How Does God Prune Us?
Updated: Apr 6
The bud closest to your pruning point will produce the best quality fruit and branches. That’s how it works! Plants will always send most of their energy for renewal to the nearest cutting point. -Hand Pruning
In This Article
I did an in-depth study of John 15:1-17, the True Vine Parable. It has long been one of my favorite parables in scripture. This study has taken months to complete. I pray it is enlightening and encouraging!
These are the highlights of my research. There's a ton of information to go through. So much about the words and the context of wine growing ties back into Yeshua's lesson beautifully!
I'm not an expert in any of the areas we're about to cover. I'm just doing my best to pass on information about these things from people who are experts.
If you have any thoughts to share, I'd love to hear it! Comment below or shoot me an email.
Yeshua was Talking about Wine Grapes
Yeshua specifically refers to a vine, so the first question we need to ask is which one? Does the passage specify? Or does it even matter?
The word for "vine" here in Greek specifically means wine-grape vines. This makes sense because Jesus told this parable during Passover when much wine would be needed.
Also, Israel has been a huge center for wine-growing since the days of Joshua. The land has all the perfect conditions for growing excellent wine.
Wine-grapes like to grow in rocky, infertile, dry, sloping soil. Barren land like this is not useful for anything--not even cattle. Vineyards thrive because the harsh conditions force the main vine to fight its way down deep into the earth where all the best minerals are.
The harsher the conditions, the better tasting the wine.
Their roots will penetrate deep crevices of rock to get nourishment. -Bible History
These vineyards are grown solely for their fruit. There is nothing else useful about the plant whatsoever. That is why Yeshua said the removed branches are gathered and burned. This is exactly what Israel would do in a huge Pruning event once a year.
Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Anatomy of the Grape Vine
Yeshua's parable makes a lot more sense when we learn some basic things that his listeners also understood about grapevines.
Vines are different from trees and other plants in that the branches are not separate from the main trunk. It all grows as one whole unit.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. -1 Cor. 12:26 ESV
Everything--and I do mean everything--that happens to each individual branch affects the entire plant.
If a branch is cut, the wound "bleeds" or "cries" as clear sap spills out. During the growing season, the exposed wound is vulnerable to diseases and pests that could invade and kill the vine.
For this reason, vineyard masters wait until Pruning Season to do any major pruning. I believe this major Pruning Season event, when large bundles of branches were gathered and burned, is what Yeshua is referring to.
I'll explain more about Pruning Season in a moment.
Great Wine is about Great Pruning
Do not be shy with the pruning shears!
“The most important tool in all of viticulture and winemaking is the pruning shears... With proper pruning there is little else that needs to be done to the vine for the duration of the season; leaf-pulling, fruit-thinning, trimming and hedging, and much of the spraying can all be reduced or eliminated with good pruning.” -GuildSomme
I find it very interesting that there is very little difference between severing a branch permanently or pruning it. In both cases, nothing is left of the old branch.
The only difference is that pruning leaves a small bud that will become next year's fruit-bearing branch.
No new bud, no new branch.
This reminds me of the lesson in Yeshua's Parable of the Two Houses:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” -Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
Why Pruning is Necessary for Bearing Fruit
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. -John 15:4-5 ESV
Benefits of Pruning:
Regulating the amount of fruit it carries so everything will ripen evenly.
Space the fruit out to allow airflow and sunlight. Not too much, not too little.
Grow stronger shoots that can carry more fruit.
To get any fruit whatsoever that year! Grapes can only produce fruit on first-year wood. Bearing fruit has to be supplied 100% from the Vine.
One word: Balance.
Left alone, the branches will focus only on getting larger and longer without regard for the rest of the plant. Its ambitious growth will use up so much precious energy that none will be put towards bearing fruit.
When this trimming was done, the vine was forced to direct its life-giving sap into the production of grapes rather than territorial expansion. Under good conditions of both sufficient rain and plenty of sunshine, this resulted in heavy grape clusters and abundant grape juice for wine production. -Discover the Book
Some branches will overlap each other, causing others beneath them to suffocate from lack of airflow or die from denial of sunlight.
