Overpaying for the Vineyard – A Parable from John 15:1-8

SUMMARY IDEA: A wealthy man overpays for a vineyard sight unseen. When he finally comes to visit and tour his new vineyard, the former owner learns a lot about vines and branches and about producing fruit.

Read John 15:1-8 to get the context.

“The man had overpaid for the vineyard.”

That’s what loomed immovably in Jed’s mind. The man had definitely overpaid for the vineyard. And not just a little. He had overpaid a lot for it. That was an undeniable fact. But the question was, “Why?” He didn’t need to pay that much for this patch of gnarly, barren vines and branches.

Jed and his partners had intentionally not given a list price for the property in the real estate booklet because they were hoping that someone who was a little naïve about vineyards and who was a little too loose with their money might come along and then they could unload the whole thing on them. The pictures on the advertisement were a little dark and slightly out of focus in order to disguise the true state of the rows of spindly vines. The place was not worthless, but a buyer would have to be able to see potential where there wasn’t much evidence of any. Yeah, when they put the vineyard up for sale, they really didn’t have much hope that they would even get a nibble. Everything would have to come together just right. All the stars would need to align, and each person would need to play their part well, and even then, there wasn’t much expectation of success.

And now suddenly it was all over. The offer had come in for almost twice what they hoped for with no special conditions or demands. And neither the owner nor the agent had even seen the vineyard. “The purchase price will be paid in full,” was all the offer letter said.  The closing had been on a Friday afternoon, with the buyer’s agent coming into town shortly before the closing. The papers were signed, the purchase price was paid in full, the transaction was finished, and the agent had left just as suddenly as he had come. And here was the kicker: the man had overpaid for the vineyard. A lot! Now the deed was recorded in the courthouse and could not be contested or reversed. The money was safely deposited in the bank. It was done; closed; finished. But there was still that nagging thought.

“The man had way overpaid for the vineyard.”

Several days after his purchase of the vineyard, the new owner came out to tour the property and to discuss the details of the vines and the branches with Jed, the former owner. Jed was uncomfortable with this part of the sales contract. The new owner had written into the sales agreement that, after the property was sold, he would have time to tour the vineyard with the former owner. Jed thought this was completely pointless. “The deal’s closed. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Wouldn’t you tour the property before you bought it, not after?” But for the money that the new owner had given for the property, Jed allowed that he was probably entitled to a quick stroll around the vineyard. So, he decided he would do the quick tour and then he would be forever gone from here.

The new owner arrived and smiled broadly as he approached Jed.

“Good morning,” he said. “It is a great day to take a look at my new vineyard. Thank you for taking the time to give me this tour.”

“Yeah, no problem. Seemed a little unusual, but I figured it was probably the least I could do.” He paused as they were strolling toward the first vines of the vineyard. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Certainly, you can ask. What is your question?”

Jed hesitated again, not knowing exactly how to ask his question. “In other words,” he stuttered, “why did you pay so much for this vineyard? Honestly, we couldn’t get much fruit out of this place and a lot of the vines and the branches produced no fruit at all. Why would you pay such a price for this collection of worthless branches?”

Despite the bluntness of Jed’s question, the man continued to smile as he walked through the vines, occasionally pausing to examine a plant more carefully or to pluck off some dead branches. “Jed, I appreciate your question. Do you know the key to having a vineyard that produces much fruit?”

“I guess it’s pretty obvious that I don’t.”

“The key is not in the branches, for all branches are basically the same. If the branches are attached to a poor vine, the branches will produce no fruit. So, the key is not the branches, but the key is the quality of the vine and the skill of the vinedresser. In my vineyard the first thing I will do is introduce a new type of vine. This vine is no ordinary vine. This is my own special vine, one that I have personally brought to my vineyard, and this vine will have branches that produce much fruit. In fact, my experience is that every branch firmly attached to this rich vine will produce fruit year after year, even when the branches are very old. Jed, you had a worthless vine, and you can’t expect any fruit when you have a worthless vine. Truth be told, I may end up just burning a lot of these plants.

“But the other key is the skill of the vinedresser. How would you rate your skill as a vinedresser?”

Jed felt uncomfortable when he said, “I didn’t really think there was much to it. I thought that once you put the things in the ground, the vines and the branches just sort of did their thing and ‘voila!’ out comes the fruit. Now I’m thinking that maybe there’s more to it than that? What do you think?”

“The vineyard that bears much fruit is the vineyard with the richest vine and the most skilled vinedresser. And there are two skills that the master vinedresser possesses: he knows how to determine the health of the branches and he knows how to prune the branches. Once the right vine has been planted and the branches are attached to the vine, the work of the vinedresser begins in earnest. Not all branches bear fruit. So, even though a branch appears to be attached to the vine and appears healthy, it may still not produce fruit. Branches that do not produce fruit are useless and must be removed so that the other branches can produce their fruit. The master vinedresser has the skill to know which branches need to be removed and cast away from the vine.

“But there is a second essential skill of the master vinedresser, and that is the ability to effectively prune the branches. Jed, how often did you prune the branches in your vineyard?”

“Um. Not sure I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

“I’m talking about pruning the branches so that they bear more fruit. You see, because of the nature of my special vine, every branch that is firmly attached to the vine will certainly produce fruit. And that is good, but that is not my goal. My goal is that the branches in my vineyard bear so much fruit that everyone will know that this is my vineyard. My vineyard will take ordinary branches and turn them into fruit-bearers that amaze everyone who sees. My goal as a vinedresser is that everyone can recognize my vineyard by the amount of fruit produced by the formerly-worthless branches. And to do that, the branches need to be pruned. Now, any vinedresser can hack away at the branches and try to make them produce fruit, but my skill is such that I prune every branch exactly as that branch needs to be pruned so that each branch will produce more fruit.

“So, you see, when I introduce my special vine and then attach each chosen branch firmly to the vine; and when I clear away the dead branches and prune those branches that are producing fruit, my vineyard will be overflowing with rich fruit. This is what happens in my vineyard.

“As you can clearly see, Jed, although I paid a high price , I did not overpay for the vineyard. “

Read John 15:1-8  – “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser.” – Jesus Christ

SDG      rmb      3/27/2019

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