Who Is Jesus? #7: The True Vine!

Sermon Notes (Sunday September 20th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Who Is Jesus? #7: The True Vine!

Psalm 80:8-11; John 15:1-8

 

This is the final week of our series through the seven “I Am” sayings of Jesus in the gospel of John. The seventh “I am” statement is found in John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” It might be helpful to briefly shed some light about the setting of this last statement. The last verse in John chapter 14 tells us that Jesus and the His disciples are about to leave the upper room in Jerusalem where they celebrated the Passover. They are headed to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray His great High Priestly prayer and will later be arrested by the mob led by Judas. Apparently, Jesus speaks the words which make up chapters 15 and 16 in route to the garden.

 

The last “I am” statement pictures Jesus as the “True Vine.” I can imagine Jesus and the disciples going through the darkened streets of the city and then passing beyond the walls into the surrounding countryside. During this time of year, mid April, the grape vines would be beginning to blossom with the promise of a fresh harvest. As Jesus walked with His disciples, perhaps He reached out and took a vine in His hands and used it to teach an object lesson to His followers. He wanted to teach them about the most important and vital relationship they have in their lives ~ their relationship with Him.

 

Image of a Vineyard

When Christ called Himself the “True Vine,” He used an image that would be very familiar to the disciples. Nothing was more obvious to first century Jews than a vineyard. They lived, walked, slept and ate in the very shadow of the vine. The Israelite calendar was governed by growing season: In the winter was pruning of the vines; spring welcomed the first buds which were followed by vigorous growth of vines in summer; heavy clusters of grapes came in fall harvest.

 

For that reason the vineyard became a preeminent symbol of God’s care for His people. Frequently in the Scripture, especially the books Psalms, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, Israel is described as a choice vine, brought out of Egypt to serve the Lord. And although God is the wise gardener, diligently caring for His vineyard, preparing the ground, planting the grapevines, Israel failed to be fruitful. The good vine planted by God was to bear the fruit of an obedient life, but it produced only sour grapes. The gardener’s disappointment is clear. Jeremiah wrote in 2:21: “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against into a corrupt, wild vine?” Israel had been an unproductive vineyard, unfaithful to her covenant with the Lord.   But Jesus is the True Vine. He is “true” because He is perfect, complete, and enduring. He is the genuine in contrast to that which is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretentious. Three observations for us this morning as we look together at that last “I am” statement:

 

First: Remain in Him and Stay Connected

John chapter 15 is an amazingly Christo-centric chapter. Jesus uses the pronouns I, me or my…71 different times in this chapter. What you and I need to do is to remain in Jesus and stay connected to our source of strength. In John 15:4 Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” That implies some sort of response from our part. The vine is always there for the branches. We are to abide in Him, to sojourn with Him, to continue to be present with Him. In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates this as “Live in me. Make your home in me, just as I do in you.” When our Lord says, “Abide in me” He is talking about the will, about the choices, the decisions we make. We must decide to do things which expose ourselves to Him and keep ourselves in contact with Him. Let me ask you, what choices do you make that enable you to remain in Him? What decisions do we make to abide in Christ, to stay connected to the vine? As any other relationship, our walk with the Lord requires attention and maintenance.

 

The simple message of John 15 is that we are totally dependent on Christ. Remaining in Christ is not an option. Spiritual vitality does not come from us. It comes from Christ. C. S. Lewis illustrated what this means: “A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Stay connected!

 

Second: Branches that Bear Fruit are Pruned

In John 15 the Father is described as the gardener. He is the one with pruning shears in His hand. He is in the business of cutting off any branch that bears no fruit and pruning any fruit-bearing branch so that it bears more fruit. The gardener who prunes his vine works with extreme care. There is no threat here in the picture of God as the gardener who prunes His vines. There is no warning of ‘produce or else!’ Instead we are assured that God, the gardener, actively tending His vineyard, is fully committed to bring us to maximum fruitfulness. God’s pruning work benefits us; it doesn’t threaten us.

 

At a certain time of the year, vinekeepers cut of certain “sucker shoots” from the vines. It is because they will never bear fruit. They will grow leaves abundantly, but they will never produce fruit. If allowed to remain, these shoots will actually sap the life of the vine and greatly reduce the quantity of fruit it will bear. God is pruning out of our lives those things that distract us from Him so that the fruit we do produce will be bringing joy to God and flowing into the lives of others.

Third: Those Who Receive Must give

We can’t receive from God and always just receive. We have to let it flow through us or the God life in us dies. If you’ve ever been to Israel, you know there’s a real contrast between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of water and full of life. There are trees and vegetation. They still do commercial fishing there. But the Dead Sea is just that – dead. There are no fish in it and no life around it. The Sea of Galilee is at the top of Israel and receives waters from the mountains of Lebanon. They all come into the top of it and then it gives out at the bottom. That water flows down through the Jordan River and enters into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea takes in but it never gives out. That’s why it’s stagnant. The point is, there must be a balance in our lives to stay fresh with both input and output. There’s got to be an inflow and an outflow. The problem is: some believers are like the Dead Sea, always taking in but never giving out.

 

Friends, there are many Christians today struggling to live the Christian life, who have never discovered where the strength to live that kind of life is to be found. There are many earnest believers, young and old, who are continually being disappointed and cast down because they are finding their own resources so inadequate to meet the demands of real Christian living. All what we need is found in the GREAT I AM. Therefore, remain in Him and stay connected, be patient if you’re going under the pruning process, and remember the more you receive the more you are expected to give. Do not be another dead sea. Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48); He is the Light of the World (8:12, 9:5); He is the Gate for the Sheep (10:7); He is the Good Shepherd (10:11); He is the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (14:6); and He is the True Vine (15:1). He is the Great I am. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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