I probably should spend more time reading from those who wrote what we have come to know as the "Christian Classics," and while I do that occasionally, I know I am robbed of learning from those who lived and walked the journey of faith before me. Recently I picked up a little book by Andrew Murray, who was from South Africa and lived from 1828-1917.
The book is called "The Secret of God's Love." Maybe it was the title that made me scan through its contents and a few of the chapters. I immediately recognized the entire book is based on Jesus' parable from John 15 where he began by making the claim, "I am the true vine." Mr. Murray insists there is a great mystery involved when we grasp the biblical truth about the vine. Look at the first paragraph of the book:
"All earthly things are shadows of heavenly realities. They are the express, in created, visible forms, of God's invisible glory. The Life and the Truth are in heaven. On earth, we have figures and shadows of these heavenly truths. When Jesus says, 'I am the true Vine,' He tells us that all the vines of the earth are pictures and emblems of Himself. He is the divine reality, of which they are created expression. They all point to Him, preach Him, and reveal Him. If you want to know Jesus, study the vine."
I am hoping your mind wandered to the gardens you have grown, maybe some of them this summer. Where I live, the degree of success on a person's garden is measured by the size and the quality of the tomatoes he produces. While I have no claim to successful gardening, I have grown a few tomato plants. Most of what I recall is the process of getting the soil ready, selecting the right type of tomato to grow, finding healthy young plants, the planting, fertilizing, watering, nurturing, and everything I have left out, all make simple tomato production everything but simple.
Of course there are other obstacles such as the deer in this area that love tomatoes and their vines, or there are bugs that attack the plant and its fruit, making the process of production even more difficult. But the trained and experienced gardener tends to the plants from beginning to end. A good tomato crop demands time and work.
Thinking about these experiences, I cannot keep from going back to Andrew Murray's assessment and encouragement to us, "if you want to know Jesus, study the vine." I am game. I want to know Jesus, so I want to know more and more about the vine.
Murray suggests four points as a beginning of understanding the vine. We may do some expanding on them in future writings, but for now, here are his points. 1. The study of the vine can be better understood when we make a comparison to see the likenesses of the heavenly vine to the earthly vine. 2. The vine is the living Lord, who is willing to do his work on the youthful plants (that's you and me) to bring them to the production of fruit. 3. Give yourself entirely to the vine through surrendering all to his will and his way. 4. When we learn from the vine, we are learning from God with all his power and wisdom, but we are also learning from the God-man, Jesus who longs to give us real life.
Now read the parable in its entirety from John 15, and see how much you can learn.