Take a few seconds and look at the photo of the vine. What do you see? During our time with the students meditating on John 15 in the vineyard I captured this picture. It looked so much like a cross, in fact I observed rows and rows of crosses all over the hilly landscape.
Not much beauty in this gnarly, rutty looking vine. It appears dry and dead with no sign of life. Yet, I am reminded in Isaiah 53, of the prophetic portrait of the suffering servant Jesus:
“My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected…we turned our back on Him and looked the other way,” (vs. 2-3).
In the midst of this vineyard the beautiful work of an ugly cross preached powerfully to my soul. My life emerges from the most ugly, unjust, event in history. A perfect Savior who took on the full flood of evil and damning sin to break its curse and bring life to the spiritually dead. Listen again to Isaiah 53:
“Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down…He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed. All of us strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on Him the guilt and sins of us all,” (vs. 4-6).
As I focused on the cross like vine and Isaiah 53 I sensed the Spirit say “This is it, this is the one thing My world needs!” There is no life apart from the cross, all true life comes through being united to Christ in His death (Gal. 2:20). As you look again at the pictures you’ll notice that the branches come out of the cross like a vine. Apart from the vine the branch does not exist (John 15:4).
In these turbulent times our greatest need is to return to an ugly cross and find the beauty of true life. Adam and Eve walked away from the Father’s love by listening to the lie of satan and eating from the forbidden tree in the beautiful garden. The Father offers you and me a way back into His beautiful love through an ugly tree stained with the blood of His Son.
One tree brought fear, hate, disunity, jealously, every form of evil and spiritual and physical death. The cross brings abundant life and fruit that will bring healing to the nations. The fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
In the middle of the vineyard that day I felt the Father call me back to the Vine, to make the vine, my One Thing, to remain in His beautiful perfect love given to me at the Cross. And to live the Cross and share the message of Cross as the only hope for our world.