The “I AM” Claims of Jesus, 6, Title: The Most Consummating Claim, Text: John 15:1

Series: The “I AM” Claims of Jesus, 6, Title: The Most Consummating Claim, Text: John 15:1

INTRODUCTION


Here in an extended metaphor Jesus declares, ”I AM the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”  When Jesus says He is the true vine; with what is he comparing Himself? The answer is not as some have supposed that He is walking through a vineyard and seizes upon the nearby as an illustration. It is not hard to discover that He is extending the Old Testament reference to Israel as a vine that God planted in Isaiah 5:1-4, & 7, I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?…The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Jesus is the faithful, authentic, yes, the original vine. All other vines whether in nature, or in the Word, or our imagination are copies. Jesus is the beginning of a new Israel which will become the vine for which God looked. Jesus says that in Himself and His disciples all that had been suggested by this figure in Isaiah 5 was in reality accomplished. I call this the most consummating claim because it brings completion to our Christian lives and mission. Here we see both personal and collective maturity. We shall look at the planting, the pruning, and the production.

I THE PLANTING

The planting described in Isaiah 5 involves 3 actions performed by the farmer. The preparation, the clearing and the planting. In my seminary class in Hebrew the professor had us memorize this beautiful rhythmic passage in Hebrew and we used to walk around chanting it. I still remember it over six decades later. The original planting was the call of Abraham, the father of Israel out of Chaldea. Once Israel, the vine, was established, the hopes were centered in David, the king. This was the preparation. Finally after the humiliation of the Babylonian captivity, the hope transferred to the hope for the son of David, This was the clearing. He was born in the city of David of a virgin greatly blessed and chosen by God, Mary. This was the planting. However, In Isaiah we read that God planted His vineyard with the choicest vines. But, the baby of Bethlehem, though choice in God the Father’s sight, did not appear that way to Israel or the world. John says in 1;9,10, The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. The reason, I suppose, is that when God planted Himself  in our midst, he was kind of incognito. Isaiah writes of Him in chapter 53:2-4, He grew up before him (God the Father) like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Jesus was born humbly, in obscurity, was rushed off to temporary exile in Egypt, grew up in a small village, learned the humble trade of a carpenter, depended on the charity of others, rode into Jerusalem on a humble beast not His own, died as a naked criminal on a cruel cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb; and, by the way, He never went to college, or Hebrew school or received rabbinical training. But, He was the vine God planted to replace an unrepentant people.

II THE PRUNING

After the plant takes root and grows it must be pruned in order to produce fruit. Every horticultural expert and gardener understands this. Jesus says in verses 2-4,  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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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. Pruning may be painful, but not to plants. I know there are actually organizations that would like you to stop eating plants as well as meat. I wonder what they think is left too eat. The best science says plants can respond to certain stimuli such as sun and water, but they are incapable of pain. So your rose bushes are not screaming when you prune them. In fact we have the explicit commands of God to eat the plants twice in Genesis; the last time after the flood in Genesis 9:3 which approves the consumption of both meats and vegetables. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. Having said all this, we recognize that pruning is painful to us, both spiritually and physically. Rejection, either personally or professionally, disease and sickness, sinful failures, death of love ones, broken relationships, even the failure of righteous causes: these are all pain producing instruments in our growth. Learning to cope with them is part of our training in  righteousness. In fact the Bible was given to us to assist in this according to II Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. At the time I write there is a widespread demand on College campuses for “safe places.”  Presumably to be protected from diverse viewpoints; students demand this. Sadly they have yet to learn that exposure to contrary views is a good thing, just as suffering is a good thing! Read James 1:2-4, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Like trials, pruning is never pleasant in the present, but it yields fruit in our lives, and this is precisely Jesus’ point.

III THE PRODUCTION

As we have already read in John 15, …every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also 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. To this Jesus adds in verses 5-8, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. Jesus’ ultimate concern is obviously the produce of the vineyard. I have seen a number of vineyards and they can be quite imposing, but I am certain no one plants them and tends them for any other reason than to get grapes. I have never worked in a vineyard, but we have a raspberry patch in our yard. My wife enthusiastically works on it and it is a difficult but essential job to prune the bushes to get more of the healthy red raspberries out of the branches that remain. Red raspberries are very good for your health. We don’t have an outdoor fireplace, so for safety reasons the pruned branches are shipped off in a large trash container, and probably burned at some dump. The point is, that being fruitless, they are worthless and condemned to destruction. This is our own little vineyard parable. However, Jesus applies it to the Christian life. He doesn’t want us simply to bear fruit, but to bear “much” fruit because this is what glorifies His Father and our Father. Talk about “counting the cost,” well, this is what it means if you want to be Jesus’ disciple. Let us conclude with Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:8, What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.