Jesus, the True Vine
November 5, 2023

Jesus, the True Vine

Preacher:
Passage: John 15:1-13

Jesus is Necessary

Jesus has said, “I am the bread of life, I am the light of the world, I am the door, I am the good shepherd, I am the resurrection and the life, AND I am the way, the truth, and the life. In one sense, all these titles are different – they each give us a different angle to appreciate Jesus’s significance. Yet in another sense, all these titles also press home a single, overarching idea. Jesus isn’t just an accessory to make our lives feel better. Jesus is, himself, life – and he’s essential for our life.

Without the bread of life, you’ll starve. Without the light of the world, you’ll be lost in total darkness. Without a door to enter the sheepfold, the sheep have no safety or shelter. Without a good shepherd, they’re helpless and alone. Without a possibility of resurrection, life is overshadowed by death. If we had no way to God, no truth, and no life, we would be forever cut off from heaven’s joy. Jesus is the “I AM” – the LORD of the Old Testament who has life and existence in himself – and he alone can give us true life.

Tonight, we’ll see this again in John 15 (turn with me). Tonight we’ll be looking at Jesus’s seventh and final “I AM” Statement: I am the true vine. We’ll see in the text that a true life of fruitfulness arises from consistent dependence on Jesus. Before I read our text, though, please pray with me:

PRAYER and READING OF TEXT

The Point of a Vineyard

At the very end of John 14, Jesus says, “rise, let us go from here.” Jesus has just finished the Last Supper with his disciples. He’s leading them out to a garden on the Mount of Olives here, and soon after that he’ll go to the cross. In this heavy moment, Jesus continues to prepare the disciples for his departure. He urges them here to lives of fruitfulness by comparing himself, his Father, and His people to components of a vineyard.

Why do people plant vineyards? Are they purely decorative? Do people enjoy the back-breaking work of installing trellises and planting vines just because? Of course not. People plant vineyards because they want fruit. And God wants the same thing.

And Isaiah 5 points out that God planted his people like a vineyard. He “dug it, and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes…”

God wants us to be fruitful – not just for our lives to produce any random thing we want, but to produce the good fruit He wants.

The Necessity of the Vine

But where does this fruitfulness come from? Well, in order to have a fruitful vineyard, you first and foremost need healthy vines – or in this case, a healthy vine – the true vine. In verse 1, Jesus announces, “I am the true vine.”

Jesus reveals that God’s vineyard ultimately just has one true vine – one life-giving root system for all the branches. Without this vine, we’re dead to God and godliness. So to bear the fruit God desires, it’s necessary for us to be vitally connected to the true vine, Jesus Christ.

This ultimately means that we’re not as autonomous or independent as we’d like to think. We aren’t our own individual, healthy plant. We aren’t on an equal level with Jesus, where we can try to negotiate with him or manipulate him to do things our way. Instead, in this analogy, we’re branches. We have no root in ourselves. We have no ability to give ourselves fruitfulness and prolonged life. Jesus is necessary.

And our neediness for Jesus is real. We can sometimes think of ourselves as large, green Christmas trees. We treat Jesus like an ornament we wear around to make us look like our lives are put-together. We boast in our evergreen branches – how we appear to be vibrant and full of life. But if we aren’t implanted in Jesus, we’re a good-as-dead Christmas tree. We have no root. We aren’t growing – we aren’t bearing fruit – but we’re dying a slow, sad death.

Jesus isn’t just helpful, or interesting. He’s necessary – necessary for your life, and for your fruitfulness.

The Abiding of the Branch

This is why Jesus insists in verse 4, “Abide in me…” which means, “remain in me – stay connected to me.” Jesus presupposes here that his hearers already see themselves as being connected to him. But he presses them to consider whether or not they’re savingly, vitally connected.

Because many people saw themselves as followers of Jesus in those days. They affirmed true things about him. They showed up to Jesus’s events and services. They maybe even received baptism. But for many, their connection was only external.

This is still true for the church today. Some people are connected to the visible body of Christ, the church – they’re included among the covenant people of God. But they haven’t believed – they haven’t entrusted themselves to Jesus to rescue them from sin, and to rule their hearts.

