I. By God’s grace
II. For God’s glory
John 15:1-8 “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.
In the name of Jesus Christ, the true vine, dear Christian friends,
Jesus was recorded by the Apostle John as saying it seven times: “I am...”
followed by an inanimate object or generic human term to describe himself and his work.
You may know all seven, one of which we heard last week: Good Shepherd, Gate for the
sheep, Resurrection and the Life, the Way/the Truth/the Life, Bread of life, Light of the
world and the one we have before us today, the Vine.
This is the only occasion when Jesus uses an “I AM” statement and then follows
up by specifically telling us who/what we are, describing us as branches. So, sounding a
little bit like those familiar children’s songs— “I’m a Little Teapot”, “I Am Jesus’ Little
Lamb” and “I Am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N”, I can confidently and gladly say, while also
teaching you to do the same, I AM A BRANCH I. By God’s grace II. For God’s glory.
It is the night of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and the day before his
death on the cross of Calvary when he speaks these words to his eleven faithful disciples
(Judas having left them to betray Jesus). Jesus may have been walking past some vines
and chose to use this object lesson to drive home the points of this very important topic.
Jesus describes himself as the true vine. This is in opposition to the people of
Israel, Jesus’ own family line, which regularly was referred to in the Old Testament as a
vine (Ps 80, Is 5, Jr 2). Unlike Israel, which proved to be false due to its wickedness,
rebellion and sin, Jesus wanted his disciples to know he was true, real, genuine.
His Father the gardener had planted him on this earth to produce much fruit and
fruit that would last for all eternity. His disciples had seen this fruit with the feeding and
the healing Jesus did. They had heard this fruit as Jesus spoke about being kind and
loving toward one another.
But did they understand that there was nothing false in him? Did they realize
Jesus had never sinned in thought, word or deed? Did they know that Jesus would be
more than just a Master Teacher or just a wise Prophet? Did they comprehend that Jesus
was about to give his very own life for the forgiveness of every sin and for the salvation
of every human being? This was one more way for Jesus to bring the point home that he
was true, real, genuine.
By that same grace that sent Jesus to be our Savior, God connected you and me to
Jesus, as branches to a vine. Grace is the only reason I can say, “I am a branch!” Just
like branches do not decide to grow from vines, so we did not decide to be connected to
Jesus, as he tells us, you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
By water and the Word, God brought us into this relationship of branches to a
vine by which we receive the blessings of forgiveness and eternal life, as well as the
ability to produce fruit, that is, good works in our lives. By his Supper and Scriptures, he
remains in us so we can remain in him.
Do not take this connection for granted. Jesus says here that there are those who
are cut off and such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. He
probably was referring to Judas who had just left their fellowship minutes to hours
before. Certainly, there have been others.
Perhaps you know one of these people personally because there have been many
who left the fellowship here at Grace and from all we can tell on the outside have become
unbelievers and God has cut them off from his grace either on earth or eternally. Maybe
it was someone in your own family!
How will you avoid this happening to you or other loved ones of yours? Jesus
tells us! Remain connected to him! This involves your ongoing activity with the means
of God’s grace. Recall your baptism by which God poured out his grace to make you his
branch and to keep you as his branch as the blessings of baptism are ongoing in your life.
Receive communion by which God extends those same blessings of forgiveness-sharing,
faith-strengthening and future-home-in-heaven-sending. Read his Word at home, review
it with your family, rally around it at church so the Holy Spirit remains present in your
life and continues to keep you connected to Jesus.
So, Jesus teaches, 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.
Being connected to Jesus gives us the privilege to ask anything. If you remain in
me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
While it might seem that this is a free-for-all promise, in other places of Scripture we
know our request has to be in Jesus’ name and in keeping with his will, in other words,
our requests and petitions have to be for God’s glory.
Being connected to Jesus gives us the responsibility to produce fruit, again for
God’s glory. Jesus says, “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...This
is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my
What fruit— that is, good works— are you bearing in your life? How much of
them? Are they the right ones? Are they enough?
Those are tough questions for me to answer for you. Each person— each
branch— is different. Is God expecting white grapes or purple grapes from you? Is he
looking for a large cluster or a small one from you? When you attend Bible Class or
come in for counselling or strike up casual conversation, you might ask me what I would
do in a certain situation and I can offer you some advice and direction, but in most cases I
can’t tell you specifically what to do because your gifts and your circumstances are
different than mine.
I can, however, direct you to what God tells you. For example, bearing fruit
involves “getting rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along
with every form of malice, to be kind and compassionate, forgiving each other, just
as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph 4:31-32). How much? “As we have opportunity,
let us do good to all people” (Ga 6:10).
I can tell you that if you are not bearing such fruit or you are not bearing much
fruit that God might have some correction in store for you, as Jesus says, while every
branch that does bear fruit [God] prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. To
help branches bear fruit, pruning might be needed. If flowers do not open up and bloom,
sometimes you can take the outer petals off and then it will blossom.
This pruning might be painful, but it is with good purpose. Can the phrase “no
pain, no gain” be applied here? God might bring a disaster or chronic illness or other
hardship into your life as he did for the Apostle Paul with his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Co
12). God might bring a fellow Christian into your life to correct you and direct you away
from your sin and into a life that is pleasing to God. These things might be difficult to
endure, but God is using them to make sure you remain connected to the vine and are in
heaven with him for eternity.
I can tell you that bearing good fruit involves much! I can tell you that bearing
much fruit is good! I can tell you that I am a branch by God’s grace and for God’s glory.
As I hear your forgiving and encouraging words and as I look at your kind and
loving actions, I see fellow branches who are by God’s grace and for God’s glory
connected to the Vine, Jesus. So, remain in him and he will remain in you!