Summary: Jesus explains the relationship His people have with Him using the illustration of a Vine and its branches.
As we approach the Easter holiday season we are looking at some of the “I AM” statements of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. The “I AM” statements of Jesus open our hearts and minds to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is as the Savior and Lord of His people and the relationship He has with His people. Last week we looked at the implication of Jesus’ words when He said, “I AM the Good Shepherd.” Today we are going to seek to understand the implications of Jesus’ words found in JOHN 15 when He says, “I AM the vine…”
“I AM the True Vine…”
HISTORY OF “THE VINE” (ISRAEL). The imagery of the vine and branches Jesus uses in this discourse is deeply rooted in Israel’s history. Throughout the Old Testament Israel is called a vine or a vineyard—PSALM 80:8; JEREMIAH 2:21a. Israel was God’s vine/vineyard and they were to be a people whose lives produced a fruit of holiness and righteousness among the nations for God’s glory. The problem, however, was that Israel had produced bad fruit rather than good fruit—JEREMIAH 2:21b; ISAIAH 5:1-4. Their inability to produce fruit in accordance to righteousness resulted in discipline in the form of divine judgment upon His people. When Jesus comes onto the scene of human history, Israel is still experiencing the results of God’s discipline as they live under Roman rule while in the land of Promise.
JESUS THE TRUE (PERFECT) VINE. Jesus comes as the fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic existence. Everything about Israel’s existence pointed forward to the Messiah that was to come. Jesus comes to us and announces that He is the true (perfect) vine and where Israel had failed to be the true vine that produces branches of godly righteousness He would succeed. He would be the Perfect Son who would walk in Perfect Righteousness before His Father and because of His Perfect Life salvation would be accomplished for those who are unable, in and of themselves, to produce the fruit of godly righteousness and thus in Him the righteousness fruit of God will be manifested to the world.
IMPLICATIONS OF BEING THE VINE. The point of this discourse between Jesus and His disciples is to help them understand their relationship to Him as the Vine. With Jesus being the vine we, those who have turned from sin and self to trust fully in Him as Savior and Lord, are the branches. The imagery we get from this illustration is that we, the branches, are dependent solely upon the Vine for life, sustenance and provision. There are two characteristics of branches that our text brings out for us:
BRANCHES PRODUCES FRUIT
FRUIT PRODUCERS. This characteristic most clearly sets the true branches apart from the false branches. The branch that abides in Jesus will be a fruit producing branch. This is quite natural and makes sense given the illustration Jesus uses. When a branch is connected to a vine there will be fruit. Consider these two pictures [SHOW VINEYARD]. The one shows a vineyard that is dormant because it is out of season. However, as time goes by the natural result of all these branches that are connected to these vines is that fruit will be produced. Jesus says the exact same thing about His branches. They will produce the fruit of righteousness and holiness—that which Israel had failed to do—because of their relationship with the Vine. The natural result of any person who is grafted into the Vine (Jesus) through salvation is that fruit will be produced in the life of the one grafted in because of the new lifeblood flowing through the veins of the branch!
FALSE TEACHING—SALVATION WITHOUT SANCTIFICATION. If you claim to be a follower of Christ here today I ask you, “Is your life producing fruit in keeping with righteousness and holiness?” Real branches who are connected to the True Vine will be fruit producers. There is a dangerous FALSE TEACHING that has infiltrated the Church that says one can be saved by Christ but a change of life is optional. This false teaching feeds the desires of those who want to escape eternity in hell but do not want to surrender their life to Christ in His Lordship. In other words, they want to have the security of salvation but not the life of the saved. I have called this a FALSE TEACHING and rightfully so because it is. Jesus says in our passage clearly and without apology that the difference between REAL BRANCHES AND FALSE BRANCHES is that real branches will produce the fruit of righteousness while false branches will not produce fruit and will consequently be removed and burned.
GROOMING THE BRANCH. True branches will be fruit producing branches and will be groomed so that they may produce more fruit. If you are much of a gardener then you know that there are times when you must groom a branch of that which is harmful in order for fruit to come forth. The idea we see here is that God will continue to groom us as His branches so that we may produce more fruit.