for John 15:1-8 - I
Am The True Vine
It is fascinating to me that in our Protestant
religious culture, such a strong emphases is placed upon literal interpretation.
Interestingly, Jesus so often did not speak literally, but figuratively. He
spoke in allegories and images. He painted word pictures. Instead of literally
coming out and saying what he meant, he so often would tell a story and let
people draw their own conclusion. Indeed, these hidden messages of Jesus
frequently frustrated his disciples. They wished that he would speak literally
and not be quite so subtle.
This morning we take a look at one of the "I Am" sayings of
Jesus. Jesus said: I am the true vine. Now, even the most ardent fundamentalist
has to agree that when Jesus spoke these words he was not speaking literally.
Obviously, if we are to understand what Jesus was getting
at here, we must look beyond the surface and do some exploring. We have to go
beyond the actual words and discover Jesusí meaning.
When Jesus spoke about vineyards, the people of Judea knew
what he was talking about. It was an industry that had been carefully cultivated
throughout the country for centuries. It was crucial because it was a cash crop
as opposed to grain, which was raised purely for consumption. In early America
the essential crop was corn, but the cash crop was tobacco. It was, therefore,
vital to the economy of the land.
Quite frankly I must admit that I know very little about
the particulars of the wine industry. In preparation for this sermon I did some
reading in this area and it was really quite fascinating. The vines are a very
rugged crop in a way and in another sense it is a very delicate fruit and
requires being treated with kid gloves. A young vine is not permitted to bear
fruit for the first three years. It is therefore drastically pruned in December
and January to preserve its energy. The particular branches that do not bear
fruit are cut out to further conserve the energy of the plant. If this constant
cutting back was not done, the result would be a crop that was not up to its
So when Jesus spoke about vineyards certainly the people
could identify with that metaphor, even as a person in Iowa would know about
corn, or in Mississippi about cotton. It didn't make any difference whether or
not you were in that business. You had grown up around it enough that you would
still be familiar with it.
But there is something else that these listeners would most
A vineyard was the symbol of the nation. In America we
might think of amber waves of grain, but in Judea they thought of their nation
as a vineyard. It was a kind of national identity. Over and over again in the
Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God.
Isaiah the prophet pictured Israel as the vineyard of God.
He said: The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. In Jeremiah,
we read God referring to his chosen people in this way: I planted you as a
choice vine. Hosea spoke a word of judgment when he said: Israel has become an
empty vine. In the Psalms we read that God compares Israel to a vine that came
out of Egypt. Josephus, the Roman historian, informs us that over the Temple in
Jerusalem was carved an exquisite, gold leaf grapevine. It stood as a symbol of
national unity. Israel itself was, in the eyes of its people, the true vine,
whose roots ran all the way back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In Jesus analogy, he likened himself to a vine, while the
fruit bearing branches here are the disciples. God the farmer is depicted as the
one who cultivates the vineyard. He waters and tends the soil, so that the vine
is properly nourished. He takes pride in his crop. But this means that he also
prunes the vines and removes the dead wood. The grapes hang on to the branches.
What Jesus is saying is clear. The disciples should receive their strength from
Jesus. He is the true vine. If they break away from him, they will be like
unproductive branches and die and bear no fruit. They then will have to be
What can we make of this analogy in terms of our daily
life? What does it mean to be Godís vineyard?
First, it means we must bear fruit for the Kingdom of
Secondly, it means there is such a thing as an
Third, it means we must cultivate a relationship with
rest of this sermon following the outline can be obtained by joining
eSermons.com. When you sign up you will get immediate access. Sermon Prep
are offered by www.sermons.com