I love vineyards. There’s this certain magic that happens when my husband and I drive through the Rio Grande valley and look over the lush green vineyards nestled beneath the towering Cotton Woods. The scene is an oasis in our desert homeland of New Mexico. Sometimes (pre-Covid) local vintners host tastings and teachings. There, I’ve learned how different soils and climates yield different grapes, and how after crushing and aging, make varietal wines.
In the Word, wine is generally a symbol of happiness.
But wine is also a biblical symbol of blood.
Christ’s first documented miracle involved wine. Remember the wedding at Cana in Galilee? When the jars of wine ran dry, Jesus intervened. This story is bulging with typology to teach us about Christ. The miracle He brings to this wedding, as everything He does, reveals a couple of not-so obvious truths.
Here’s the story recap: After Jesus and his mother exchange an interesting but revealing, conversation about the lack of wine, He tells the servants at the party to take the six (number of man, btw) empty 20 gallon jars and fill them with water. These jars were normally used to fill immersion pools (mikveh) for ceremonial purification. The servants obey, fill the jars with water. Jesus then tells them to draw the water out and take to the master of the feast. You remember how this goes: Jesus turned the water into wine and it’s the best wine the guests have had during the seven-day celebration. And it is a lot of wine: more than 120 gallons!
Fast forward with me for a moment to the last supper when Christ lifts a cup of wine and tells His disciples that “this is my blood, drink of it…” At the last-hour table, our Lord used wine as a symbol of His atoning and cleansing blood.
Now, put the wine (Christ’s blood) into the purification jars at the wedding and you have an illuminated truth thrown down in the middle of a party. Christ showed the entire wedding reception that it is by his blood, not water, that we will be purified. This is a shadow (or typology) of things to come.
And we haven’t even started taking apart the vineyard yet.
Ever step, word, and miracle of Christ is full of purpose!
Now let’s go back to the “I am the vine,” statement, the last of seven “I am” statements found in the book of John. The context stage is the last supper. Judas has left the scene, Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet, and now He’s verbally preparing them for His crucifixion and ascension. Being God, He already knows the trials his followers will face in the coming days and years. His words give them the answer to enduring what’s ahead. Abide. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
He used vintner lingo to explain how his followers would survive moving forward.
The vineyard is a beautiful, physical metaphor of our life with and in Christ. Let’s break it down:
- Christ is the vine, the source coming out from the root which is buried in the dirt. Christ, being a human came from the dust.
- The vine supports the entire plant. The branch is a natural offshoot of the vine. Christ is our support.
- The vine carries the sap to the fruit-producing branch. The vine does not produce fruit without the branch but brings the sap to the branch. Christ brings us the spiritual gifts we need to produce fruit. As a branch, we don’t have to go searching for our sap. It comes to us.
- Apart from the vine, no branch is useful. Vintners will cut away branches that are not producing fruit so that the entire plant remains healthy. If we shall “know them by their fruit,” (Matthew 7:16), then fruitless branches symbolize those who are not truly saved, and these are removed from the vineyard.
- Vintners will also prune fruit-producing branches so that their future yields are even greater. And so, the Lord God prunes us. We are in a state of constant grooming for higher yields.
Oh, what a beautiful picture this is of our King! He is our support. He is the sap in our veins. He is the life-giving source to the branches spreading throughout the vineyard.
Now – think on this with me – the yielded, produced fruit is used to make … yup, yummy snacks and jelly, but also wine!
This symbol circles us back around to what Christ shows us at the wedding when he changes the water to wine. Our fruit — drum roll, please — will always point to Christ and His sacrifice for His glory.
No wonder I’m mesmerized by vineyards.
You are grafted to the vine. Receive the sap. Abide.