Fifth Sunday of Easter

by Crossings

Fruitful Only In Christ
John 15:1-8
Fifth Sunday of Easter
analysis by James Squire and Ed Schroeder

1″I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

DIAGNOSIS: Running on Empty

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Fruitless Disciples
The disciples were having trouble understanding what was happening to Jesus and to their relationship with him (John 14). Peter’s utter confusion comes through loud and clear from his wide range of reactions to Jesus’ foot washing exercise in John 13. In short, the disciples weren’t capable of bearing fruit because their lives were in turmoil. They didn’t feel useful or productive at all. They were expending all their energy on trying to figure out why Jesus was leaving them and what would happen afterwards; and they have been too “run down” by the signs he has performed to contribute anything themselves to the cause. Their relationship with Jesus is a contentious one in which they cannot possibly “abide” in him, which is why they bear no fruit. Sound familiar?

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Disconnected Disciples
When you “abide” in someone, you don’t question where things are going and you don’t look at them with greater and greater skepticism. When you “abide” in someone, you put your complete trust in them. Every time Jesus talks about them abiding “in me” (him), John’s Greek literally means “my”. He is emphasizing that to abide in Jesus is to put yourself into Jesus’ possession, which for us means giving up our own possession of ourselves. Jesus is not just inviting us to become his house guest. He is inviting us to belong to him, to let him call the shots instead of us. But in these modern or even post-modern times, there is unwillingness to let go of our individualism. We are disconnected from the vine.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Withered Disciples
No wonder we feel so “run down”. But there may be more than feeling here. In fact, as ones disconnected from the True Vine, we are in danger of being cast aside to make room for someone else. Dead branches have a way of infecting the tree, and the vinedresser isn’t going to stand for that. For those who do not put their trust in Jesus could get burned. It is simply what is done with dead branches. We have insisted on our own autonomy; but we cannot perpetuate our own life. The very external stream of air that courses through our system is evidence of that. Can we create our own air to breathe? No. We are utterly dependent on an outside source for life itself. And what is that source? Has there been any such source found besides the Vine, provided by the Vinedresser? Yet we have rejected this source, and finding ourselves disconnected from it, we can do nothing but wither up and die.

PROGNOSIS: The Fullness of Abiding in Christ

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: Cleansed Disciples into new life in Jesus (by Jesus)
But Jesus can do more than that for us, and does! The true vine cleanses the branches. “You are clean by the word I have spoken to you.” There is signal of Christ’s cross and resurrection here in the text, cleansing our being. It is difficult to image Christ’s death and resurrection with the metaphor of the vine and branches. However, in John’s vocabulary the word “true” is a signal. What makes Jesus the “true” vine (also the “true” light and “true” bread) is the same grounding which makes him the “good” shepherd. What is that grounding? He lays down his life to get life to his disciples. That enfleshed Word that cleanses bad branches is “the Word made (mortal) flesh.” The remaining verses of chapter 15, especially verse 13, give ample evidence that Jesus’ passion and death are the grounding for his being the “true” vine. That true vine, in speaking His Good News – His Word – to us, grafts us onto Himself, and suddenly we are receiving all the life we could possibly imagine – for free! It courses through us from the “true” vine – the Greek could also mean “genuine” – which has itself thwarted death once and for all. This source of Life is Eternal and it is for us!

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Connected Disciples at home in Jesus
We are at home in Jesus the true vine. We have His promise that as long as we abide (remain) in him – His – he will remain in us! His juice, his power will always be there, giving us Life. Death cannot touch us anymore. It can still hurt the Old Adam or Old Eve in us, but, thanks to the true vine and His vinedresser, that process can now be called “pruning”, and it actually helps us bear more fruit! That death is no longer final, but now is actually a beneficial part of the process of making us Holy.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Fruitful Disciples because of the True Vine
Hooked up to the true vine, we don’t have to ask the vinedresser what “this” is all about. It has become second nature for us. But what has also become second nature for us is to bear fruit. As branches of the true vine, we may not be aware of it always, but we have Jesus’ word for it: we actually glorify God by the fruit that we bear. We naturally become Christ’s disciples, and our fruitfulness is guaranteed by the true vine. We are part of the growth process of the tree, and connected up to the true vine, what we do in life brings results which are pleasing to God. There is no anxiety about making sure we know where we are going. In the hands of the true vine and the vinedresser, we shall surely flourish.


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