JESUS, THE TRUE VINE
Key Verse 15:5
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
In John 14, Jesus tries to comfort his disciples after revealing to them that he will soon be taken from them and suffer death on the cross. The disciples were troubled and worried about what their life would be like after Jesus was gone. In this chapter, Jesus uses a parable to help the disciples understand clearly their relationship with Jesus and how he would make them fruitful men of God. He wants to encourage them that there is no separation from Jesus but rather an intimate, personal relationship like that of a vine and its branches. Through this passage, I pray that God would encourage us to live fruitful lives by remaining in Jesus the true vine and to give glory to God. May God makes us fruitful in this coming fall semester.
I. Jesus, the true vine (1-3)
Look at verse 1. “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” To understand what Jesus means we must first understand the history behind the imagery Jesus is using. In the gospels, Jesus often used parables or short stories to help the disciples understand difficult concepts. He used images that the disciples could relate to and easily understand. These parables help not only the disciples to understand but us as well. Jesus calls God the Father the gardener. This idea of God as the gardener or caretaker of a vineyard would be familiar to the disciples. Isaiah 5:2 tells us that God had a vineyard that “he dug up and cleared of stones and planted with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well.” As the gardener, God took great care to prepare the best environment for his vines to grow and bear fruit. To maintain a garden or plants is not easy. Every year I hated when spring would arrive and my grand mother would make my brothers and I prepare her garden. It was really hard work. I had to dig the ground up. Then I had to collect the weeds and grass and make sure no dirt was wasted. Later, I had to spread cow manure as a fertilizer. These steps were important to make sure that the garden and its plants would be fruitful and produce ripe peppers, lettuce, tomatoes and even squash. This is the role of the gardener. The gardener nurtures and takes care of the vine and the vineyard so that it will be productive. God also provides a fruit-bearing environment for us. When we look around, we are blessed with a bible center to come and study God’s word. We are blessed with joyful coworkers in Christ who encourage us and pray for us. Most importantly, God has given us Jesus to take away our sin and has used him to makes us fruitful people.
As the Father is the gardener, Jesus is the true vine. Originally, Isaiah 5:7 tells us that “the vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight.” The work of the gardener began with the nation of Israel. He called them as his chosen people and provided all the best for them, a land flowing with milk and honey. Yet, instead of bearing good fruit, Israel failed and turned away from God, yielding only bad fruit. Instead of serving the mission God had given them they became selfish and gave their worship to idols. Their failure prompted God to plant the “true” vine, Jesus Christ. In Jesus, God is beginning a new history that originates with the disciples and continues on through God’s people even today. Jesus is truth and the giver of life. John 1:3,4 says “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” This is why Jesus is the true vine. Through the vine, the entire plant becomes alive and receives its nutrients. Only Jesus can be the true vine, the source of everlasting life. Jesus is the source of new life in all who are touched by him. As the true vine, Jesus changes our lives from a cursed life in sin to a blessed life in Him. I am encouraged by S. Shannon Smith because I see God was touched him and grown him that he could be used as a source of blessing to the Venezuela conference. Praise Jesus! the true vine who gives us life and makes us a blessing.
Within every vine there are also branches. Look at 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.” “He” refers to God the gardener. The gardener plants the vine. And after planting the vine the gardener prunes or cleans the fruit-bearing branches so that it will continue to bear fruit. Those branches that bear no fruit he takes and cuts off completely from the vine. These branches that are cut off completely represent those that have chosen to reject the life-giving word of God. In John 13, Judas Iscariot makes a decision to betray Jesus. In so doing, verse 27 says “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.” He had become cut off from Jesus.
