Summary: Growth, Connection, Fruit, Discipleship
I AM - I AM the Vine
June 24, 2018
John 15:1 (p. 752)
Marvin Yeager was almost 90 years old when I met him. I’d gone to visit his wife, Vernice at the hospital and then had her funeral after she lost her battle with cancer…Marvin was more country than any man I’d ever met. He always wore overalls and a red flannel shirt, whether it was 5 degrees or 105 degrees.
Marvin called me at 1 am one time and said, “Come over!” I said “Marvin, is everything OK?” And he said, “I just got home from catfishin’ and I want to show you something.” And when I got there Marvin was yelling at the cats who had chewed up the tail of the giant catfish he wanted to show me (ironic huh?)
Marvin would grind up aspirin and mix it with WD40 and put it on his arthritis…he swore it helped…I loved Marvin, he was my friend…I helped bury him at the age of 95.
But, one of the things I remember most about Marvin was his tomatoes…He called them “Big Boys” and they were…bigger than most grapefruit, almost perfect, and they tasted even better…He used to tell me, “You’ve got to “sucker ‘em.” And I’d say, “I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about Marvin.” So he showed me…He grew them next to a fence and when we walked over he checked each vine and with his pocket knife he carefully cut off some of the lower branches…He pruned them with expert hands…He said, “I do this so the good juices can get to the best places.” Marvin knew more about growing the most beautiful and delicious tomatoes than anyone I’ve ever met, before or since. “Plant at the full moon near Mother’s Day, put a catfish head in with each plant, water ‘em early and sucker ‘em just right - and son, you’ll grow some whoppers.”
Jesus knew more about growing disciples than anyone who’s ever lived…and in John Chapter 15 He gives us some of His insight.
“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.”
Jesus is using the analogy of a vineyard and growing grapes, but He’s really talking about a much more important crop. He’s talking about His kingdom…He’s talking about disciples who follow Him…and some of the same principles Marvin used to grow tomatoes in Washington County, Jesus uses to grow disciples.
The point Jesus makes is a simple one. He is the main vine in the vineyard and his followers are the branches that grow from Him. God the Father is the Gardener…The overseer of the vineyard who will do what’s necessary to have the best crop…which involves:
I. PRUNING FOR PRODUCTIVITY
Marvin would cal it “suckerin’”
But Jesus says, “God the Father, the Gardener cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that does not bear fruit He prunes.”
In verse 6 of this chapter Jesus says:
“If anyone does not remain in me they are like a branch that is thrown away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
It’s a pretty simple plan…God the Gardener wants a vineyard that produces fruit…when He sees branches that never produce fruit, He cuts them off the vine, throws them in a pile, that pile of branches withers away and they’re burned. It just becomes much more intense when we realize He’s dealing with people…not branches.
Here’s what we know for sure…God’s the Gardener…Jesus is the one true vine…and we are the branches that grow from the vine…branches that do not produce fruit are eventually cut off and thrown in the fire…and even those which do produce fruit are pruned so they bear more fruit. Would you agree that this is an accurate summation of Jesus’ story in John 15?
If it is, that means there were people at one time connected to Christ who never produced fruit or stopped producing fruit. And God the Gardener removes them from the vine.
Listen when I hear these words it troubles my heart…I understand in the whole context of scripture that Jesus isn’t talking about a “works” theology…a theology that believes if you do enough “kingdom stuff” you earn a salvation paycheck.
What He is saying very clearly is we are saved by a “relationship theology.”
“I AM the Vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers…these branches are burned.”