Over the next several Mondays, the contributing writers at Of Larks will be sharing a series on Jesus' I AM statements in the book of John. This is the fifth post in the series. Read the introductory post to the series here, "Bread of Life" here, "Light of the World" here, and "The Door" here.
When I read through Isaiah I see the full picture of God: His desire for holiness, fruitfulness, righteousness, and even a real and present wrath when these desires go unmet. Yet, I also see God’s compassion, His mercy, His atonement for His people—a book filled with the prophecy of the coming Christ.
Similarly, in John 15, the full picture of God is made evident, yet through the fulfillment of prophecy— Jesus has come. Jesus has not only come, but He has embodied God in man form, presenting Himself as the true, fulfilling, fruitful vine, and He’s welcomed us into this life-giving branch.
From Wild Grapes to Sweet Fruit
In Isaiah 5:1-7 the vineyard the Lord has tended has consistently come back to producing wild grapes—this vineyard being a reference to Israel and Judah. From the very beginning of the Bible in the book of Genesis we see God take care of and make provisions for His people that they may go forth and be witnesses to the Lord’s presence and care in their lives. Yet time and time again we watch as the Lord’s people fall into the depths of sin and depravity—a lifestyle that is not only wrought with destruction but is in direct opposition to the very character of God. And what does this depraved lifestyle produce? Wild grapes, fruit that is not fit for the harvest—that is not sweet to the taste but is rather sour and stinking. Israel’s lack of fruitfulness is in direct contrast to Christ.
We cannot fully understand the context of John 15 if we do not first understand our sinful state without Christ. If it were not for Christ and His fulfillment of prophecy and atoning death on the cross, we too would continue in Israel’s path and produce a harvest that is nothing but wild grapes. We would continue pulling away from the God who loves us and wants to provide for us—provide even to the point of offering His Son as our eternal sacrifice. Jesus alone is the True Vine as His Father is the Vinedresser, still tending to His vineyard, pruning in encouragement to yield beautiful, sweet fruit.
Part of the Vine
Not only in Jesus do we see the direct contrast of Israel, obedient fruitfulness, but we also receive an invitation to not continue in the sin of Israel, but to abide in Jesus and bear fruit. When I read through John 15, it’s not necessarily comfortable. It can be hard for me to read even verse 2 and not feel some real tension,
“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.”
It doesn’t take long for me to recognize that tension comes from realizing parts of my life that truly aren't bearing fruit; they need to go. But, they need to go because I am in Christ. In the family of Christ, when you are part of the vine, the Vinedresser will not allow you to continue to go on producing wild grapes. The Lord does not want you to continue in your sin, in daily choices that do not lead to fruitfulness but rather have us on the very same path Israel was on. Rather than sit in the tension—in the hard word that the Lord wants to remove the parts of my life that are not good, sweet, life-giving, fruit-bearing—what if I re-directed my gaze to Jesus, who has allowed me to be part of the vine? This is the real gift, that “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). If you too are in Christ, we are clean. We are continuing to be cleaned, sanctified, pruned, but we are already clean because of the death Jesus died so we might live.
To live in Christ is to abide in Christ. We can’t talk about John 15, Jesus the True Vine, without acknowledging Jesus’ command to abide in Him, a word He uses ten times in eleven verses. If we have been made clean in Christ, we cannot continue on without understanding what it means to live life with Him, truly abiding in Him. Though there are many differences between those who are in Christ and Israel’s depraved state, the fact that we get to be in Christ stands alone. The command to abide in Christ, to make our home in Christ, is one we give thanks for daily because Jesus has gone before us as our great High Priest and Intercessor, that we might find our home in Him. Jesus says in John 15:4,
“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.”
Producing in Christ
What a beautiful invitation the Lord has extended to each of us: come abide in Me, make your home in Me, and bear such great fruit. As women who want to work to produce, what a challenge to recognize we cannot, literally cannot, bear fruit to the glory of God if we are not first in Christ, for Jesus reminds us,
“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.”
Jn. 15: 5
Sisters, as we abide in Christ, our will conforms to God’s will, our heart becomes more attune to His heart, and the work of our hands, the thoughts of our inner minds—it is all to His glory. We get to live in Jesus. We get to abide in Him. We get to bear fruit because of Christ. We get to abide in Christ, in His love for us, that in Him we might know Him, we might love others as He has first loved us, that His joy may be in us and our joy may be full (John 15:11). Praise be to God that we get to abide in Him, we get to be fruitful for Him, we get to walk in daily relationship with Him, growing in our knowledge of who God is—His goodness, His mightiness, and the love He has towards us.