The other branch represents the believer and follower of Jesus. The disciples were like the branch that God pruned to be even more fruitful. Webster’s dictionary defines pruning as “cutting back parts of for more fruitful growth.” Gardeners spend many hours to prune their precious plants so that they might achieve maximum beauty and fruitfulness. It is amazing that our God the gardener cares for each of us individually in that same way. Like the branch that needs pruning, we have things in our life that need to be cut back by God so that we might be made more fruitful. God helps us cut back unnecessary things through hardships, suffering or according to verse 3 through the word of God. Look at verse 3. “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” In Genesis 21:12 God directed Abraham to send his son Ishmael away because it was through his son Isaac that God would fulfill his promise. This was extremely painful to Abraham because Ishmael was his first born son. However, Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s human efforts to build a family and was not God’s plan for him. God took away something that was precious to Abraham so that He could begin to make Abraham more fruitful as the father of many nations. The apostle Peter suffered through despair and deep pain as he rejected Jesus three times. Peter thought that he loved Jesus more than anything. His rejection of Jesus helped him to see his love for his own life. It was through this hardship that Jesus restored Peter that he might love Jesus more than anything and feed Jesus’ sheep. Pruning can be difficult because it often involves giving up things that we enjoy. Money, power, ambition or, as God continues to prune in me, a desire to just have fun. Otherwise known as my fun demon. (Choosing what is fun, sometimes at the expense of choosing God). These things by themselves are not necessarily bad. But when they interfere with our ability to live as fruitful branches God the Father prunes them away. Jim Elliott, a martyr for Christ once said, “He is not a fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb.12:11). Pruning leads to a more abundant harvest of fruit. Praise God for sending us the true vine Jesus, our source of life and strength. Let us rejoice that God wants us to be more fruitful than we are and accept pruning as God’s love for us. May we pray to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for each of our lives and pray to be made more fruitful through Jesus.
II. Remain in me (4-8)
Read verse 4. “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. “ In verses 1-10 Jesus mentions the word “remain” 11 times. Why do you think he uses this word so often? As the branch remains in the vine, Jesus desires this kind of relationship with his disciples and with all who believe in Him. He desires this kind of relationship with us. Jesus understands that the nature of man is to do the opposite of remain. The nature of man is to wander or simply ignore the relationship with Jesus. Jesus knew his disciples would run and hide in a locked room after his death and forget to remain in Him. Jesus knew they would return to their life as fishermen and forget to remain in Him. Jesus wants his disciples to remain in him because he wants them to bear fruit. No branch can bear fruit by itself. A branch by itself is like a fish out of water. It needs the vine or like the fish out of water loses its life blood.
Read verse 5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Every gardener plants a garden with the expectation of beautiful flowers or ripe fruit. The fruit that is produced is a testimony to the love and care of the gardener as well as the sustaining power of the vine from which the branch receives its nutrients. We are the branches. And God has made us to have relationship with Jesus and to bear much fruit. All people are branches designed by God to be fruitful. However, as we have mentioned, some branches choose to separate themselves from Jesus. Some people choose to reject Jesus and the life he gives. No matter what outward goodness or fruit this person may appear to have Jesus calls it nothing for it was born apart from Him. Verse 6 says, “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.” God’s judgment for unfruitful people is real and sobering. Unfruitful branches are fit only to be used as firewood and burned.
Jesus wants us to be fruitful branches that are fit to be used as his disciples. He wants us to bear much fruit by remaining in Him. If we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become fruitful branches. The fruit bearing life is the blessed life because it is a life remaining in Jesus with hope in heaven. According to verse 8, through bearing fruit in Jesus, we give glory to God and show ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples. (v.8)
If your desire is to live a fruitful life in Jesus, what kind of fruit can we expect or hope for? There are many kinds of fruit. Galatians 5:22,23 tells us, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” When husbands love their wives God is bearing fruit in you. When someone wrongs us and we do not retaliate, God bears the fruit of self-control in us. When we take joy in the work of the Lord, we are bearing fruit. When we went on vacation last week do you know you the most joyful sounding people were. M. Esther Lee, Grace Park, Rebekah Lim and Sarah Chang. They still find joy in God and laugh the loudest. The fruit we bear comes from God and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. We do not actually produce fruit. We simply bear the fruit God has produced in us. God does not actually need us to bear fruit. But he chooses us to be used as his fruit-bearing instruments. Which of these Christian virtues do you exhibit in your life? Which of these characteristics can we pray for God to produce in us? I pray we may all come before God earnestly with our desire to live a fruitful life. Through prayer may God reveal to each of us the kind of fruit He wants us to bear.
