Summary: Teaching style sermon on staying the mystical connection with have with Christ the vine.
by Brad Boydston
Cornerstone Covenant Church
Sunday, 10 April 2005
[Biblical text from the TNIV. Some of the illustrations are gratefully ripped off from your sermons on SermonCentral.com]
Last year I tore out the grapevines I had planted 6 or 7 years ago. I was tired of fighting them. I’m convinced that grapevines have one mission in life and that is to take over the world. If I turned my back for even a day they were into the trees and intertwined in the tomatoes. And so it was with heavy heart but gleeful relief that I tore them out.
Of course, grapevines are phenomenal plants. In Hampton Court near London, there is a grapevine which is about 1,000 years old. This grapevine has one root which is at least two feet thick, and some of the branches are 200 feet long. And it still produces several tons of grapes each year. Even though some of the smaller branches are 200 feet from the main trunk they still bear fruit because they are connected to the vine.
It’s all about connection -- and that is Jesus’ point here in John 15 -- one of everyone’s favorite passages in the gospel.
Now, the passage itself sprawls in a vining fashion. It weaves a complex but rich lesson. So, for the sake of time I’ve put together a rather extensive outline on the message guide hopefully this will allow us to cover a lot of vine in a short amount of time.
There are four things you need to know about viticulture as Jesus sees it. These are the things that Jesus charges his followers to do in John 15.
The first is that he charges them -- he charges us to REMAIN CONNECTED TO HIM.
Vs. 1 -- and this is another one of the great I AM statements in John where Jesus uses the ancient name of God revealed to Moses, applies it to himself, and adds a metaphor. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener."
Vs. 4 -- "Remain in me, as I also remain 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. "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; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
Some of your translations use the word abide -- "abide in me" --and that picks up a slightly different nuance here -- to remain is to stay connected -- to abide is to live -- and Jesus is talking about a living connection.
There is a mystical sense in which we by faith are connected to Christ and we find our life in Christ his sap oozes through our cells and we produce leaves, and new shoots, and fruit -- only because of our connection with Christ.
You can’t live out the Jesus life if you are not connected with him. If you have a bunch of pruned branches they are not going to produce leaves and fruit and growth -- no matter how much you water them or give them sunlight.
In other words, you can’t live out the things that the Bible talks about -- faithfulness, holiness... if you’re not truly connected to Christ. It is frustrating and futile to try to fulfill the imperatives of Jesus if his sap isn’t flowing through us. It is impossible to live the Christian life if you are not connected to Christ. But if we remain in him -- abide in him -- continue to keep our faith or trust in him -- then his juices flow through us.
There are some other implications to Jesus’ words here. Remember that in the OT the vine was a metaphor or symbol for Israel itself. The Hebrew people saw their connection to God being their connection to Israel -- the vine.
For example, Isaiah 5:7 -- "The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in."
When Jesus says, "I am the vine" he is saying I am the new Israel -- the new Judah -- the new connection. If you’re going to relate to God you need to relate to me -- for I am the vine.
Also, there are some sacramental overtones to this passage. Early Christians had a very high view of the Lord’s Supper and when they heard Jesus say "I am the vine", as they were reading John’s gospel, they would immediately connect the dots and realize that Jesus is talking about the wine in communion. I am the wine. When the faithful receive the wine they are receiving me -- strengthening the connection -- the abiding -- that’s how the juices flow into the branches -- through the wine which is Jesus.