Posted by on Apr 29, 2021 in Pastor's Blog | Comments Off on Vines and Branches

For this 5th Sunday of Easter, our gospel lesson is a familiar one from John 15:1-8. These verses record what Jesus said about being the True Vine.

The first statement recorded by John in this section was “I Am”. Here we have another of Jesus statements about who He is. Here he says, “I Am the true vine”. Jesus is telling all of his followers who he really is and then illustrates his statement in the following sentences.

In Jesus time, the people considered Israel the vine. The basis for their beliefs, actions, laws, etc. Jesus is countering that concept with his “I Am” statement. He’s bringing the story of the vine and branches more to the center of what his mission is about.

Yes, some of the statements, especially related to verse 2 regarding branches that bear no fruit, are fairly pointed to the people that the kingdom they know and follow will not always be around. These people are not foreign to the concept of pruning trees that do not bear fruit. This is a common happening, even in our day. However, the concept of burning and destroying those branches that do not bear fruit has a deeper meaning in this passage.

It is no secret that Israel is an unfaithful vine. The temple leaders are interested in their own good and not the good of others. In a general concept, Jesus is talking about the people of Israel as a group knowing that God is the vine dresser who will remove the branches that do not follow the True Vine. This is a way of stating that God will judge the people of Israel if they do not make the change and follow Jesus. We know that Jesus had spoken many times of the destroying of the Temple in Jerusalem…and this connects to that happening.

However, in considering this passage, I discovered a more personal interpretation of the vine and branches. It is an interpretation that involves and talks to all of us. Yes…it’s different from how I have spoken of this text previously, but I am convinced that this is what Jesus was meaning when he was talking about this subject.

I believe that Jesus is also talking specifically to everyone who follows Him. He’s talking to individuals who have said they are His followers and His disciples. In other words, the heart of the spirituality of all followers is their relationship with Jesus.

Jesus IS the vine. The branches are all of us who are connected to Him through our commitment to be His disciple. We get our strength and our life in Christ from Him…through the blood He shed for us on the cross. We have accepted Jesus as our Savior.

Just as we prune trees and plants to promote growth in them, Jesus also challenges us with things he wants us to do for people. How can we grow as His disciples? Study His word? Pray? Help our neighbor? If we refuse to do as He asks and separate ourselves from Jesus (our vine), we are removed. However, God will always accept us back, if we repent, ask forgiveness and promise to do as we are guided to do to bring the gospel to the world. If a branch does not produce fruit, it is thrown away.

The concept of “bearing fruit” can be stated as love among the believers and bringing the gospel to God’s world. Our life and mission happen only because Jesus is within us, guiding and directing us. We have accepted Him into our life and He guides us to produce the fruit of the Gospel in being His disciple in word and action.

Now…let’s ask ourselves…what often interferes with our growth as a branch of Jesus? What are some of the temptations that interfere with what God wants us to do? Are there things and activities that interfere with our growth as disciples? How do we get back to the place where we are producing the fruit of the gospel when these things interfere?

Our “pruning” occurs when we read God’s word, discern what God wants us to do, discern what is truth, when we let go of that which distracts us from listening to God and hold our fellow humans in honor. When we discern what we need to let go of in our own lives, we will again produce fruit.

Remember that we receive our life in God through the vine, who is Jesus. He died for our sins and gives us life to grow and be fruitful disciples for Him. All of us have had disappointments and things that discourage us. All of us have experienced stress within these last months, but we have also experienced life through Jesus Christ to overcome what attempts to cause us to not be fruitful.

God will not destroy us or throw us away as an unproductive branch. We can renew our life in Christ through prayer, growth through studying His word and service to others in God’s world. God will cleanse us for service to others when we repent of what turned our attention away. We WILL then abide always in Christ…who is our vine. We are the branches who are to be fruitful in our work for Him.

We are grafted into the vine and receive strength to bear fruit. We abide in Christ.

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