Summary: This message looks at the I AM statement of Jesus that he is the Vine. The message considers the action of the Gardener and the actions of the Branches.
I Am the Vine
(many of the ideas in this message come from various messages at sermon central with the same or similar title, contributed by K. Edward Skidmore, SC Smead, and Douglas Phillips)
Scripture: John 15:1-8
This is the seventh of our series on the “I Am” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel.
All of the I AM statements were connected with an event going on around Jesus at the time. And he uses those events, as opportunities to teach his disciples about God, and about who he, himself is.
o In John 6 Jesus fed over 5,000 people. Right after that miracle --- He told them: I AM the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never Thirst. John 6:35
o Jesus and his Disciples were at the Temple to celebrate the Festival of Lights when Jesus announced, I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. John 8:12
o They were looking out over hills where shepherds herded their sheep when Jesus said: I AM the gate (for the sheep); whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. John 10:9
o He went on to say, I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11
o Just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he declared: I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. John 11:25
o At the Last Supper, Jesus warned his apostles about his coming arrest and death. The Apostles couldn’t understand what he meant. Finally, Thomas exclaimed: We don’t know where you’re going, Jesus! How can we possibly know the way? Jesus took that opportunity to teach them: I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
(- K. Edward Skidmore)
It’s clear that Jesus used every-day events as a springboard for teaching eternal truths.
Here, Jesus says, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.” In verse 5, Jesus tells his disciples, (and in telling his disciples, he’s telling us) you are the branches.
A little history - the grapevine was an important part of the life of Israel. In Psalm 80, Israel is referred to as a grapevine. The 1st Century historian, Josephus, details Herod’s temple as having a huge cluster of gold grapes hanging around the outside of the temple. He wrote, “Under the crown-work, was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height. The largeness and the workmanship of which were an astonishing sight to the spectators.”
It’s said that when someone wanted to pay honor to another person, they would pay to have another grape added to the golden cluster on Herod’s temple. It was very expensive so it became a badge of honor to be able to afford the tribute. Still, the Jews took great pride in this and saw it as a symbol of their nation.
So in the Old Testament, and in their culture, the vine represented Israel. In Isaiah, Israel is referred to as the vine that produced wild grapes - because of their rebellion and sinfulness.
So we can think of Israel as the grapevine of the Past.
In this passage in John, Jesus says he is the grapevine. So today, Jesus is the vine. Jesus is the grapevine of the Present.
If you look at Revelation 14, you’ll find these words, Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
So the FUTURE vine, symbolizes the earth in the last days ripe for God’s judgement and wrath.
So the earth is the grapevine of the Future.
Looking at the past then, we find that Israel was not the true vine - Israel was not fruitful. And the future vine - the earth - is not the true vine, it will receive the full extent of God’s wrath at the judgement.
It’s HERE, in the present - that we find the TRUE grapevine - Jesus. A true vine, produces branches, and the branches produce fruit.