acodar, in Spanish, conveys the combination of these two concepts. This is the verb for when a vine is bent or cut and then planted alongside the branch. The cutting grows to become a offshoot of the branch, which then grows its own branches. The true vine, put to death and buried in the ground, gives ways to new life and the multiplication of new branches which bear much fruit. We can understand our own discipleship by these same metaphors: we are simultaneously in the vine and being put to death as we identify with the cruciform call of Christ to die to ourselves, join him in his suffering, and by doing so bring life to the world around us.
Jesus’ use of these metaphors, to live as extensions of the true vine yet to die in order to produce fruit, are not exclusive to each other. By utilizing acodar discipleship in imagining our response to the call of Christ, we can enter into new and deeper identification with the suffering death and resurrected new life in the kingdom of God.
What metaphors help you or your community understanding your life of faith?