Sayings of Jesus

'Except a man be born again'

'He that believeth..'
'I am the Bread of Life'
'I am the resurrection and the life'
'I am the true vine'
'Salvation is of the Jews'
'You are my friends if..'
 

‘I am the true vine’

This saying of Jesus is contained in the gospel record of John where Jesus is recorded as saying:

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.’ (John 15.1,2)

This is the start of an important lesson that Jesus gave to his disciples, a lesson in which he describes the relationship that exists between him and them and also his own relationship with God his father.

THE HUSBANDMAN

It is important to note how Jesus describes his Father in this passage. Jesus is the vine but God is the husbandman. The husbandman is the one who owns the vineyard and decides what should happen to the vines. He decides whether the vines should continue to be cultivated or if they should be cut out, destroyed and replaced with fresh stock. In describing the relationship with his Father in this way, Jesus is clearly showing that he is in an inferior position to his Father. This is quite contrary to the ideas of those who teach that Jesus and his Father are equal parts of a Trinitarian godhead.

Throughout his life, Jesus emphasised that he was in an inferior or lower position to that of his Father. He recognised that such power as he had came from his Father. For example, in the last verse of John chapter 14 Jesus says:

‘… that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do...’ (John 14.31)

Jesus always did what his Father commanded him. He recognised his Father's superiority. He understood that his Father had given him a role on earth. Had he been God on earth, as those who believe in the Trinity describe him, then this relationship simply would not have made sense.

VINICULTURE

Jesus describes himself as ‘the true vine.’ To those living in the land of Israel the cultivation of vines was a common sight. Vines have been cultivated for many thousands of years.

In the Bible, the book of Genesis records the cultivation of vines and the gathering of grapes in ancient times. In the world of today, vine cultivation or viniculture is an important form of agriculture as far north as Britain and as far south as Australia. In the time of Jesus wine would have been an important and common drink and so the disciples would have been familiar with the care which went into cultivating vines and using the grapes from them to produce a good quality drinkable wine.

There was also a particular association between the vine and the temple in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. We understand that there was a particularly fine vine growing over the gates of the temple, which produced large quantities of fine grapes.

THE BRANCHES

So Jesus portrayed himself as a vine. We note that he encompassed the whole vine - both the stem and the various branches. The whole vine was the body of Jesus Christ. Yet there were differences among the various branches of the vine - some produced fruit but others did not.

The next words of Jesus explain this further:

‘… ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.’ (John 15.3-5)

We see from these words that Jesus is describing his relationship with his disciples as one of mutual dependency. He is telling them that by following him they have become part of his vine. His role as the all supporting vine, is to give them the nourishment and life which they need to bear fruit. The disciples as branches, could not survive without that nourishment drawn in through the stem of the vine.

If a branch is cut from a vine it becomes useless. It will wither and die and will never produce fruit. The only hope that it has of further life is by being grafted back onto the vine. This is exactly what Jesus tells his disciples:

‘If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.’ (John 15.6)

The disciples had become dependent on Jesus to fulfil the teaching that he had given to them. To benefit they had to follow him wholeheartedly. If they were not committed to him then they would not be bearing good fruit and were likely to be cut off from him. By preaching the gospel to them Jesus had enabled them to be made clean. Other parts of the Scriptures show that this cleansing takes place through baptism – a full covering in water or total immersion that washes away former sins.

PRODUCING GOOD FRUIT

We note that Jesus in his opening words speaks of the fruitful branches being purged. On a vine even the branches that bear good fruit need to be cared for by the husbandman. The stronger shoots need to be kept trimmed while any sign of disease or canker has to be cut out. This cutting back or pruning is not done to damage the vine but rather to tend it and channel its energy to produce even better fruit.

All those who follow Jesus and heed his words can become grafted into ‘the true vine’ that represents him. Each one becomes another branch that needs to be cared for and kept in trim. This is the strength of meaning behind the words of Jesus when he continues by speaking of the relationship his disciples can have with God:

‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.’ (John 15.7,8)

This is a lesson to us to have faith and confidence in Jesus and in God his Father. If we are faithful and if we keep the commandments given to us by Jesus, then we will bear a good crop of fruit. Jesus gave us the example in his own life. He showed to us the nature of his Father and he lived a life that clearly showed that nature. It was a life without sin and yet it was a life in which Jesus faced all the temptations that we face.

It is our duty to try to live a similar life and yet we find it so hard to keep to that example which Jesus demonstrated in his life. The simple fact is that we all sin, we all break the commandments of Jesus, even though we might try hard not to. This is the sinful nature that has beset us from the time of Adam and Eve’s first sin in the Garden of Eden. The Apostle Paul wrote to the 1st Century Christians at Rome:

‘For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.’ (Romans 7.19,20)

Paul recognised his own failings. This was a man who worked so hard in the service of God by travelling to many countries and by enduring many hardships. He was imprisoned, beaten and shipwrecked yet he still used every opportunity to serve God. Despite this he recognised that he sinned and therefore failed in some respects. Even though he tried hard to avoid sin he still fell victim to it.

TREATMENT OF DISEASE

We are no different to Paul. He was one of the branches of the vine as we can be. He needed attention to have the disease and canker of sin cut away from him just as we do. We must always remember that it is only branches that bear fruit that will be allowed to continue to grow on the vine. Jesus said that those who did not bear fruit would be cut off and burned. So if we reject Jesus and God and if we make no attempt to obey the commandments, then we will be cut off from the true vine. We will be cut off from the hope of the gospel message that Jesus gave to his followers.

Surely none of us wish to be in that position. How much better it is to serve Jesus and to share the wonderful hope of the gospel. In speaking of the true vine Jesus continues:

‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.’ (John 15.10,11)

JOY TO COME

This is a wonderful offer from Jesus. It is an offer beyond anything else that the world of today might put before us. It is to share in his love and through him to share in the love of God. That love will bring us joy and Jesus says that it will be a full joy. Lest we have any doubt as to what Jesus meant by the extent of his love he explains in the following verses:

‘This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ (John 15.12,13)

Jesus showed his love and compassion for all those who followed him, in so many practical ways. He miraculously provided them with food and drink; he healed the sick and he spoke up for the persecuted. Yet his greatest act of love was to give his own life as a sacrifice. That sacrifice involved much suffering, yet Jesus maintained his faith and confidence in God right to the end; so much so that when he was crucified, one of the Roman centurions guarding the cross, said ‘Certainly this was a righteous man.’ (Luke 23.47)

Jesus gave his own life for his friends. In so doing, he rose again from the dead and gained new life and he offers each one of us the hope of new life.

One of the commandments of Jesus was that those who have been baptised into his saving name should remember his death and resurrection regularly. He told them to eat bread and drink wine in memory of those events. By taking a small piece of bread from the loaf and sharing a cup of wine, Christ’s disciples are reminded of their common sinful natures and of the forgiveness of sins made possible through the shedding of his life-blood. The bread and wine Jesus tells us, symbolise his body and his blood respectively. In our eating and drinking we are partaking symbolically of him - we are linked to that true vine. When he gave the commandment about this simple ceremony Jesus also made a significant comment. He said:

‘…I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.’ (Matthew 26.29)

At the time Jesus uttered those words, he was referring to the wine on the table before them. When he returns to establish the kingdom of God, those who have faithfully followed his commandments will be invited to drink of the fruit of the vine with him. Those who like his immediate disciples, have become fruitful branches, will be recognised as part of the body of Christ, part of ‘the true vine.’

Will you be among them?

 

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