"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener ..." (John 15:1-2)

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1-2)

What does 'I am the true vine' mean?

Jesus is using symbolism to explain his connection with the Supreme Being. This reveals how Jesus saw his relationship with the Supreme Being.

Here the word "vine" is being translated from the Greek ἄμπελος (ampelos), which refers to a grapevine. 

Certainly, when the vine produces fruit, it is due to the gardener's (or farmer's) efforts. Jesus is comparing God to a gardener because He is caring for the grapevines. Without the gardener or farmer, there would be no grapevines.

We can also know from Jesus' statement that Jesus is not the Supreme Being. How could the gardener also be a grapevine? This is not possible.

And if the gardener brings forth a cluster of grapes from the garden, everyone would appreciate that the grapes did not grow off the gardener's arms. Yet they would also accept that the gardener's efforts produced the grapes. This is because grape vines require maintenance to produce their fruit. They need fertilization, watering, pruning and so on in order for them to produce fruit.

Just as the gardener is different from the vine, God is different from Jesus. They are two separate personalities. And just as the gardener and the vine have a specific relationship, we can see that Jesus and the Supreme Being have a relationship.

What is the relationship between the vine and the gardener?

Just as a vine's grape production of fruit is for the benefit of the gardener, Jesus' efforts were focused on pleasing the Supreme Being.

This relationship is overlooked by most of us, who prefer to see God only in the caretaker position. We prefer to think of God as taking care of us, and we just ask God to do things for us.

In this way, so many of us consider our relationship with the Supreme Being as Him serving us. "God please help me be rich." "God please help me win this race." These are the prayers of many of us, and this type of relationship sees the Supreme Being as our servant.

But in the analogy of the gardener and the vine, this type of relationship would be more like a weed - a plant that only seeks to draw from the resources of the garden but never produces any fruit.

But this is not Jesus' relationship with the Supreme Being. Jesus saw himself as God's servant. Just as a grapevine produces grapes for the gardener, Jesus saw himself as God's loving servant, bringing forth efforts to please the Supreme Being.

Is this true love?

Just consider what a man does when he "falls in love" with a woman. He does stuff for that woman. He brings her flowers and gifts. When she asks for something, he runs out and gets it. This is called loving service.

While this so-called "love" between a man and woman is a dim, even perverted reflection of the love between Jesus and God, we can use this to understand the meaning of loving service. Jesus is loving the Supreme Being, and Jesus is doing what pleases the Supreme Being.

We can also see by Jesus' analogy how he sees himself being guided by the Supreme Being:
"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
Jesus is describing how the Supreme Being directs Jesus towards producing "fruit" for God. The "fruit" Jesus is describing is his service to God. Jesus' prime service was his preaching - which pleased the Supreme Being because God wants us to come home to Him. We can see from this analogy that Jesus was guided by what pleased the Supreme Being.

In the same way, when a gardener cuts branches and prunes the grapevine, he is directing its growth in a way that pleases the gardener. If the gardener wanted the vine to grow up the side of a trellis, then he would prune the vine in a certain way, for example. This is how Jesus was directed by the Supreme Being.

And the fact that Jesus focuses this statement on the fruit that the grapevine produced - "does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" - illustrates Jesus' focus upon pleasing the Supreme Being.

Can we be happy here?

When we are occupying these temporary physical bodies and we are focused on gaining the pleasures of this world, we are not conscious of the presence of the Supreme Being. This is not because He is not accessible, but because we are focused on ourselves and our own happiness. This self-centeredness takes our focus away from anyone but ourselves and those who serve to achieve our self-interest.

The spiritual realm is not like this. The spiritual realm is not far away - but it is very different from the realm of self-centeredness - the physical world. The spiritual realm is a place where love and loving service to the Supreme Being are the central focus and activities.

The physical world is the place where all those who rejected their relationship with the Supreme Being have been sent, to act out our desires within temporary physical bodies. And as long as we remain self-absorbed within these bodies, we will not see the Supreme Being, even though He is present. This is called illusion.

Is this an illusion?

The physical world is like watching a movie. Movies by nature are illusions. They are not real. They use sets and props to make it look like the movie is real.

And there are actors who are acting - or pretending - to be who they are not.

Jesus was also in the physical world, but he was not in illusion. He saw the Supreme Being at every point because his love and focus were upon the Supreme Being. He was thus able to relate with God at every moment. This is why Jesus, John, and others taught: "The kingdom of God is near." (Mark 1:14, Luke 10:9, Luke 10:11, Luke 21:31)

This is also why Jesus' teachings were coming from God. Jesus is God's loving servant, and saw God throughout his service to Him. The Supreme Being was directing Jesus and Jesus was complying with the wishes of the Supreme Being. His happiness is pleasing the Supreme Being.

Now what happens when someone complies with the wishes of another, and their happiness is linked to pleasing that person? Their activities reflect the wishes of the person they love.

Consider, for example, a shadow. The body makes a shadow but the shadow is not the body. The shadow is a reflection of the body. It is connected to the body but it is not the body.

In the same way, because Jesus strives to do the Supreme Being's will out of love, the actions of Jesus reflect the Supreme Being. Jesus' actions become congruent with the wishes of the Supreme Being.

Jesus wanted all of us to have this profound, fulfilling love for the Supreme Being. This is why he focused on teaching others. And this is why his most important teaching was:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)