The Vine and The Branches John 15:1-17
This is the sermon for Veterans Memorial Chapel for February 14, 2021. The weather is bad, so we will worship together but alone. I trust this message will be a blessing to each of you.
Back before school buildings, classrooms, and graded educational curriculum, teachers used to take their students about the town or country side and use their surroundings as illustrations of their teaching points, or draw applications to life from their surroundings. All the greatest teachers used this technique.
Jesus, being the greatest teacher of all, often used this technique. After Jesus helped Peter and his partner Zebedee find and capture a very large school of fish, Jesus called Peter, his brother Andrew, and Zebedee’s sons, James and John, to follow Him and become “fishers of men” (Lk 5:10 KJV). I am certain, if we could get in a time machine and travel back to the time Jesus sat on a hill (Mat 13) and explained to His disciples about the “sower sowing seeds,” that we would, no doubt, have seen farmers sowing seed. I could give you a number of other illustrations.
But let’s zero in on one particular event. In our text today, we see Jesus and His disciples heading out from the upper room to the garden of Gethsemane. Everyone in the city, from rich to poor, had garden spots. Everyone grew their own vegetables and every planter was filled with various spices, which the women used in cooking or would have traded with each other. In the Mediterranean region, grapes and berries were plenteous, vines even grew between residences, making up a fence line between properties. Berry bushes, in particular, made great fence lines.
As the Lord traveled between the upper room to Gethsemane, even after dark, His disciples could see all the household gardens about them. He used this as a teaching opportunity.
We have been looking at the Discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of John. You will recall that Jesus was speaking to His disciples the very evening of His betrayal. He is preparing them to continue being His disciples after His departure. Our passage today is John 15:1-17. Jesus continues His instructions with His disciples having left the upper room (John 14:31 “Come and let us leave this place”).
As Jesus and the disciples passed through the narrow streets of Jerusalem, they are also passing the hedgerows of berries and grapes. Jesus points out these to illustrate the relationship between the disciple of Christ and Christ, Himself. These hedgerows were made up of vines which produced branches that “branched out” from the vine. The leaves and fruit were produced on the branches.
The illustration is this, Jesus is the vine that gives life to the branches (us) and enables the branches to produce leaves and fruit. Jesus starts by saying He is the “true vine.” A gardener must guide the branch so that it can both make up the hedgerow and best produce the fruit whether berry or grape. Jesus compares the gardener to God the Father. The gardener will prune and care for the branch so that it produces as much fruit as possible. However, the branch must remain connected to the vine. It gets its nutrition from the vine that, in turn, produces the fruit. Christ says, “Remain in Me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine” (15:4). How would the disciple remain in Christ? Jesus gives us the answer. He says, “If you remain in Me and my words remain in you…” (15:7). This is to say that we remain in Him by reading and knowing the scriptures which tell us about Jesus, also by utilizing the Holy Spirit, the Advocate of chapter 14. We talked about this in our last sermon. Lastly, we can talk to the gardener (the Father) in prayer. Verse 7 tells us we can “ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” By Bible reading, communion with the Holy Spirit, and prayer to the Father, we will receive the life of Christ, the sap that will give us life and allow us to produce fruit.
It is also true that if a branch gets separated from the vine or is only partially connected, that branch will wither and die. A good gardener will see which branches are most productive and will prune away all the non-productive branches. These branches are dried and make excellent kindling as fires produce both warmth for the house and a means of cooking. Branches disconnected from the vine are only good for kindling. Jesus warns His disciples to stay connected to the vine (15:4-6).
The fruit that is produced by this symbiotic relationship of the vine and the branch is both love and obedience to the commands of God. This, in turn, produces joy. Verse 9 points out that the Father loves the Son and now the vine loves the branch, giving the branch the opportunity to love those around them. In verse 13, love even reaches the point of self-sacrifice. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13). The way we show love is by self-sacrifice. That love does not come from us, it comes from God, the Father through the Son (the vine) to and through us (the branch) to fellow Christians and the world at large.
The way people will see that Christianity is different is by how we love one another.
May God bless each of you as we stay connected to our vine in these trying times.