Summary: What does abiding in Christ, who is the true vine mean for me today - mission?
Story: When Maddy and I lived in Switzerland we had a couple of vines in the back garden.
To be honest, the first year we were there - they looked pretty awful and so Maddy asked her father - as he had been a farmer - to come round and trim them to see if we could get any fruit.
I got a shock when I came home that evening to find all the foliage cut back and all we had was a puny tree which was so weak that it held on the garage wall by clips.
The following year, the vines didn’t bloom - but they did produce fruit.
You see I hadn’t realised that a vine has no other use than to produce fruit – grapes.
You’d never use the vine to make a beautiful piece of furniture – as you might use wood from an oak tree.
The vine merely exists to produce fruit – and it is from the branches that the fruit comes.
In our Gospel, Jesus said:
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
2 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.
Being in an agrarian society, Jesus original hearers would have known all about vines and how to tend them
But more than that the image of the vine would have a greater significance to Jesus’ original hearers because the Vine represented Israel.
1. A great golden vine trailed over the Temple porch and
2. There are many Old Testament allusions to the Vine symbolising Israel – not least in Psalm 80
(The Message of John- Milne p.219)
We read in Psalm 80, where the psalmist is speaking about the exodus from Egypt:
8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it,
and it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea,
its shoots as far as the River.
12 Why have you broken down its walls
so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
13 Boars from the forest ravage it,
and insects from the fields feed on it.
14 Return to us, God Almighty!
Look down from heaven and see!
Watch over this vine,
15 the root your right hand has planted,
the son you have raised up for yourself.
If Israel is symbolised by a vine, what is the fruit that it is expected to produce?
Isaiah 49:6 gives us a clue. Speaking of Israel God says:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Bruce Milne explains it like this:
<‘The election of Israel coincides with God’s promise of blessing to the nations’ ( H.H. Rowley).
Israel, however was more attracted by the gods of the surrounding nations than by her potential for penetrating them as a missionary.
Her centuries long declension from God’s purpose now reaches its nadir in the rejection and crucifying of the Messiah and the repudiation of the kingdom of God.> (The Message of John- Milne p.219)
Put a bit more simply, not only has Israel rejected its role to take the message of the one true God to the nations surrounding it – and so would have been a blessing to those nations, but on top of that they actually go on to reject the Messiah of the God they profess to worship.
In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus gives us the key for Christians to bear fruit.
And that is 4 Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
You will only bear fruit if you abide in him.
When Jesus spoke about abiding in Him, I thought of three characteristics of the word.
1. The first characteristic of “abiding in Christ” is making time.
We live in a society that runs in the fast lane almost all the time.
The word "Abide" runs counter current to all that. There is a tranquillity about it.
Jesus was busy - much of the time but he did take time off to draw aside and pray in the midst of a heavy schedule.
We read in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, after healing many people in a particular town: