The vine! – John 15:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 18, 2015
When I grew up in the orchards of Leavenworth, Washington they were mainly older trees that were quite tall, but now many of the orchards have gone to a newer style of tree where they are a lot smaller and pruned to be more one dimensional and they look more like a vine. Here in John’s gospel when Jesus teaches about being the vine he is of course referring to grape vines but being raised in one of the largest apple growing areas in the world, I think of apples.
The vine Jesus is referring to of course is him and the importance of remaining in him is likened to being cultivated on a vine. Jesus’ followers are to be correctly connected to Jesus; no false claims can be tolerated and must be cut off and discarded. Jesus’ disciples are entrusted with three duties: 1) to remain in Jesus, 2) to love God and one another, and 3) to witness concerning who he is. He is the vine, let’s see what this means for our lives…
READ: John 15:1-8
When the apples in the orchard were ready they had to be picked and stored quickly. At that time most were handpicked, sorted by hand, and then stored in cold storage until they were shipped all over the world. Here in John’s gospel we discover that…
I. We are part of the vine when we are handpicked by God! (Vv. 1-3)
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
1. It is hard to imagine that some fruit trees, in order to produce a more abundant harvest, have to be sometimes drastically pruned. Jesus knew there would be those who would come along claiming they were God’s answer to mankind’s problem, when in fact they were just false vines. God is not fooled; he knows who are his and who are not. Jesus tells them, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” Herein is the final of Jesus’ “I AM” statements found in John’s gospel and while Jesus is God and thereby the true vine folks should grow in, God the Father is the Gardener. It is his job therefore to “cut off every branch… that bears no fruit.” Is Jesus talking about believers or is he referring rather to Israel? I believe he is telling his disciples that God the Gardener has the right to prune those in Israel who would not believe in his Son. God never cuts off his beloved, those who trust his Son with their lives. Only a few of the Jews would bear fruit, would follow Jesus, yet “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will bear even more fruit!” Jesus’ disciples were God’s chosen from all of Israel to bear fruit for his kingdom, however, they would need to be pruned in order to produce even more fruit! They would go through tough times but those circumstances were only part of their lives so they would produce even more fruit for God’s final harvest! Jesus assures them, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” Jesus’ disciples would be fruitful because they would be the pruned trees of God’s orchard, handpicked by him! We are part of the vine when we are handpicked by God!
EXAMPLE: My mother went to work at an apple packing plant where apples were handpicked, sorted, and then wrapped to be boxed and sent worldwide. They were to be the best of the best apples. She learned to do the task of picking, sorting, and wrapping very quickly. She was so good at it that she was put in charge of training others how to do the tasks of sorting, picking, and wrapping. We are part of the vine when we are handpicked by God!
Did you know that all apples are grafted onto hardier stock, like roses, and that the seeds you get from any apple, if they grow, will grow into only one kind of apple from which they were originally grafted from? Not every seed will give rise to the same type of apple even if it all came from one type of apple tree. Here in John’s gospel we discover that…
II. We can do nothing without Jesus, our vine, in our lives! (Vv. 4-5)
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
1. The relationship God’s people would have with him from now on would go through his Son, Jesus. In fact, Jesus relates this new relationship to his followers by telling them, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” Notice the shift here in what Jesus is teaching? He goes from God choosing and pruning to those who decide to follow him and remain in him. Jesus is promising all those who decide to give their lives in trust to him that he will always be with them; he will always remain in them! The spiritual problem comes when folks try a different way than the one God has provided through Jesus. This is why Jesus related, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” Trying our own way instead of God’s results in stunted growth at best, yet if we remain on the true vine of God, we will bear a harvest for him! The reason was obvious to Jesus, “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Our spiritual nourishment comes from the vine provided by God, Jesus. He is to be our source of spiritual sustenance, nothing else is to replace him or be grafted into our lives. Fruitfulness is the result of Jesus being reproduced in a disciple. We are to trust him with our lives, walk with him daily, and obey his commands of loving God completely and others as ourselves! Jesus’ promise is restated by him, “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” and yet “apart from me you can do nothing.” We can do nothing without Jesus, our vine, in our lives!
EXAMPLE: Interestingly once in a while the orchardist would go through the orchard and find a tree he would like to cross breed with a different variety. He would selectively pollinate certain blossoms or graft different apple varieties onto select trees. He would come back and check often to see if his selections were growing the way he desired. Jesus is to be our source of spiritual sustenance, nothing else is to replace him or be grafted into our lives. We can do nothing without Jesus, our vine, in our lives!
The purpose of apple trees is to produce fruit, especially the fruit the harvester desires. If tree do not bear consistently good fruit they are cut down and burned. We discover here in John’s gospel that…
III. We bring glory to God when we produce fruit for his kingdom! (Vv. 6-8)
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
1. The simple truth that we can never be and can never do anything truly worthwhile without Jesus is frankly taught by him when we states, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers.” In fact we are useless without Jesus. All the grand schemes of the world look wonderful on the outside but on the inside they are sustained by the withering nature of humanity’s pride of “look what I have done”! This is why Paul would later write concerning this: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NIV) Jesus states that “such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” Wow! Yet we receive the promise again that “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” This is not an Aladdin’s lamp wishful thinking thing but rather the deep abiding truth of knowing God’s will and understanding what to ask him for and when to ask him for it! If we need the deep spiritual water or nourishment, we will know when to ask for it and God will provide. Why? The simple fact is that everything Jesus did and everything we are to live for is for God’s glory. Jesus succinctly related, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” An effective walk with God is contingent upon his words remaining is us; his will be done on earth as it is in heaven! We bring glory to God when we produce fruit for his kingdom!
EXAMPLE: Every year the orchardist went through his trees and pruned them back so they would produce only the best fruit. Weak limbs, branches that grew straight up and those that grew inward or too low to the ground were cut off. Trees that did not bear well were cut down. All the branches, limbs, and trees would be placed in a large heap and once a year we would have a huge bonfire. The orchardist knew exactly which limbs to cut and the ones to save so the trees would produce the most fruit possible. We bring glory to God when we produce fruit for his kingdom!
We are part of the vine when we are handpicked by God! We can do nothing without Jesus, our vine, in our lives! We bring glory to God when we produce fruit for his kingdom!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.