As I prepare to leave for China, I know that I want to live a fruitful life for Jesus. This past year God pruned me through hardship as I suffered from sickness, cold weather and lack of comforts like running hot water. But these things only strengthened me to trust in Jesus, the true vine. And this past year I believe God has borne fruit in me. Before I left for China I was restless and anxious. I struggled to be faithful to even small things. I only lived for myself. However, this past year God has given me great peace and joy in the work that I am doing. God helped me to be faithful to my class. I missed only one class because of sickness. And he has also helped me overcome my selfishness to love Chinese students. In addition, I was blessed to serve one faithful sheep this past semester. God provided me a good environment through His word “You give them something to eat.” More importantly, he encouraged me through the prayers, love and support of Washington coworkers. God is the gardener. I am but a sinner chosen by God to bear fruit. Praise God for His grace to me. It seems like I should sit back and relax. I’ve done a lot for one year. No! God has done a lot in me and through me.
Gardeners prune plants so that they might continue to bear fruit season after season. This semester is a new season for fruit bearing in China through the power of Jesus. I want to be made more fruitful in Christ. My desire is to bear much fruit for the glory of God and to live as his disciple. God still needs to work in me to grow in patience, kindness and self-control (I still enjoy having fun). In addition, I want to see the work of God grow in China. Through the Midwest conference, I received Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” Mother Barry shared this word as the opening message of the conference. She is an example of how God uses one person to bless thousands of people. As a founder of UBF, she was pruned by God to live a difficult life in Korea and also to give up personal dreams. We are all the fruit of her labor in God and of Jesus working in her life. I am convicted to pray for the 1.3 billion people living in China. I pray to enlarge God’s tent. Please pray for me as I pray to feed five sheep in this next year and raise up disciples of Jesus. Through sharing the gospel of Jesus, I pray I might glorify God with my life and show myself to be Jesus’ disciple. Verse 7 tells us that we must pray to be fruitful. Read verse 7. “If you remain in me and my word remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Once again Jesus emphasizes the need to remain in Him. Practically, what do Jesus’ words “remain in me” mean to us?
Only by remaining in Jesus does God answer our prayers and allow us to bear fruit for His glory. Remaining in Jesus is having fellowship with Him. Jesus wants us to remain in His words. He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” He wants us to eat up the word of God. When we have fellowship with one another, eating is often an essential element. Even Jesus when he called Levi the tax collector to “Follow me” went to his house to eat and share fellowship with him. To remain in Jesus and have fellowship with Him, we must eat the word of God, his daily bread. We can also remain in Jesus according to Colossians 3:16b “as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Music and songs can be a subtle but powerful influence in our lives. I can remember a time when I caught S. David Brogi walking around the center singing the tune to “Onward Christian Soldiers.” When we study God’s word we are remaining in Jesus. And when that word is written on our hearts Jesus remains in us. Remaining in Jesus also means other things as well.
III. Love and obedience (9,10)
Read verses 9,10. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Remaining in Jesus also means obeying his commands. Specifically, Jesus appears to be telling his disciples that they must learn to love one another and others. How do we know what love is? 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Jesus was obedient to God and gave His life on the cross for our sin. Likewise, Jesus is calling us to a sacrificial life of faith. Remaining in Jesus and his love are not always easy.
It takes discipline and God’s pruning to help us remain firmly rooted in Jesus. My colleague in China without fail would fall asleep while reading her bible. It is difficult to put the needs of another person above your own personal needs and love that person like Jesus did. We can be encouraged to know that Jesus loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. Through this relationship, Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit to reveal God’s word to us and to help us love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35). Like the bearing of fruit, remaining in Jesus is an ongoing process. When we receive Jesus as Savior, we are permanently plugged into the vine Jesus. But there is a reason that the Lord’s prayer includes the words “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not our weekly or monthly or yearly bread. God’s word is new every morning and may we remain in His word and His love.
Through this passage we have seen the love of our Father God to plant the true vine, Jesus, on this earth. We have learned that Jesus is the true vine and there is no other. He makes our life on earth fruitful and is our hope for eternal life in heaven. As the branches of God, we have seen that God desires to bear fruit in us and through us. Through prayer, we can seek the Holy Spirit’s guiding for fruit-bearing in our lives. Lastly, may we remain in Jesus’ words and love. Only then can we be made fruitful. May God be glorified in each of us as we struggle to live in Jesus as his disciples. May God richly bless you to remain in Jesus and bear fruit this semester. Let’s read the key verse.