Summary: 1) THE THROW-AWAY BRANCH 2) THE PRUNED BRANCH 3) THE FRUITFUL BRANCH 4) THE CONNECTED BRANCH
JOHN 15:1-8 WHAT KIND OF BRANCH ARE YOU?
(Please note that two illustrations in this sermon are taken from esermons.com)
1) THE THROW-AWAY BRANCH
2) THE PRUNED BRANCH
3) THE FRUITFUL BRANCH
4) THE CONNECTED BRANCH
Now that the weather is getting warmer, more and more people are planting flowers, planting gardens. On Highway 35, between Michigan City and LaPorte, I saw some people working in vineyard field. There are actually a large number of vineyards and wineries in this part of the country – there’s the vineyard on Highway 35, and all the way up the freeway in southwest Michigan, you see signs for wineries on the freeways. All these vineyards make this part of the country similar to the land of Israel in Jesus’ day.
Back then, growing grapes was a very important industry – it was vital to Israel’s economy. Everyone knew about growing grapes, and so Jesus used this as a picture to describe to people their relationship to him, and to God the Heavenly Father. Today we’re going to look at this picture, and see how we fit in. The question for you this morning is, what kind of branch are you?
The picture Jesus paints is a simple one. Jesus pictures himself as the main vine of the vineyard, and you are the branches that grow off of him. God the Father is the gardener. And there are different branches in the vineyard.
First, there is the “throw-away branch.” Verse 2 talks about God the Father, the gardener: “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” Look again at verse 6: “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire, and burned.” When a gardener is going through his vineyard, and he sees certain branches that never bear fruit, he cuts them off and throws them onto a pile, and eventually he burns that pile of dead branches. Jesus is painting a picture of people here. There are those who at one time were Christians in their lives. But then something happens to them. They stop producing fruits of faith. They stop obeying God. They stop living and talking in a Christian way. They start living and talking just like the rest of the unbelieving world. They stop producing fruits of faith in their lives.
Why does this happen to people who at one time were Christians? The answer is verse 6: “If anyone does not remain in me…” Jesus tells us that anyone who does not continue to have contact with him, through his Word, through his Sacrament – if that happens – a person loses his faith and falls away. He stops bearing fruit and becomes a throw-away branch.
Many year ago at the Tournament of Roses parade, the Standard Oil Company, now known as Chevron, had a beautiful float. In the middle of the parade the oil company’s float came to a grinding halt and the rest of the parade with it. The problem? The float ran out of gas.
The directors of the Chevron float had done everything well but they neglected to use their companies vast resources of oil. The parade waited while someone ran to get a gallon of gas.
Too often, this is what happens to Christians. They break down in the middle of their lives. They stop producing fruits of faith. They start living like unbelievers. Why? It is so easy to neglect the one thing we need to keep our faith alive – and that is the Word, and the Sacrament. So easy to neglect! And as a result, we sometimes stop producing good works. Anyone who lives this way is eventually picked up and thrown into the fire on Judgment Day. The question for you this morning, is what kind of branch are you? Are you producing fruit of faith in your life? Or, have you broken down, have you become disconnected from the vine?
How good it is that we can go to Christ, repent of our sins, and receive his forgiveness. This is exactly what we did at the beginning of our service. Through his Word, Jesus tells us that he has forgiven us. In verse 3 he says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” You and I are clean, we are forgiven – because of the words Jesus Christ has spoken to us – that he has lived and died and risen – that is how he cleanses us.
But just because you are forgiven doesn’t mean that God will give you an easy life. There is the second kind of branch we are going to be looking at, the “pruned branch.” Verse 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.” One of the jobs of a gardener is to prune the branches on the grapevine. He cuts off the dead ones, since they can be a place where bugs and disease grow. The gardener also cuts a lot of living branches off the vine. He trims them way back, and by he’s done, there doesn’t seem to be much left of the grapevine. All this cutting seems so drastic, so extreme, so unnecessary. But the reason the gardener does this is so that the branches reach their full potential. Even though the branches look almost dead, months later they produce a very large crop, only because the gardener did all that cutting.