5th Sunday of Easter “The Juice of Fruitfulness”
May 2, 2021 John 15:1-8
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
John 15:5 is a good memory verse. Jesus said: “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.” That’s a good summary of Jesus’ lesson about the vine & branches & fruit of the kingdom of God. We understand Jesus’ illustration; we understand seeding & watering, pruning & other preparation for the fruitfulness of plants. It’s an inspiring thing to join with God’s creation to grow plants; we can appreciate the enthusiasm of the farmer in making the earth fruitful with the food that sustains our lives.
God-the-Father is also a ‘farmer’, a gardener; except His most important crop is the righteousness & mercy of our eternal salvation. He had a special planting, a single seed;
He brought forth a branch from the root of Jesse, which has become The Vine by which all branches could have life, and by which all kingdom-fruit would be produced. Of course,
His Son Jesus is that Vine; you are the branches. In Him, you will bear much fruit; apart from Him, you & I can do nothing for His kingdom. In the end, all dead, fruitless branches will be gathered & burned. We’re going to walk thru Jesus’ lesson; but before we do,
let’s make sure we understand a couple of key things.
The devil, the world, & our sinful nature will tempt us to finish the following sentence: “I can’t bear God’s fruit; I’m too …________.” *Too what? Too busy; /too old, /too sick, /too poor, /too uneducated, /too unskilled, /have too much of a ‘past’? Don’t fill in that blank, because that sentence is a LIE. God’s people bear God’s fruit; all God’s people do = /young & old, /healthy & sick, /male & female. If you belong to God, if you believe Jesus is God’s Son & your Savior, then no matter who you are, where you are, no matter what your position in life or condition in life, you are bearing God’s fruit.
This is the result of two things: +being connected to The Vine, and +because of what that fruit is. 1st, it’s with the tool of faith that the Gardener has grafted us into The Vine.
By showing us our lost condition, and by showing us the Savior He sent to us, God has caused us to trust His mercy, and to look to Jesus for our rescue & new life. God’s promise has been applied to us with water.
God’s Spirit has washed us with a renewal & regeneration into this new life.
By baptism, Jesus’ saving name has been put upon us. In this way, The Vinedresser has joined us with The Vine. That’s the first reason you will bear the fruit of the kingdom = because you are connected to the Vine.
And 2nd, you DO bear God’s fruit because of WHAT that fruit is. Let’s remember that the fruit of God is not in being a missionary or teacher or pastor; not in running some charity or food shelf, or in giving a lot of money to the church, or in other things that take special abilities. Doing those things certainly can result in fruit; but the MOST fruit -which the people of God bear- is much more ordinary. When Paul writes in Galatians 5 about the fruit of the Spirit-of-God, he lists 9 things: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Please notice how those things do not depend on /who you are, /where you live, /whether you’re old or young, /rich or poor, /healthy or sick. Everyone, in any condition, can bear those fruits. That’s why all God’s people bear the kingdom’s fruit.
So, *how does this fruit come about? Well, as with any vine & branch, there is a ‘living’ connection; that means there’s a flow of basic nutrients between the vine & branches. For plants & trees we call this ‘sap’. For the kingdom’s vine & branches, let’s call it ‘juice’. *What would be this ‘juice-of-life’ between vine & branches for bearing fruit?
We use the word ‘juice’ in different ways. Most basically for orange juice, apple juice, or v-8 juice. But, when using an appliance, we plug it in & give it ‘the juice’ = electricity. When passing someone on the highway, we press the accelerator & give it the juice = fuel. When we get up in the morning, we say that it takes a while to get the old juices flowing = blood. The vine, branches & fruit of the kingdom also involves juice. *What is the Christian’s life-juice? Let’s see if Jesus tells us.
In verse 1, Jesus said, I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. We notice He used the word ‘true’; it implies a uniqueness. There is one true vine & one vinedresser. We also notice that Jesus, here, says MY father, not ‘our’ father. The branches only have access to the Father thru Him. Jesus is the one eternal Son, and we are adopted children, reborn into the kingdom thru baptismal grace.
WE most certainly are counted as children of God, but only Jesus has that unique relationship as the only begotten Son of the Father. And, Jesus shares His son-ship with us.
By the way, this is why the Bible refers to ALL Christians as ‘sons’ of God, no matter whether we are male or female. Only the first-born son receives the full inheritance from the father. So, the only begotten Son of God, who is now the first-born from the dead, fully shares His blessing of new & resurrected life with all who believe & are baptized into Him. Jesus shares with us His son-ship, and so all ‘sons’ receive the full inheritance of heaven.