If we’re going to have real life from Jesus, if we’re going to be fruitful, then our connection to Jesus can’t be superficial. It can’t just be a badge we wear over our hearts to conceal our inner lostness. Instead, Jesus, stresses here that real faith is a living faith – a growing, active, fruitful faith that abides in Christ.

So what does this mean? What does abiding or remaining in Christ look like?

Well, when we remain in Christ, we’re admitting we continually depend on Christ, for life and everything. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus says. And when you and I really believe this, it’ll change us. We won’t get caught up comparing ourselves to other people, trying to figure out who’s smarter, stronger, or more spiritual. Because we’ll humbly remember that all our abilities to do anything come from Christ. And when we see someone else succeed, we won’t respond with jealousy or self-pity. Instead, we’ll recognize that Jesus made that work possible, and we’ll appreciate him for it.

Abiding in Christ also means we’ll both internalize His Word and pray with confidence. Jesus suggests this in verse 7, when he says – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” So notice first, Jesus expects that those who abide in him will also hold onto his words in our hearts. We’ll read His Word, reflect on it, apply it, memorize it, and all the rest. Those who abide in Christ are committed to his Word.

And notice, too, Jesus encourages his disciples to pray confidently. Many Jews thought that God only paid attention to the prayers of a special class of saintly people. And since the ordinary Jew wasn’t Moses or Elijah, it was generally believed their prayers wouldn’t accomplish much. But here Jesus helps his disciples understand – when we’re in Christ, abiding in him, we can confidently access the Father through prayer. Jesus has opened the way for us. And when His Word is abiding in us, shaping our priorities and our prayer requests, God is pleased to work through our God-centered prayers to bring about His will. So we shouldn’t despair in prayer like many of the Jews did. As we abide in Christ, we can and should pray with confidence.

Finally, when we abide in Christ, we’ll bear the fruits God asks us to bear – we’ll obey his commandments. Though God intends that we’d bear all the spiritual fruits listed in Galatians 5, Jesus’s focuses here on love. John 15, verse 12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” And what does love look like? Verse 13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus teaches his disciples to love, and then a few hours later, he demonstrates it. He goes to the cross for them. For you, for me – he goes to the cross and pours out his life and says, “this is what love looks like.” Can you love other people like this? Can you love them freely? Even when they’re unlovely? Even when they don’t show you kindness in return?

On our own, just with our own will-power and resources, this would be impossible. But Christ says, Abide in me, and I’ll abide in you. The abiding, living, spiritual presence of Christ makes this love possible. “Apart from me you can do nothing,” Jesus says. “But whoever abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”

The Pruning of the Vinedresser

When we abide in Christ, we bear fruit. But what’ll happen if we’re not abiding? – if we just have an outward, casual association with Jesus instead of a permanent spiritual bond? What if our life is marked by fruitlessness instead of faithfulness?

In verse 1, Jesus says, “My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.” Jesus is warning us here – because he cares for our souls. The vinedresser will come and take unfruitful branches away. And where will these branches be taken to? Verse 6: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” The future of fruitless branches is judgment and fire.

This doesn’t mean genuine believers can pop in and out of God’s hands or lose their salvation. Instead, Jesus is warning us – if you aren’t believing, abiding, or bearing fruit, then it’s possible you’ve never experienced a life-giving connection with Christ. Why? Because people who are vitally connected to Jesus bear fruit.

And the Father prunes fruitful branches – he sometimes cuts things out of our life, which may feel painful or undesirable. But why does he do it? So that we may bear even more fruit. God prunes us because it produces real fruit that endures.

The Joy of the Harvest

And in verse 11, Jesus is urging his disciples to prioritize spiritual fruitfulness, because he wants them to have real joy. Not just a little, melting-ice-cream cone sort of joy, but an unmoving, foundational bedrock of joy. And how do we get this joy? Where do we find it? We find it in Jesus. We find it in the presence of God – in God himself.

See, money can’t give us life. Comfort foods and fancy cars can’t give us life. Having popularity and influence can’t give us lifetrue life. But God himself, is the source and fountain of all goodness, and power, and pleasure – he’s the fountain of life himself – and he is the Supreme treasure worth finding. And Jesus invites us to come and truly live. He says, “Abide in me.” And if you and I have any common sense, we’ll say “Yessir.”

“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.”

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