Summary: When we are joined to Christ the true vine, we are powerfully connected to his Spirit and his vitality. By faith, we can share in Jesus’s righteous life and his atoning death. It is through his death and resurrection that the branches begin to flourish and bear much fruit.

When we take the time to look at trees, we get a beautiful reminder of how they sustain the life of their branches and leaves. Some of these trees are also able to produce a harvest of fruit that we can enjoy.

Scripture talks about this too, the importance of the link from a leaf or branch to the rest of the plant. It’s a vital connection. In John 15, Jesus is very clear about what happens to a branch if it’s broken off from the rest of the plant: ‘It is thrown away and withers.’ But Scripture also says that when a branch is well-connected to the rest of the tree, it will thrive. The branch will grow leaves and will even bear fruit.

That’s the central lesson of this ‘I am’ saying of the Lord Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” The truth is that we will never survive on our own. Without Christ, there is no true life. But when God by his Spirit joins us to the Saviour, we have everything we need, and we are enabled to live and bear fruit for his glory. I preach God’s Word from John 15:5 on this theme:

I am the vine, you are the branches.

1) our life through the vine

2) our life as the branches

1) our life through the vine: Vines and vineyards were a familiar part of life in Israel. Because they were common in that land, we see the metaphor of a vineyard appear regularly in the Old Testament. Israel was compared to a vine, or even to an entire vineyard, one that was lovingly tended by the LORD.

An example of this is in Isaiah 5. There the prophet speaks about everything that God had done for his people. For the LORD was like a farmer who first removed all the rocks from a field, then planted good vines there, and cultivated his vines, protected and nurtured them. If ever a nation had a chance to succeed, it was Israel.

Yet God’s vineyard was sadly unproductive. The LORD looked for good fruit, but He found only injustice and unrighteousness. Psalm 80 sings about this too, how the LORD had delivered his people from Egypt and planted them in a good and spacious place—yet Israel failed to bear fruit. Instead they lived in rebellion and idolatry. It’s striking that when you look at the several Old Testament texts where Israel is compared to a vine, most of them end with judgment on the vine: they would be uprooted and burned up.

Israel failed as a vine, so God planted a new vine, a true vine. And that is Christ. Notice how He says in verse 1, “I am the true vine.” Jesus is the one Israelite who will finally be able to lead a righteous life before the LORD. He is the one who keeps the commands of the LORD in every way. Christ alone fulfills to perfection the words of Psalm 1, for He will be ‘planted by rivers of water and He will bring forth his fruit in season.’

Christ is the true vine, but He doesn’t exist unto himself. See how Jesus connects who He is to who we are. He speaks of the close union that He has with us, his believers: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (15:5).

Let’s first appreciate the miracle of this saying. God had a vineyard before, we said, but the people of Israel did not produce. Yet God didn’t quit the vineyard business. Instead, He sent his Son to be the true vine, and then He grafted us onto him so that we can share in his life. Just like the useless branch can be cut off, so a branch from elsewhere can be grafted on. We are Gentiles by birth, whom Paul calls ‘wild olive branches.’ We didn’t have or deserve the gospel, but we’re now included in Christ.

Like few other images in Scripture, this one reveals how all our well-being and strength are only through Christ. In ourselves, we are dead and unproductive of anything good. What can you do without Jesus Christ? In ourselves, we’re fit only for the burn pile.

But when we are joined to Christ, we are connected to his Spirit and his vitality. By faith, we can share personally in Jesus’s righteous life and his atoning death. Just recall the context of these words in John 15. Jesus is speaking to his disciples on the night before He goes to the cross. By his words it’s becoming clear that only through his death do we come alive! Somehow by his death, the branches begin to flourish.

And in order for us to have life through the vine, there is one critical requirement—something essential to tie us to Christ. If you scan the first dozen verses of our chapter, what do you suppose that requirement is? How do we live through Christ? We must abide. That verb is used eleven times in these verses, in our text too: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”

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