Summary: Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing?" But that doesn't make any sense... or does it?
OPEN: About a 35-minute drive SW of London is a tourist attraction that was once a royal palace. It’s called Hampton Court. It was built over 500 years ago and was a favorite residence of Henry VIII. A couple hundred years later, during George III's reign (the King who had problems with the American colonies), someone planted the shoot of a grapevine outside the palace. And that vine has grown and grown for the past 250 years. It’s been pampered and pruned for so long that the stem is now about 13 feet in diameter and some of its branches are over 120 feet long. Despite its age, the vine still produces 600 to 900 lbs. of grapes per year. Some say it’s the oldest living grapevine in the world.
If you noticed, I said “SOME SAY” that it’s the oldest grapevine in existence… but that’s not true. There is a vine that’s older than that. The oldest vine… is Jesus
Throughout the Bible, God referred to His people as being His vineyard. Isaiah 5:7 says “The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight...” and in Isaiah 27:2-3 God declared “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no-one may harm it.”
When Jesus wanted to tell us about the fact that salvation not based on works, He told a parable that started this way “… the kingdom of heaven (the church) is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.” Matthew 20:1
Those who belong to Jesus (saved) are the vineyard. We’re the BRANCHES and Jesus is the VINE.
One commentator I read noted that the Jews of Jesus day were looking for the Messiah. And one of the terms used of Him was that He’d be THE VINE. (John Gill) So, Jesus used imagery people would understand. When He declared He was the vine, He was saying He was the Messiah - and that those who belonged to Him were the branches.
That brings us to our story today. John 15:5 “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.”
Now, that’s an odd statement. What do you mean - I can’t do anything apart from Jesus? Of course I can do all kinds of things apart from Jesus. Well… yeah… kind of.
1 Corinthians 15:58 says it a little differently Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Notice: your labor IN THE LORD is not in vain. It’s not that you can’t do stuff. It’s not that you can’t do labor. It’s just that without Jesus IT’S ALL IN VAIN.
It’s kind of like the parable Jesus told about the two men who built houses. One man built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:25 tells us “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
The man who built that house ROCK did NOT build in vain.
But then, there was a 2nd man – the man who built his house on the SAND. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." Matthew 7:27
The man who built on the SAND… BUILT IN VAIN.
And Jesus said: “everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
What the foolish man built was in vain because without Jesus you can’t do anything that’s gonna last. Folks in this world often put high priorities on things they think are important. They’d like to marry the girl or boy of their dreams; they’d like to be important or powerful; they’d like to be rich; they’d like to be seen as “good people” who do “good things.” And they want to live a long FRUITFUL life. Almost everyone wants to bear good fruit that’s gonna last. And, there’s nothing wrong with any of those priorities. It’s just that without Jesus… it’s all in vain. IT’S NOT GOING TO LAST!!!
That’s what Jesus meant when He said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19