“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15:5 NIV]
A huge grapevine was carved into the stone of the entrance to the temple in Jerusalem. The trunk of the grapevine carving was more than 6 feet tall, the branches spread out far apart, and were adorned with gold leaves and bunches of ornate grapes.
When Jesus spoke the words in the Gospel of John, He most likely was standing beneath the grapevine engraving. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,” meaning that He is the source that produces fruit for God. And Jesus is saying the same to us, "I am the source. Remain in the vine, abide in me. Apart from me you can do nothing."
This image of the vine and branches is a picture of how we are to participate in the work of God. Branches cannot live apart from the vine. Branches of a grapevine are interwoven and interconnected. Within the vine itself, there is no hierarchy. And there is just one purpose for a grapevine—to produce fruit. Jesus is saying to us that our sole purpose is to produce fruit, to be servants. And to always remember the source—Christ. We have a living reliance on Jesus to bear fruit.
The word used over and over again for "servant" is the Greek word hupertes. This term was originally meant to indicate an "under-rower," someone who worked in the galleys or the lower deck of a ship's crew. It eventually came to mean a servant or steward. It is an example of how our attitude should be one of humility with others and servanthood to Christ.
Christ says to us, "I can do in you what you cannot." There are some who serve out of slavery, in fear of God. There are some who serve as a hired hand, to get some reward or pay out of it. Then there are some who serve out of love for Christ. Deep down, which one are we?