Bible Reading: John 15:1-17
"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." (John 15:5)
John 15 is the centre of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (John 13:31-16:33) where He speaks His last words to His disciples after the last supper, and after Judas left to betray Jesus. What did Jesus have to say to His true disciples before He went to the cross? What truth has Jesus left for us all, His disciples, to learn?
John 15:1 begins by saying, “I am the true vine”. As Jesus talks to His disciples, He reveals the last of the seven “I ams”. Jesus is the true vine. What does this mean?
The imagery of a vine was used numerously by prophets in the Old Testament to describe Israel, God’s people. Psalm 80:8-16 and Isaiah 5:1-7 are just two examples that illustrate Israel as a vine. In both these examples, God’s described His people as “choice vines” that He planted to bear fruit. Yet, the prophets proclaim how God is going to judge and destroy His vine because they have failed to obey Him and become fruitless.
Jeremiah 2:21 sums it up well, “Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?”
The truth is that Israel’s story throughout the Old Testament reflects God’s people, reflects us. Read the Old Testament as a continuous story, and you will be shocked at the stubbornness and constant ignorance of the Israelites. Despite God’s continuous goodness and faithfulness, again and again, Israel rejects God, chooses to disobey Him, and fails to bear fruit.
We don’t need to look far because the Israelites are God’s reflection of who we are. We reject and disobey God again and again. Our ignorance and stubbornness towards God are harder than rock.
There was a point in my life when I rejected such truth about myself. I believed the lie that I was good enough to overcome my disobedience. I tried so hard to be good. But, in the end, I found myself broken and frustrated because I was never able to be good. In reality, we are broken and helpless because of sin, and no good exists in us.
Yet, praise God because Jesus came and proclaimed Himself as the “true vine”. He is the faithful one. He is the true vine that can bear true fruit. He is the one who has perfect obedience and submission to the Father. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Only upon receiving His sacrifice and receiving the righteousness that He offers freely will we be changed. Stop trying and trust in Christ!
As Jeremiah 32:39 says “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever”. As we try to surrender our whole hearts to Christ, don’t try. Give Him all, trust in Him, abide in Him, and watch Him work miracles in our life as He has promised from ages past.
Lord, thank You that Christ is the true vine. Thank You that although we fail in our stubbornness and sin, You are faithful and provide a way of salvation for us through Christ. Lord, deepen our faith in You. Teach us to abide in Christ, the true vine, and not in our own works or efforts. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.