The study I'm in right now is Secrets of the Vine, written by Bruce H. Wilkinson. I've known the illustration of the vine and the branches for a long time.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “ Jesus speaking - John 15:1-2 NASV
It seemed clear to me what the first verse meant by “takes away.” Thrown away, removed, discarded. Imagine my surprise when I learned the Greek word “airo” - which is translated here as takes away – is the same word used when the disciples “took up” 12 baskets of food.
The author shared the story of a vineyard owner explaining what was done in a physical vineyard to branches that weren't bearing fruit, that had fallen down into the dirt, splashed by rain and mud. Someone would take a bucket of water and, kneeling down beside the grape vine, he would lift the vine trailing into the dirt and clean it off. Then he'd reposition it on the supports where the sun could reach it.
If God's desire is for us to do good works to glorify Him … to bear fruit … cleaning us up (making us aware of our dirty sinful condition and forgiving our repenting hearts) produces that result much better than cutting us off and throwing us away.
The image in my mind of God holding me up out of the dirt and washing me off so I can receive nutrition from the sun is thrilling. I don't want to spend my life in the dirt... trailing along in a sickly, nonproductive way, trapped and unable to lift myself onto the support with my own efforts.