Apr 5, 2017 –I am the True Vine
Tonight, Jesus’ I Am statement comes not once but twice. It’s in both verses 1 and 5. But there’s a slight distinction in these two. In verse 1 Jesus adds the word ‘true’, I Am the true vine. This is something new for us in our series.
Up to this point Jesus has declared His ‘ego emi’ plainly, without embellishment. But now He adds the idea of ‘true’. There’s something to be learned from this. Jesus is giving us here a distinctive note that we will see come up again when we hear Him speak of being the ‘good’ shepherd.
But tonight, He’s making a clear distinction about being the true vine. It’s to contrast Himself with those ‘vines’ that are false – with those who deceive and dissemble regarding life and truth. In so doing Jesus is making it even clearer to His being Yahweh. Remember that that term came when Moses, on God’s holy mountain, began the journey that God sent him on to redeem Israel out of Egypt. That journey was a significant part of the ever-expanding redemption history that God has been bringing about since He made His declaration to Moses of; tell them I am, Yahweh, has sent you.
Redemption is the only path that God has marked out for all people as the true path of life. And that is what Jesus is driving at by saying, I Am the true vine. He is making clear that all other so-called ‘paths to life’ or ‘paths to God’ are false. In saying this, He’s making a claim that commands His listener’s attention. By declaring He is the exclusive and only way to connect with God, Jesus forces all of us to be confronted with that scandalous truth. There is no other connection, no other vine that gives life as God gives life through Jesus Christ alone.
When God took Israel out of Egypt He was freeing them to live under His care and His guidance. He’d heard their cries for release from captivity and so sent Moses to guide them into life with Himself. But they misunderstood – to be generous – in truth they rebelled against God’s leadership and guidance, even within days and weeks of being set free from Egypt.
But that’s the way we all think. We tend to think that it’s better to be ‘in’ control than to be ‘under’ self-control and allow God to be God. When you are ‘in control’, the responsibility for your care and protection falls to you – not such a good idea seeing how we mess things up.
Rather it’s a good thing to be under the protection of the God of life. In saying to His disciples today, ‘I Am the true vine’ and ‘remain in me and I in you’ Jesus is saying that, connection with God is the only way to life, as it has been since the time of Moses. Remaining in Christ is like what the Israelites were called to do as well. Live connected with God.
But Jesus makes yet a further statement about that, He says that ‘you are clean’, that is – you are good branches, because of the word I have spoken to you. Our connection, our remaining in connection with God comes by the word that Jesus gives to us. And He is that word. He is the connection; He is the true vine that gives us life by His word and so makes us fruitful.
There is a reciprocity in that connection when Jesus says remain in me and I remain in you. That idea of remaining in Him as He remains in us, gives to us the self-control to live under His guidance. By the power of His word that lives in us and keeps us connected to Him, He gives us the guidance to live as His self-controlled, fruitful branches.
In verse 5 He again repeats, I Am, when He says, I Am the vine and you are the branches. And He repeats that admonition with the reciprocal meaning, if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If only the Israelites had remained in their covenant with God… but then they simply were doing what we all try and do with our relationship with God. We want to be ‘in control’ of it and in control of God, and not under the self-control that allows us to remain as branches connected to the vine. That connection, through Jesus, the word of God, is what gives us purpose, life and fruitfulness.
Only as a branch remains connected to the vine can it be fruitful. Only as we live under the protection of God through the Word and the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross, do we remain in Christ and He in us. Jesus is that one and only, the true vine, that gives us a life connected to God.
In again claiming to be the true path of all of redemptive history, does Jesus set Himself against all that is false. That is the truth we and the disciples are confronted today when Jesus says, ego emi, I Am the true vine. In His name, amen.
Sermon #882 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
Holy Gospel John 15:1-8
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.