We just covered information on Jesus being the “true” vine. Now we will discuss the Father’s position as the gardener. There are two things that the Father is said to do in His care of the vine.
First, he is said to “cut off every branch that does not bear fruit. It is the purging away of dead branches in precisely the same sense that the branches are said to be “thrown into the fire” and “burned.” This is mentioned in verse 6. In the instance of translating the phrase “cut off,” there variations to its meaning. There is the Greek word aim, which lies behind this phrase. The word airo has four meanings. They proceed from the most fundamental to the most figurative: (1) to lift up or pick up, (2) to lift up figuratively, as in lifting up one’s eyes or voice, (3) to lift up with the added thought of lifting up in order to carry away, and (4) to remove. Most translators have chosen the fourth meaning. The verse makes better sense and the sequence of verbs is better if the first and primary meaning of the word is taken. This would bring about the following translation: “Every branch in men that does not bear fruit he lifts up.” That is, to keep it from trailing on the ground.
This particular translation makes better sense of the passage in every way. It leans toward a better theology. First, the emphasis of this opening section of the parable is, quite rightly, upon the care of the vine by the Father. It would be strange, if granting this emphasis, if the first thing mentioned is the carrying away of unproductive branches. It is not at all strange to emphasize that the gardener first lifts the branches up so that they may be better exposed to the sun and so the fruit will develop properly.
Second, this lifting up is precisely what is first done with vines, as anyone who has watched them being cared for knows. Grapes are not like squash or pumpkins. These two items develop well on the ground. Vines must hang free. Any branch that trails on the ground is unproductive. To cut it off immediately before giving it a chance to develop properly would seem strange. It would be wise and customary for him to stretch the vine on an arbor or use some other means of raising it to the air and sun. This is precisely what vineyards look like, for the vines are always strung from pole to pole on wires.
Third, to translate the word airo by “lifts up” gives a proper sequence to the Father’s care of the vineyard. This is indicated by the verb that follows. He then must lift the vines up. Then He cuts off the unproductive elements, carefully cleansing the vines of insects, moss or parasites. These are hindrances to the growth of the plant. This work would come under what is considered the work of insecticides of today.
For these reasons, the translation “lifts up” should be preferred. If this is the case, then the first thing the Father is said to do is to lift the Christian closer to Himself. To translate that into spiritual terms, it means that the Father first creates a sense of true devotion in the Christian.