In vs.2 Jesus said, 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. It is fruitfulness that shows-off the Vinedresser’s goodness & glory. Those connected to Christ Jesus bear
His fruit, otherwise they are cut off by the Gardener as useless. How often we see this in the OT, when the stubborn people of Israel refused to bear God’s fruit of trust & obedience.
In Gal.5, the HSp identifies both good fruit & bad fruit. There’s a whole list of rotten fruit; it includes things like: /sexual immorality; /letting your emotions control you; /idolatry = that is, acting like you’re the god of your life; /trying to be spiritual & mystical = but not God’s way; /being jealous, & having fits of anger; /causing people to hate each other; /thinking the worst of others; /giving-in to your addictions; /selfish laziness; /wasting the life God gave you with parties & pleasures & the world’s entertainments. Gal.5 says, that those who do such things have cut themselves off from Christ, and -therefore- will be cut off from the kingdom of God. Without the God’s Vine, we wither & will be burned.
The fruit that comes from the Spirit of God are the things that are good & right & helpful between people. They can be larger things = like church-work; but most of the good fruit is regular things, & daily things, & things we all have the ability to do. Remember what those fruits are: Love, joy, & peace, /patience, kindness, & goodness, /faithfulness, gentleness & self control. This fruitful faith in Christ is lived out in the lives of all of God’s people.
This is why this Christian faith cuts across so many lines, and really is for all people. Sick people can display the fruit of patience; young people can bear the good fruit of self-control; both the poor & the rich can show the fruit of kindness.
Jesus said that The Vinedresser also knows how to prune away those things in our lives that prevent us from being as fruitful as possible. The Father will trim from us /our empty excuses, /our unproductive habits, /our hindering sins. He’s talking about the discipline of Hebrews 12, which says, “The Lord disciplines those he loves…. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
This pruning discipline ‘cleans’ us up, said Jesus. In vs.3 & 4 he says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I will abide 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.”
You & I are clean because of what Jesus did on the cross and thru the tomb ==even tho we still struggle with our old nature & temptations. The words of forgiveness from Jesus continue to cleanse us of our sin. This is why we gather here to finish one week and to begin another week in worship of Him. We bring our dirty sins, and He speaks & cleanses us.
He reminds us that He is still with us, & still has a purpose for us. Then He sends us back out to bear His fruit.
In vs.7 he says, “IF you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Christ and His words always go together. When His words remain in you, you will not be asking for sinful things, but for things that are good for your faith, and good for others. So the more we ask, the more fruitful we can be; and the harvest will be God’s righteousness and God’s peace.
In vs. 8 he says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” Fruitful branches show how good & strong the Vine is, and how wise and caring the Vinedresser is.
So, He is the Vine, and we are the branches; in Him we bear His fruit. So *what is the ‘juice of life’ that feeds us; and keeps us healthy, productive branches, and keeps us bearing fruit to the glory of the Father? The juice is His Word. Elsewhere, Jesus says that His Word is ‘Spirit’. The Spirit-of-God and the written Word-of-God go together = they’re inseparable.
The Word of God -the Bible- is Spirit-filled; living and active and truth.
By His Word we are ‘clean’; when His words abide in us = He abides in us; then we will bear much fruit, showing ourselves to be His disciples. Jesus has said that His words are the truth that set us free; His Word is the living water welling up to eternal life. So, The Word is the flowing nutrients between Vine & branches. Without that flow, we would be fruitless branches = useless, and future-less.
What Jesus’ lesson is about is the stewardship of this life as the children of God.
God calls you into His kingdom to give you a new life; a life which shows God’s Savior to those around you. God gives you certain amounts of time, talent & treasure; and the Lord has given certain assignments for your life as a steward in His kingdom. We all have various abilities, and different assignments; but we are all branches attached to the same Vine.
And so that we will bear much fruit, He gives us all ‘the juice’ -His perfect Bible- with His Spirit-filled words of grace and guidance.
*Are there times when you are not satisfied in life, /or times when you can’t see your purpose, /or times when your part seems useless? Hear again His promise to you: He is the Vine and you are a branch. You need some pruning: get rid of those bad attitudes, and jealousies of others, and your blindness for the blessings you have. Get rid of those things that have replaced God & His good ways. Return to the Lord; receive His forgiveness.
And *then what? Then He starts you up again; you’ll need some juice = His words of life; His words are His Spirit. Hear His words, and obey them. Being a good & healthy branch is to the Father’s glory; but it also means you will be satisfied and at peace in whatever your Lord assigns you. Go, this week, and bear good fruit.