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Dec 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 24, 2011

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. John 15:1 (Read 1-11)

INTRO: Once more we return to John’s gospel where several times Jesus has said, “I am”

God has given Jesus to us–that is, to humankind
– we have been asking the question, “What came into our world at Christmas?”
– which is to say, “Who is Jesus and what is he to us?”

Today we will unpack a fourth Christmas gift: “I am the true vine”

Two things about this metaphor immediately stand out:

  1. Compared to the previous metaphors, this is the most intimate
    – bread is food — fuel transformed into health and energy
    – light is illumination that ultimately guides us to the truth
    – the Shepherd is guardian, care-giver, and protector
    – but the vine and branch exist in union — they share the same life
  2. The second thing that stands out in this verse is a little more complicated

Since when is a vine a major spiritual concern?

It would make sense if Jesus had said, “I am the true Son of God” or the true prophet
– even the simple metaphor in verse 5 (without the “true”) makes sense
– by adding the word “true,” he suggests an opposition (true/false)
– is he saying that other vines are fake?

No one was looking for the “true” vine
– true worship and true worshipers, yes (4:23-24)
– a true witness to Jesus, yes (8:14, 17-18)
– the true God, yes (17:3)
– but who had ever heard been concerned about true or false vines?
It would seem that adding the word true makes this metaphor less accessible than the ones we have looked at previously

To get anywhere with this, we have to begin with a different question: What does the vine represent?
– what is it about the grape vine that Jesus getting at? Its nature? processes? fruit?
– and what is the hidden meaning?

Reading through the passage, Jesus highlights:

  • the care the vine receives from the vine-dresser
  • whether its branches are fruitful
  • the importance of the connection of the branches to the vine
    – it is this connection that is central to Jesus’ teaching, so it is the key to the metaphor

The vine stands for the source of spiritual life made available to humans
– it is something like a spiritual conduit, with God on one side, pouring his life into it, and humans, on the other side, drawing their life from it
– it’s suddenly clear why this is easier to say in an agricultural metaphor than a classroom lecture

Jesus Christ is the true conduit of God’s life
– the Greek word “true” is not merely the opposite of false, but refers to a thing in which its concept and reality are the same
– it is similar to what we mean when we say that something is true to itself

Jesus is the true connection with the life of God
– religion cannot channel God’s life into us,
– worship cannot do it, theology cannot do it
– even the Scriptures, as alive as they are with the Spirit, cannot do it

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. (Jn. 5:39-40)

The connection of the branch to the vine is the vital issue

The life of God, through the vine, keeps the branches alive
– how can we know whether the branches are alive?
– when alive, they produce fruit

What kind of fruit? “Fruit of the vine” – of course
– but what is the meaning of fruit within the metaphor?
– what was Jesus looking for in the lives of disciples – what is he looking for in our lives?

First we need to understand something about the connection of the branch to the vine
– Jesus says this connection must “abide” – remain, continue, stay
– more specifically, he describes this connection as abiding in his love (vv. 9-10)

The vine is all about Jesus – the connection is with him
– “My words . . . My Father . . . My love . . . My commandments . . . My joy”

If abiding in Jesus meant that we thought only of him twenty-four hours a day, we could not do it
– we were not created with that capacity and we do not have that kind of freedom (we have to work, go to school, etc.)
– we can, however, love him twenty-four hours a day

When we love someone–and this is true of all the people we love–we are motivated by an ongoing desire to please him or her
– for example, we provide for our families, even when not thinking specifically about them during our work hours, because we love them

So, a way of keeping the connection with Jesus strong–i.e., to abide in him–is to do the things that please him
– Jesus puts it this way, “abide in Me, and My words abide in you,” and, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love”
– a woman who loves her husband, wants to please him and a man who loves his wife wants to please her
– because we love Jesus, we want to know what pleases him — we need to know his words and commandments

To let his words abide in us, is to allow them to shape our daily lives
– what are we learning, then?
– that love is how our connection with Jesus is maintained, and love (for others) is also the fruit that shows we are alive

What does this look like in real life?

In the remainder of the chapter, Jesus works out the implications of this teaching

The two important environments of our lives are, first, among believers (vv. 12-17) and, secondly, in the world (vv. 18-25)
– among believers, our mutual love will be the public demonstration that we are disciples of Jesus
– in the world, however, we will be hated

The world’s hatred always comes as a surprise — after all, Jesus makes us better people, more loving and generous
– it is even more surprising that the world hated Jesus (v. 18)
– at any rate, our connection to Christ places us between the poles of love and hate
– regardless of what the world feels or does, those who are connected to Jesus produce the fruit of love

My Father is glorified by this, that yo bear much fruit (v. 8)

CONC: Why, do you suppose, that in verse 3 Jesus tells the disciples, “You are already clean”?

I think he does not want them to start worrying about their status with God and so fail to listen to the rest of his message
– it was important for them to know about the fruitless branches, but they were not to become preoccupied with the
– Jesus would not be teaching them about the vine and branches if they had no fruitful potential

The first thing we need to do when reading this passage is to relax
– Jesus did not teach this lesson so we could judge and condemn ourselves
– instead, he wanted us to be paying attention to the heart of what he is communicating

He wants us to have a strong connection with him

Some of us worry too much about our relationship with Jesus, but look closely at his disciples
– which one of them never screwed up?

There are a lot of typically Christian activities we may not be good at
– evangelism, missionary work, increasing our biblical knowledge

But the one thing we can do, is love Jesus
– and whether we do it well or poorly, it is enough that we love him

Peter had assured Jesus that he would lay down his life for him (Jn. 13:37-38)
– a short while later, Jesus said

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. (Jn. 15:13-14)

Later that evening, Peter screwed up as badly as he could imagine — he did not lay down his life for Jesus
– after his resurrection, Jesus cornered Peter on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee
– three times he asked Peter, “Do you love Me?”

Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (Jn. 21:17)

Peter was not able to say, “Lord, you know I love You, because I never denied You during Your trial”
– he had disqualified himself for that honor
– all he could say was:

Lord, I can’t prove it because I blew my one big opportunity to show You my love. I know that my actions may indicate that I don’t love You and I am not really Your friend. So I have no evidence to present to You on my behalf. But You know everything. You know what is in my heart and You know that I love you.

And for Jesus, that was good enough

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