Summary: As we read some of Jesus’ final words, we discover the seemingly impossible mission he gives them. And it will greatly help us understand our own mission. Mission impossible? You be the judge…
GROWING FRUITFUL FOLLOWERS
Give every child an apple as they enter, with instructions not to eat it…
As I talk this morning, I want each of you with an apple to be thinking about what this apple has to do with who Jesus wants us to be, what Jesus wants us to do.
We’re calling this little series “Mission Possible.”
Anybody here remember the old TV series Mission Impossible?
[Show ‘Mission Impossible’ image and play sound clip]
What a great show. It always began the same way. Every week, in a format that has been copied endlessly since, Linc and the gang would be given an assignment that was deemed impossible because of it’s danger and unlikelihood of succeeding. And every week they faced insurmountable odds as they attempted to turn mission impossible into mission possible.
I wonder if Jesus felt that way. I think Jesus may have been in the same boat. Imagine this scene: It’s the night that Jesus would be betrayed, arrested, and then killed. He knows it, but his 12 followers don’t. He’s having his last supper, his last conversation with them. They don’t know it, but he’s charging them, preparing them for life without him there. His band of followers has shrunk to these 12 rag tag guys and few of their relatives. They are about to be plunged into grief and fear like they’ve never known. The Jewish nation and the Roman empire were both about to swing their mighty hammers to smash their little movement. With Jesus about to be taken out of the picture, the mission of changing the world would belong to these 12. Sounds like mission impossible, doesn’t it?
Let’s listen in on some of his final words for them. As we read them today, we will discover the seemingly impossible mission he gives them. And it will greatly help us understand our own mission. Mission impossible? You be the judge…
A. He is the vine; we are the branches
Jesus emphatically states the he is the vine, we are the branches. He uses the language of the vineyard to picture their relationship, and also our relationship with him. When he hear the word “branches” we’re tempted to think of trees, and that’s probably close enough. But he’s really talking about a vineyard, where the vines have shoots, or branches, coming out of them.
The point of this is he is making sure they all understand their roles: “Guys, I am the vine, you are the branches, connected to me.”
B. The purpose of branches is to bear fruit
Now, let’s talk about the apples some of you have. We have to talk about apples, because I thought it would be too messy to give you all grapes. So apples will have to do. Tell me about your apple. Where did it come from? [Take responses, leading them to the answer “from a branch.”]
That’s right. Fruit comes the branch, whether its apples from a tree or grapes from a branch.
Jesus says, since he is the vine, and we are the branches, we can produce fruit. As long as we ‘remain in him,’ or remain connected to him, we can produce fruit, like a branch would. Jesus says that’s natural – branches produce fruit. But only if they are connected to the vine. If I sawed a branch off of an apple tree, would it produce any apples? No, of course not. It has to be connected to the tree. Jesus says, “Stay connected to me and you will produce fruit.”
Now let’s read John 15:6. Those are pretty strong words. They make an important point – the purpose of the branches is to bear fruit. If you have a vineyard, or an orchard, and there is no fruit being produced, you are going to do some pruning, aren’t you? The only way you can not produce fruit is to not stay connected to Jesus. Jesus is talking about spiritual things. Just a like a branch’s purpose is to produce literal fruit, our purpose is to produce spiritual fruit.
Producing fruit is a good thing – it’s something you should want to do. It sure beats the alternative – getting thrown out. Jesus gives us a glimpse of the good things that happen when we produce fruit. Look at John 15:7. Jesus says if you stay connected to me, you will see your prayers answered in amazing ways. That’s because you will be so connected to him that his life will literally flow through you, like the life of the vine flows through the branches. What you pray for will be more and more aligned with his will, because you will be so close to him. You will pray what he would pray, and he will surely answer. Pretty cool. So producing fruit is a good idea. But there’s more. Look now at John 15:8. Notice what Jesus says.