Summary: If you are faithful, you will be fruitful.
Rev. Brian Bill
March 12-13, 2016
[Bring up 4 baskets with varying amounts of fruit in each one]
When I was growing up our neighbors had a vineyard. I can remember playing football in our backyard and stopping to eat so many grapes that I would get a stomachache. I also have memories of throwing grapes at my sisters – they left great stains on their pretty dresses! For some reason the owner of these grapevines let us gorge on as many grapes as we wanted. We’d pick pails of them when they were ripe and make grape juice, grape jelly, grape pies, grape brownies, grape fillets, grape lasagna and grape casseroles. We included grapes in everything! They became condiments or the main course, depending on how big the harvest was.
Over time, the owner of the grapevines got sick and was no longer able to take care of his vineyard. The vines became overgrown and the grapes got smaller. Each year the harvest dropped significantly, until only grape cadavers were available (that’s what raisins are, by the way).
Now, in contrast to our neighbor’s negligent vineyard, the largest grapevine in the world is over 240 years old, located in England, called simply the “Great Vine.” [Show PPT slide]
This vine grows in a greenhouse, where a man and his wife, who serve as the vine keepers, have the responsibility of caring for this magnificent plant. This competent and caring couple do everything they can to keep the vine alive so that it will produce fruit – amazingly, this one grapevine still yields between 500 and 700 bunches of grapes each year!
Please turn in your Bible to John 15:1-5 and follow along as I read: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Last week we drilled down into John 14 where Jesus declared that He is the only way to the Father. The focus was on salvation; today we’re going to look at our sanctification. We learned about coming to faith and now we’re going to challenged to be fruitful. We’re moving from knowing Christ to growing in Christ. Here’s our big idea today: If we are faithful, God will make us fruitful.
The sermon last week was strong, wasn’t? There’s no watering down what Jesus said. If we believe the Bible, we must say that Jesus is the only way. A new Edgewood member posted something on Facebook this week that made me smile: “I’m looking forward to the sermon this weekend and I think I'll have a girl from work with me. She wanted to make sure our pastor wasn't a ‘feel good’ pastor. I knew what she meant and told her to buckle up for a truth filled sermon…” I take that as a compliment.
When Jesus says that He is the Vine, He is employing an image that is very familiar to His followers. He often used elements from nature to illustrate His teaching – water, seeds, soil, wheat, fig trees, flowers and birds. Grapes were common everywhere and have always been central to Israel’s agriculture and economy. In fact, the grapevine was the emblem of Israel, much like the Bald Eagle is for us. Grapes appeared on coins during the period between Malachi and Matthew. At the time of Jesus, a golden vine hung over the entrance to the Temple.
In our culture, it would be as if Jesus were walking through a field of corn or soybeans and drawing life lessons from them. But the image of the vine and its fruit has far deeper spiritual symbolism. The grapevine represented Israel’s fruitfulness in doing God’s work on earth. Psalm 80:8: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.” Unfortunately, His people neglected to keep the vine nourished and, as a result, they ended up going wild and losing their fruit. We see that in verses 12-13: “Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it.”
God’s Grape Expectations