Year B : Easter 5 - John 15:1-8
There are two different sermons on this page...
15 1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. 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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Oz & James Big Wine adventure, TV program. California, neighbouring fields, grow different grapes and, therefore wine, invest millions yet can't understand why so different. Terrior - environment in which the vine is grown that is intrinsically linked with the nature of the grape and therefore the taste of the wine.
Jesus day vines important. Cash crop.
Why did Jesus call himself "the true vine". Contra Israel, Isaiah 5, who were likened to God vineyard producing bad fruit.
Jesus is everything God's people should have been, but were not, expand. Only by being united with Jesus can people be what God wants them to be.
This is why Jesus told his followers to remain in him. What do we think he meant by this?
Think of branch and vine. What does the branch receive from the vine? The branch gets is fed, strengthened, made alive and grows.
What should or can we do to remain in Jesus? Ask congregation
Corporate and individual : Prayer, Bible study, worship, sharing/supporting one another, being filled with His Spirit.
Our terrior should be Jesus. He is to be the environment that we are to grow and be nurtured in. We should look to him to provide us with everything that we need.
Jesus also talks about the importance of pruning. Pruning is "A method of cutting off leaves or branches within limits in order to remove dead or diseased foliage or branches. Also used to control or direct growth, increase quality or yield of flowers or fruit and to ensure growth position of main branches to enhance structural strength".
What could this mean for the Christian? How might God prune you and I? Ask congregation.
Repentance, service and sacrifice. Also God using the difficult times to build up our trust in Him.
What is the reason for the branches remaining on the vine?
To produce fruit.
Jesus says that those who remain in Him will produce fruit. Those who are cut off from him cannot produce fruit because they do not have the means of receiving what they need to live and grow fruit.
What do we think that Jesus means when he says his followers should produce fruit? What is the fruit we should be growing?
Fruit of the spirit, anyone name 9?
Fruit of holiness, set apart for God.
Fruit of love, helping others materially and spiritually. Cf Christian Aid
Fruit of telling others about Jesus.
We need to remember that the fruit benefits others. It does not directly benefit the branch. It benefits the owner of the vineyard in producing a cash crop. It benefits those who eat and drink the grapes and the wine.
Our fruit should benefit people around us. It should also bring glory to the owner of the vineyard, God.
8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
We all know the expression the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It tells us the true value or quality of something can only be judged when it is put to use. It means "results are what count."
Jesus is saying that the proof of being a true disciple is in the bearing fruit. May our lives be united to Jesus, empowered by His Spirit, and bring glory to God the Father as we bear fruit.
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As an introductory item or as an act of commitment sometime after the sermon there could be a "vine" on a large pin board, either drawn or using say, pieces of green rope - perhaps a piece of green rope could be hung up like a washing line and the branches pegged to this. People could then have their own "branches", drawn and photocopied on green card/paper branches.pdf. They could write their name on a sheet of paper and pin/blue tack it to the vine ( see also the end of this sermon ).
Another idea is to invite some or all of the congregation to come to the front and say their name using the words "I am XXXX". Then someone, perhaps the minister, is the last person. They say, Jesus said "I am".
When I drive to Norwich to visit my family and turn off the A14 onto the A11 there is a road sign directing you to a vineyard. The fact that there is such a road sign in this country shows how rare it is to have a vineyard. In many parts of the world growing grapes is much more common and the roads would be swamped with signs if every vineyard warranted one!
In Jesus' day the vine, like the sheep that we looked at last week, was a common, perhaps everyday sight. From this passage I would like us to look at three things;
- We are to be united with Jesus.
- Being united with Jesus unites us with God's people.
- We should bear fruit
We are to be united with Jesus.
When we are united with Jesus we are united with God. Last week we looked at one of the "I am" saying of Jesus, I am the good shepherd (10:9 ). One of seven self-descriptions of Jesus introduced by "I am" (see 8:12; 9:5; 10:7,9; 10:11,14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5).
In the Bible who refers to himself as 'I am'? God.
Exodus 3:14. 13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.' "
I AM WHO I AM or I AM is the name by which God wished to be known and worshipped in Israel. Jesus applied the phrase to himself; in so doing he claimed to be God and risked being stoned for blasphemy (see Jn 8:58-59).
When Jesus spoke about vineyards, the people of Judea knew what he was talking about. It was an industry that had developed throughout the country for centuries. It was crucial because it was a cash crop as opposed to grain, which was raised purely for consumption.
The vines are a very rugged crop in a way and in another sense it is a very delicate fruit and requires being treated with kid gloves. A young vine was not permitted to bear fruit for the first three years. It was therefore drastically pruned in December and January to preserve its energy. The particular branches that do not bear fruit are cut out to further conserve the energy of the plant. If this constant cutting back was not done, the result would be a crop that was not up to its full potential.
A branch is attached to the vine. Receiving its life force, nutrients, water and everything it needs to live and produce beautiful, healthy plump fruit. Just as the branches are given life by the vine so we must draw our life from Jesus. If we break away from him, they will be like unproductive branches and die and bear no fruit.
God the gardener or vinedresser is depicted as the one who cultivates the vineyard. He waters and tends the soil, so that the vine is properly nourished. He takes pride in his crop. But this means that he also prunes the vines and removes the dead wood. The grapes hang on to the branches. What Jesus is saying is clear. They then will have to be pruned out.
