A Scientific Look at the Branches, Vine, and Grafting in the Bible
Romans 11:17 - “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree” (ESV).
Of course, this verse is super-packed with great information and encouragement for us. The major thing going on here is that some wild olive shoots are grafted into an existing tree. They then are able to get their food and water from the roots of that existing plant.
Let’s first discuss what grafting is. Once we look at this process, then we will have a much fuller understanding of what the verse means for us.
Grafting is a technique where a section of a stem with some leaf buds is attached to the stock of an existing tree. It is placed onto the stock plant so that the vascular cambium tissue of both pieces lines up. That way the grafted portion is able to receive nutrients from the stock.
Vascular cambium is the material that produces the xylem and phloem of plants. Xylem and phloem transport fluid and nutrients within a plant’s tissues – kind of like the blood vessels in our bodies. You can see the vascular tissue in this celery stalk.
What this really means is that the wild shoot is cut in a way that it fits into a specific spot on the existing plant so that the transport vessels of both pieces line up. In this way, the grafted piece can continue to grow as it is fed nutrients and water by the stock plant.
You can see a cherry tree grafting here.
The “v” shape shows where the graft occurred. The shoot was cut into a point and the stock was cut into a “v” so that when they were placed together and tied off, the connection was stronger.
Well, what’s going on with the illustration of us being the branches grafted onto the tree? The verse is referring to the Gentile believers being grafted in to the nation of Israel. They were once not a part of them and now have been carefully pruned and placed within, able to receive the bountiful richness and blessings that are promised to Israel.
In John 15:5, we see a similar analogy: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (ESV)
We as believers are grafted to the family of Christ. All of our nourishment, then is provided by the main root. We all are a part of the same plant.
This gives us a great opportunity to discuss how we should live with one another. You see, as Christians, we are not each other’s enemy. We each have special fruit that we can produce. Some of us may make purple grapes, while others make green ones. Some may make those tiny, delicious champagne grapes, and others produce giant, juicy red ones. Yet if we work against one another, we twist our tendrils around one another, preventing some from growing. If they are not making grapes the way we are, then we think they must be doing it wrong. So we try to grow over them, blocking their sunlight, choking them off.
That is not our purpose. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, grafted into his vine. We all receive nourishment from his word and are able to grow and produce great fruit!
Here is an image from the Fruit Salad Tree Company. It truly is a tree that produces enough fruit varieties for a salad!
And just like this amazing citrus tree can produce multiple citrus fruits simultaneously because of grafting, we, as the body of Christ, also can produce a cornucopia of spiritual fruit, serving others, spreading the Gospel, and bringing the hope of God’s word to a dry and thirsty world!