Summary: Seventh of a seven week series on the "I Am" sayings of Jesus.
This morning we’ll complete a seven week journey in which we have examined the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel account. And as we’ve done that, we’ve gotten to know Jesus better through His own words. Each of the seven sayings reveals some aspect of the divinity of Jesus and also has practical implications for each of us as we live our day-to-day lives.
As I looked back over the previous six messages this week, I noticed some interesting patterns. Earlier in His ministry Jesus made those claims in front of large crowds. When He proclaimed that He was the bread of life, it was to a large crowd that He had fed the day before. When He claimed to be the light of the world, He spoke to a large gathering in the Temple. But the last two claims, including the one we’ll examine this morning, were made to a group of eleven men who would soon be tasked with carrying on His ministry.
There is also a sense in which the claims that Jesus makes build upon each other and become more intense. He seems to be continually building upon the prior sayings with each claim. So in a sense, the seventh “I am” saying that we’ll examine this morning encompasses everything that we’ve already learned, but takes it to an even deeper level for those who are closest to Jesus.
That is really exciting for us this morning because it means that if we really desire to take our relationship with Jesus to a deeper level, there is much that we can take from this passage and apply to our walk with Him.
So with that in mind, take your Bibles and turn to John 15 and follow along as I begin reading in verse 1:
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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 15:1-11 (ESV)
This is certainly a rich passage, but it is also one that is a bit perplexing, especially if we don’t keep it in its proper context. We can’t divorce these words of Jesus from the rest of His discourse that began in chapter 13 immediately following Judas’ departure to go to the Jewish religious leaders to betray Jesus. It is right in the center of Jesus’ words to His closest followers that He speaks for the purpose of preparing them to carry on His ministry after the impending chaos and confusion related to His arrest and crucifixion. If we keep that context in mind, then we won’t fall into the trap of drawing conclusions about Jesus’ words here that just aren’t supported by the text.
So we’ll begin this morning by making some observations about critical elements in the text and then we’ll use those observations to help us make some practical applications to our own lives.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE TEXT
1. As the “true vine”, Jesus is the genuine way to God
In the Old Testament, God frequently refers to Israel as a vine or a vineyard. That association led to the vine being used as a symbol for Israel on the Maccabean coins as well as on the gate of Herod’s Temple, much in the same way that the eagle is used as a symbol for the United States today.
But almost every time that Israel is pictured as a vine in the Old Testament, it is in a negative manner. In most cases, that is because Israel had failed in its task of being God’s representative here on earth in a manner that would have led others to place their faith in the one true God.