Happy Eastertide…this is the fifth Sunday in Eastertide. Resurrection Day is the beginning, of the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say. There are 50 days in the Easter season. It begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost. The resurrection of Christ is not the finale it is literally the beginning of the new covenant, the beginning of Christianity. As Pentecost is the beginning of the church Jesus is the beginning for us. Jesus said “I am” seven times. He said that “1. I am the bread of life 2. I am the light of the world 3. I am the door of the sheep 4. I am the good shepherd 5. I am the resurrection and the life 6. I am the way, the truth, and the life” and the last is in John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. Today I want to look at that last, I am, “I am the true vine.” Growing grapes is a time honored and often necessary vocation, especially in biblical times. Water was often unsafe, and wine was fermented and beyond the safety factor, wine had the added benefit that if you drank enough of it, it made you feel much better than water and it still retains those properties even today, or so I’ve heard, being a Methodist I don’t indulge. I also don’t judge. Never the less, even today we can grasp the concepts that Jesus used on that day. Vineyards were an everyday sight, even today it’s not uncommon to drive by a vineyard, grapes and the wine produced from them has been a staple crop all over the world and as popular then, as it is now. Anyone who has seen a grape vine might wonder why Jesus picked this analogy, little skinny vines, well, that’s because usually all you can see are the leaves and the branches. The “true vine” is really thick, almost like a small tree, with lots of smaller branches producing thick leaves and heavy clusters of grapes, they usually follow a guide wire and grow in a very specific way and that’s made possible by using a trellis or an arbor. Without an arbor which provides support and a framework for the branches and the vines, they tend to run along on the ground and do not produce as much fruit neither do they grow strong, because each area is throwing down these little sucker roots for nourishment and support, so the main vine is just a feeder root and never gets very large instead you just have a very large mess and very little fruit is produced. So, when Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” [15:1] He is telling us that He is the one true vine, that He is the chosen one of God.
There is no other vine, no thing or person or idol that can fulfill His purpose. He is the messiah and God has chosen Jesus to bring the kingdom of God to His people. God has established the framework, “The Word” and Jesus provides the growth, and we are the branches that bear fruit. And sometimes this can get very messy, have you ever wondered why me? The really big why me’s, I’m not talking about small irritations. I mean why does my best friend not talk to me anymore, why do I have cancer, why did I lose my job, why am I having such a hard time, why? Why do some people leave the church? No explanation, no reason. One day there gone. Maybe you see them at the store and they blow you off. Why are some people and thing removed from our lives? Why are there others that come into our lives, who are strong in their faith that nothing can shake them? People who just have that something extra, they are so full of fruits of the Holy Spirit, you think they could give away fruit baskets and never run out. And you wonder how they can be like that after losing a loved one. How someone with a terminal illness, bed ridden, on deaths door can smile and still pray for you, that you might come to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” [15:2] Those people and those things that aren’t in your life now. They aren’t there for a good reason. If something isn’t bearing fruit God will remove it from your life. God has no use for branches that do not bear fruit and you have you room in your life for distractions and things that do not bear fruit. Sometimes God has to do some pruning, when he does have you ever considered that the branch might not like the pruning process? That it may be painful, certainly stressful. Yet it allows us to produce more fruit. It is necessary if we are to produce more, we must be cut back in order to focus on the true vine, to gather more sustenance from the true vine we have to be nearer to it. If we stretch out in all direction, we have no purpose, no structure. We will not bear fruit, we will become scattered, devoid of substance, scrambling for a place to put down roots in shallow ground to keep from getting blown away. Because, alone we aren’t strong enough to support ourselves and without the strength of the true vine, we seek nourishment from any source and if you get to far out there you may get cut off completely. Jesus tells us this plainly, “You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” [15:3-4] We cannot bear fruit by ourselves. We cannot bear witness or possess the fruit of the Holy Spirit except through Jesus.
It is not possible to be detached from the vine and live, it’s not about the branch, it’s about the vine. Without the vine there is nothing to support the branches and they will wither and die, certainly they will never produce fruit. But those who abide in me… to abide in…I love this word it means so many different things. It means to accept, to stand for, those who receive, who consent, to believe, to acknowledge, to endure in Christ, AMEN. If we abide in Jesus we bear much fruit, not a little or some but much fruit we will be abundant, ample, plentiful. Because we are meant to have abundant life and we are meant to produce fruit abundantly for the glory of the kingdom of God. Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Apart from me you can do nothing. The Holy Spirit abides within us as we abide in Jesus. He is our purpose. We are lost without Jesus, without God we have no purpose except to be thrown on the fire. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty harsh isn’t it. I mean bad enough that we are rejected. That we lose our inheritance as children of God. That we will never produce fruit or know the love of Christ but to be thrown on the fire and know certain destruction. No Thank You…but it cannot be any other way. This is why Jesus tell us this. If you leave dead wood lying around, it will attract pests and other things can infest the healthy vine. Dead wood can cause disease and pestilence in an otherwise healthy orchard. To prevent this the deadwood is burnt. For us it leads to death in sin, to being dead to God and to the world. If we fail to keep ourselves firmly attached to the vine we can find ourselves in the fire fairly quickly, and very easily. You know that darned road to destruction keeps getting wider and better paved every day. The enemy keeps putting up nice hotels and casinos with fancy restaurants. I mean, who wants to take that narrow dirt path with no fancy restaurants, camping out with no TV? Why go to all that trouble? Because “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. [15:7-8] Vines don’t grow in concrete, you can’t see the stars or feel the wind on your cheek if you’re inside a hotel. You cannot abide in the Lord if you don’t abide in the word. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. [John 1:1-3] This has to be one of my absolute favorite verses.
This isn’t rocket science folks, it’s far more complex than that. I can prove rocket science on a piece of paper. I can show you the calculations for thrust and velocity, I can demonstrate wind resistance and shear. But the only way that I can prove that Jesus is the true vine, that God is the vinegrower, is faith. Faith in the Gardener and His assurance that Jesus is the true vine. Only Jesus can open your heart and your mind, only the Word can show you your place in the garden and only the Gardener can make it bloom. If we ask, if we abide in Him we will receive what is promised to us for God cannot be false. The one true vine cannot perish because it has been redeemed by God and through His redemption we are assured of our own. Yet because it is He that redeems us, without Him we are nothing. By abiding in him we are assured that we will produce much fruit to the Glory of God and we will become His disciples. For Jesus is “the bread of life, the light of the world, the door of the sheep, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life, the true vine”