Last week on Sunday, the sermon was on the passage found in John 15:1-8. I want to focus on one verse, that I didn’t focus on while preaching. But it is very interesting to keep this in mind.
In verse 2, in the NRSV version is states, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” And like in the NIV version it states as well, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful.” And as well King James version says something familiar. Basically what this means simply is that if you find yourself a branch that does not bear fruit… then good luck man… because you will be cut off the vine, and hence what Jesus says, the branch cannot survive on it’s own…. Or can it… let me explain later…. trust me.
Being a nonbearing fruit branch sounds pretty devastating doesn’t it? Really makes us think… I better do some good, bring people to church, get other people to be Christians, or something! It will give you a panic attack for sure! But what if you put in the right effort to be a fruit bearing branch, but no matter what you do.. it just seems like you cannot bear fruit! That’s gotta be frustrating! And it just doesn’t seem fair that because you didn’t bear fruit, even though you put in the work and effort to try to do so, that you would be cut off! Ouch! What a sting! And just doesn’t seem fair.
But here is an interesting note on John 15:2. Even though most modern translations translate it as “removing every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Key word is “removing,” or some versions, “cut off.” It we look at the Greek version of this certain word, αιρεω means “take away” or “take up.” And the times we see that particular word in the Bible it has been used interchangeably as either “take away” or “lift up.”
Now just imagine that the word in verse 2, αιρεω, meant “lift up.” Definitely gives a whole different meaning to what it means to be a nonbearing fruit branch! The reason for arguing that αιρεω, can mean “lift up” rather than “ take away,” is that a gardener will lift up or prop up a branch of a vine that is on the ground. When the branch is too weak, it will fall down, and bear no fruit, but if the gardener helps the branch by propping it up, it can strengthen and have a better chance in bearing fruit.
But also, remember, Jesus never specified what kind of vine this was. And to me honest I am not too sure what would be popular. I am assuming grapes, but when it comes to reading the biblical text, a number one rule is never assume anything when we approach a biblical text. What vine matters in how to create a successful harvest. For example, a couple years ago, my wife and I grew sweet potatoes. We started with a store-bought sweet potato and set it aside so that roots and a plant grew out of it. We actually cut off the plant from the potato and planted it. As the plant took root in the prepared soil, we started to cut off the stems and branches to make more sweet potato plants. And then it started to vine out, on the ground, and those vines rooted themselves into he ground. All said and done by the fall we had a good harvest of sweet potatoes.
Not too sure if Jesus was talking about sweet potatoes, probably not, but I bring this up, not to argue what kind of vine Jesus was referring to, but more so, that depending on how we translate John 15:2 matters how this verse is read and intended. If αιρεω, means “lifted up” great news, that means Jesus si giving a chance to nonbearing branches to have the opportunity to bear fruit. Or another way of looking at it, is sometimes, a branch can be cut off, and then replanted to make a new plant. Anyways, food for thought. Let me know if you have any questions, I love biblical scholarship a ton. That is basically all I do all day and night, I love studying man, and I love the Bible because of how rich it is! I just always wish I had more time in preparing sermons every Sunday.
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).