THE SIGNIFICANCE OF REMAINING IN HIM- PART II
(The Vine & and ; the Branches) John 15:1-10
As a pastor I love researching all kinds of interesting things. I discovered this week during my sermon preparation that there is a 246-year-old vine still growing in Hampton Court near London, England. It is the oldest and largest vine in the world with a root two feet in diameter. Planted in 1769 by Lancelot Brown, the fruit of this vine was intended for royalty.
Despite its age the vine produces 500 to 700 bunches of grapes a year that weigh (507 to 705 lb). Even though some of the smaller branches are 200 feet from the main stem, they still bear the sweet and delicious fruit because they are connected to the vine. Life flows from that single root and throughout the vine bringing nourishment and strength to each of the branches. The secret of this great vine is that it has not been adulterated by other vegetation in the surrounding. It has been kept all by itself since the time it was planted.
For the past few weeks we have been learning about themes such as, “Home Coming” “Being Hidden in Christ,” etc. Last week we talked about the significance of remaining in Christ. We will continue with Part II. Jesus used several analogies to describe himself. He said, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the light of the world.” Each was a reference to how he relates to the world. But nothing describes better, the intimate, and interdependent relationship that Jesus shared with his followers, than the illustration of “The Vine and the Branches.” in John 15:1-10. We will look at the purpose of the vine and why we are to remain in Christ.
I. THE PURPOSE OF THE VINE (CHRIST) (Vs 1-5)
Jesus knowing well his time on earth was coming to an end, spent his last days with his disciples teaching them the lessons of the kingdom, making bold assertions and giving them final commands. In Chapter 14 he explained how he was the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except through him. Jesus comforted the troubled disciples saying that he was going to the father but he was not going to leave them as orphans. He was going to send them the Holy Spirit who will be with them, in them and lead them into all the truth.
On the way from the upper room to the Garden of Gethsemane they may have passed through a vineyard. Jesus undoubtedly picking up one of the branches of the vine, said, “I am the true vine and my father is the gardener.” Just as the branches in the 246 year old great vine needed to be connected in order to bear fruit, we too must remain in Him in order to bear fruit. But what does it mean to remain in Christ? What kind of fruit is Christ looking for in us? What are the consequences of not bearing fruit? What can make us bear fruit? The analogy of the vine, the branches, the vineyard, and the gardener must have resonated with his audience as they were symbols in the OT referring to God’s relationship with Israel.
In Isaiah 5:1-7, we read about the song of the vineyard. Several aspects of God’s heart and the rebellion of the nation of Israel emerge in this song. God prepares a ground, plants a vineyard, and provides all the ingredients for this vineyard to bear fruit, including protection. But when the time comes for him to pick the fruit, the vineyard yields only bad fruit, so God destroys it and makes it a complete desolation. Here the vineyard is none other than the nation of Israel.
What fruit was God looking for from Israel? He was looking for justice, righteousness and true worship, but all he found in Israel was oppression, immorality and rejection of him. This angered God and he brought destruction upon Israel. All that seemed to remain was the root of Jesse. After many years as prophesied by Isaiah, a shoot would, “come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him.” (Isaiah 11:1-2) The Apostle Paul writing to the Romans uses similar language, “And again Isaiah says, “the root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations...” (Romans 15:12)
Who is that shoot from the root of Jesse? Isaiah 53 personifies the shoot as none other than our Lord Jesus. When Jesus said “I am the true vine,” he was reminding his audience that he was indeed the true shoot of Jesse that God had raised up. Unlike all his predecessors, and other false gods and teachers in that region, Jesus was the only true vine that gives life. By saying my “father is the gardener” Jesus was asserting his relationship with God the father and his mission in the world; to be the true vine.
What is the purpose of any vine? It is to bear much fruit for the delight of the gardener. Similarly, Jesus, as the true Vine, bore much fruit through his obedience to His father’s will. He humbled himself to the point of death on the cross, he was buried and rose again after three days. Through his death and resurrection Christ made a way for all to be reconciled with God. As we know the Gospel first came to the Jews but they rejected Jesus and his message. They were “the broken branches” that Paul talks about in Romans 11. But thank God, Paul also talks about “the grafted branches.” These are the ones who have accepted Jesus as their savior and have been adopted into Christ’s family. Let’s look at why are we to remain in Christ?
II WHY ARE WE TO REMAIN IN CHRIST? (Vs 3-5)
Vs 3-5 “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will 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 the first two verses explain the inseparable relationship between Jesus and the Father, then verses 3-5 explain the interdependent relationship that exists between Jesus and his followers.
It is one thing to know that we are dependent on Christ for our sustenance and survival in this world, but is Christ also depending on us? This interdependent relationship is better explained this way; “Christ wants us to bear fruit and we need him in order to bear fruit.” Jesus used “the vine and the branches” imagery to explain how this relationship practically works.
How did this relationship begin? As we have learned none of our good works can save us, only by the grace of God have we been saved. The scripture tells us that in Romans 5: 6-8, “see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This new relationship began from the moment we have given our lives to Jesus.
Coming to our passage, “only branches that are connected to the vine bear fruit. Similarly, the followers of Christ can bear fruit only as long as they remain in him. As the life flows from the vine to the branches, similarly the life of Christ flows to his believers. As God looked for fruit from the nation of Israel, similarly Jesus is looking for fruit from his followers.
When we hear phrases like, “bearing fruit” or “bearing much fruit,” what goes through our mind? We generally associate bearing fruit to winning souls, but that was not the biblical understanding. Jesus used fruit bearing to distinguish between those who belonged to him and those who did not belong to him. To show the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil. Jesus once said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16-20).
True Christians will not bear fruit such as thorns or thistles; instead they will bear good fruit. You can stick a label on a thorn bush and call it a healthy tree but the thorns give it away that it’s not good fruit at all. A tree is recognized in nature by the fruit it produces, similarly Christians are recognized by the fruit they produce. The essence of these verses is that, the life of a Christian must reflect the nature of Christ. The world will know that we truly are the children of God by our outlook on life, our response to adversity and through our loving actions toward our brothers and sisters in the family of God.
In conclusion, we have learned that Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. We have been cleansed and enriched by his word. As the purpose of the vine is to bear fruit, similarly the purpose of Christians is to bear fruit for Christ. But the only way we can ever bear fruit is by remaining in Christ. This fruit is what differentiates Christians from the rest of the world. As we leave, let’s give thanks to God that we belong to Christ and reflect on what kind of fruit we are producing in our lives. Amen