Part One - What vine are you abiding in?
One of my favorite passages in scripture is Jesus’ teaching on the vine and the branches. Recently I had a chance to work through this passage with the high school group at our church and look at what it means for Christ to be the Vine and for the believer to be the branch in relation to the changing and transforming nature of their young lives. Here is the passage:
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Background and Context
Before we get into the meat of this passage we need to consider the context and set the stage a bit. Just two chapters previous to this we see Jesus and the disciples entering the upper room to celebrate the Passover together. This was probably a few hours before Jesus teaches on the vine and the branches. In the upper room, Christ knows he is on his way to the cross and he knows the misery and suffering that is to come. He takes time during this last supper to teach the disciples massive truths. From chapter 13 to our passage in chapter 15 we see all of this:
- Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and introduces servant leadership – love one another (John 13:1-17) – remember this
- Jesus tells of a disciple who will betray him. (John 13:18-30) – remember this
- Jesus introduces communion – (Mat 26:26-29)
- Jesus introduces the new covenant of his blood (Luke 22:20)
- Jesus introduces a new commandment – love one another (John 13:31-35) – remember this
- Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial (John 13:36-38)
- Jesus drops the deity bomb by declaring that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through him…and if you have seen him you have seen the father. (John 14:1-14)
- Jesus promises the Holy Spirit (John 14:16)
After all these huge topics that Christ slips onto his unsuspecting disciples during this little Passover dinner, says in v 31: “Rise and let us go from here!” The disciples I’m sure are sitting at the table looking at each other asking, “What did he say? Another is coming? A Helper? What was that about eating his body?” – and Jesus gets up to move on…probably leaving the disciple scrambling to catch up with Him.
According to Harry Ironside in his commentary and also in Morgan’s commentary, there are a couple of possible reasons why Christ compares himself to a vine and defines himself as the TRUE Vine.
1. As Christ and the disciples leave the upper room at night – probably dark by then – and walk past the Temple, they would have passed by the temple Gates which have a huge golden vine with hanging fruit – representing the Old Testament references of Israel (Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah,, Ezekial) as the vine. You could see Christ stopping the disciples in the tracks and point up to this vine above the gates and say, “I am the TRUE VINE – abide in me.” Now, there is a whole rabbit trail – more like a freeway system to follow related to Christ as the true vine in reference to the Old Testament passages, however, we don’t have time to deal with now.
2. The second possibility is that as they were walking through the Kidron Valley on their way to the Gethsemane, they passed a vineyard along the path, and again, you can see Christ stop the disciples and say: “I am the TRUE VINE!”
Neither of these can be confirmed historical or biblically, but they provide us with a nice picture of this late night adventure.
This passage, John 15:1-11, is about as famous of a scriptural passage as you can find in the Bible and we can’t get anywhere near being able to deal with everything, so I have boiled it down to four points that I want you to learn, own, and live out:
Point #1 - What vine are you abiding in?
Point #2 - What kind of fruit are you bearing?
Point #3 - Why does Christ tell us these things?
Point #4 - How do we abide? – The practical side