Other branches will grow too short, creating a huge bald patch letting in too much sunlight that will burn other branches.
If the vine does produce fruit, it has to space the fruit out evenly. Otherwise, it will not have the resources and strength to make sure every fruit ripens well.
Vines that have been neglected become a huge, tangled, fruitless mess.
If a branch is to bear fruit, it has to be pruned so it will grow in union with the rest of the vine. The more each branch loves and cares for its brothers, the more fruit it will individually be able to produce.
This balance is only possible with the work of a Master Pruner. He decides the direction the Vine should grow and leads it in the best way to produce a great harvest.
The goal is for each vine to grow a certain amount—not too much, not too little. Weak vines tend to make wine that is hard, thin, and lacking in generosity. Strong vines tend to make wine that is green, light, and insipid... “balanced” vines tend to make balanced wines—literally thousands of years of viticulture have confirmed this. The Romans knew this, the monks in Burgundy knew it, and it is still the rule. -GuildSomme
To recap what we've learned so far:
Branches can only produce fruit from first-year wood. All fruit has to be supplied 100% from the main vine.
Every branch is completely cut. Fruit-bearing branches will have a surviving bud to become another fruit-bearing branch.
To produce the most fruit possible, the plant has to be unified and balanced. Good pruning leads the plant to grow in the best way possible for lots of fruit.
Everything each branch does/experiences affects the entire plant.
Without pruning, the branches will trample each other and focus on "expansion" rather than bearing fruit.
Cutting a branch while it is still growing creates a "bleeding" or "crying" wound that leaves the entire vine vulnerable to pests and diseases.
A grapevine is grown solely for its fruit. Everything else about it is not useful for anything.
Pruning Season for wine-grapes is done while the plant is still dormant, anytime after winter or just before spring. As much as 80-90% of the plant would be cut off and burned. Everything from last year, fruit and fruitless branches alike, would all be cut back down to the main vine.
It is a huge event among winegrowers, Israel being no exception. You can even travel to Israel and help be a part of the Pruning Season yourself!
Grapevines must be fully dormant before pruning, as premature pruning can prevent the vine from going into dormancy and leave the vine vulnerable to injury. Pruning later in the dormant season is advantageous as the pruning cuts will expose the grapes to diseases for a much shorter time. Once the grapevines break dormancy, the cuts will heal. -Minnetonka Orchards
Sometimes vines are pruned again in the summer (not as severely). But this is not technically necessary if perfect pruning was done during dormancy.
Also, during the summer when the vine is still full of leaves or possibly fruit, it is very difficult to see what's going on and make a good judgment. Waiting until everything has fallen and cleared away helps the Pruner see exactly what needs to be done.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. -Hebrews 4:12 ESV
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. -1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
How Does The Father "Prune" Us?
One of the greatest misconceptions in Christian culture, I believe, is the assumption that "pruning" in this passage represents hardship, pain, temptation, persecution, major loss, or trial.
Yes, "hard times" are often discussed in scripture as an important part of growing our faith (1 Peter, for example).
But, letting scripture interpret scripture, we see that in this passage Yeshua makes it very clear what he means by "pruning":
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. -John 15:3 ESV
The word for "clean" and "prune" here is the exact same word: katharos. In Hebrew, it would be taher.
The spoken Word of Christ is the pruning. What does this mean? Also, what does it mean to be a branch "abiding" in the vine or be cut off?
Let's examine these more closely.
Happy are the Clean in Heart
The Greek word translated as the English “clean” in John 15:3... is katharos and means purified by fire, free from every admixture of what is false.” –He That Has an Ear
The verb form katharizo also included the healing of diseases and clearing ground of weeds. -PioneersNT
The Hebrew word for "clean" is taher. It means to “cleanse, purge, purify.”
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. -Psalm 51:7 ESV
Scripture describes "clean" as simply set apart for a specific task, or made suitable for use.
Clean and unclean is not necessarily synonymous with good and bad or even holy and unholy.
Unclean doesn't always mean something is bad, although everything sinful or wicked is definitely unfit for use in God's presence.