This will involve the believer in prayer, worship and Bible study, both individually and corporately. It will involve repentance, service and sacrifice. These last three might be seen as part of the 'pruning'. The pruning means that the vine branches do not go off on their own, seeking after light and putting the health of the vine and the fruit in danger. The pruning means that the branches can draw more fully from the strength of the vine which, in itself will conserve its energy and be ready to be more fruitful. The pruning may include the battle between our old, sinful nature and the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer.
When our lives are united with Christ by His Spirit our wills unite. Verse 7 shows this. Clearly this verse does not promise us a Rolls Royce, and is not about us twisting the arm of a reluctant God in prayer. Rather it is about how our will becomes conformed to His as He prunes us again and again. By this we become more like Jesus and our desires coincide with those of God.
Jesus said we are to remain in him. This not only refers to our union with him, which we examined earlier. But it also tells us that we are to continue in him. Any relationship goes through stages and, ideally, should grow so the parties know, love and trust one another more. This is true of our relationship with Jesus. As we grow in this we should continue to produce fruit. Even better than last year's harvest!
Being united with Jesus unites us with all of God's people
When Jesus spoke about a vineyard the people could identify with that metaphor. It didn't make any difference whether or not you were in that business. You had grown up around it enough that you would still be familiar with it.
But there is something else that these listeners would certainly know. A vineyard was the symbol of the nation of Israel, God's people. It was a kind of national identity. Over and over again in the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God.
Isaiah pictured Israel as the vineyard of God that produced bad fruit. Isaiah 51 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 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.
Josephus, the Roman historian, wrote that over the Temple in Jerusalem was carved an exquisite, gold leaf grapevine. It stood as a symbol of national unity. Israel itself was, in the eyes of its people, the true vine, whose roots ran all the way back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
If we are joined with Christ we are joined with other believers through Him. We are all branches on the one vine. All sheep in the one flock, as we saw last week. We are all part of the body of Christ. We all have the life of God in us, His Holy Spirit.
This unity goes against the individualistic world in which we live in. This says "put yourself first", and "the goal of life is pleasure". But the Bible says we are to put God first and others before ourselves. Our goal is to follow God's ways.
This brings blessings and responsibilities. Blessings through the fellowship, love and support we have from fellow believers. The blessings of peace with God, forgiveness of our sins, friendship with God, the prospect of being with God forever in paradise, power to live for God, knowing the love and acceptance of God.
The responsibilities include caring for other believers, whether they live next door or in Africa. Worshipping God regularly in private and in church. Ministering and witnessing for Jesus in the church and in the other communities in which we find ourselves. This is linked to the next point...
We should bear fruit
This fruit is more than the 'fruit of the Spirit' listed in Galatians 5, although it would certainly include these, 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
The fruit is a life lived in accordance with the teaching of the Bible and imitating Jesus. It is a life of renouncing sin and following the way of the Spirit. It is a way of righteousness. It is a way of life that can only be produced by the grace, or undeserved favour of God. It is not about an intellectual belief or verbal declaration of faith, attempting to be religious, or trying to be a 'good person'. In fact, it is not until we begin to realise that we cannot be religious enough or good enough for God that we can start to receive his grace.
Only by turning to Jesus can someone be put right with God. Jesus referred to this when he said 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. The disciples were 'made clean', the word is the same one as 'prune', through Jesus' life, death and resurrection. The words Jesus spoke to them, the night before his crucifixion, were about these events.
As well as becoming more Christ-like the fruit can also represent what how we serve God in the church, in our workplace, family and neighbourhood, indeed, all of our lives. Are we acting as Christ's ambassadors in these situations? Do people know of our faith? Does it help and challenge them?
Branches that do not produce fruit are cut off and burned, representing separation from God. If we are not continuing in our relationship with him in this life, why should he think we want to relate to him in the next?
This is a warning not to be complacent or apathetic about our relationship with Jesus or the demands that he makes upon our lives. One of the marks of a true disciple is to continue in their relationship with Jesus, growing through the pruning and producing even better fruit.
What is the goal of this our union with Jesus?
8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. God's glory, or visible self-disclosure, is to be seen through the transformed lives of his disciples. So people can look at a believer and wonder how on earth they changed and give praise to God for this.
Today's reading is about what we should be as Christians. Someone summarized it in this way...
A Christian Should Be:
A MIND through which Christ thinks,
A VOICE through which Christ speaks,
A HEART through which Christ loves,
A HAND through which Christ helps.
Today we all have a picture of a vine branch and a clothes peg. As a way of expressing your unity with Jesus, the vine, and the unity with your fellow believers I invite you to some forward and peg your card to this "vine" ( green rope ) that we have hanging across the church ( like a washing line ). As you attach your "branch" you may want to say a silent prayer to God like, "Lord Jesus, help me to remain in you." Or "Lord Jesus, help me to bear fruit and bring glory to God"...
An American chaplain in the Civil War asked a wounded soldier, "Would you like me to read you something from the Bible?" The soldier said, "I'm so thirsty, I'd rather have a drink of water." After he had drunk it he said, "Could you put something under my head?" The chaplain took off his overcoat, rolled it up, and placed it under the man's head as a pillow. "Now," said the soldier, "if I had something over me. I'm so cold." The chaplain took off his jacket and covered the man. Then the wounded man said, "For God's sake, man, if there's anything in that Book that makes a man do for another what you've done for me, let me hear it!"