John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
We can remember the teachings of Jesus because they are closely related to the world around us. The more we know about Creation, the more we appreciate the parables of Jesus.
The grapevine is just like a rose in its growing habit. God created most fruiting plants to respond well to pruning. They need pruning to continue producing. The bud appears, then the flower. The flower is pollinated by the wind or by bees, bats, and other creatures. The flower tries to go to seed. When the seed is formed and mature, the plant stops growing and producing.
Deadwood on a bush or a vine will slow down the growth of the plant. It must also be pruned away, but it may harbor diseases and harmful insects, so it is never left on the ground. It is gathered up and burned.
Most people complain that their roses do not bloom or stay in bloom. They also do not prune. When one woman asked for her roses to be fixed up, she came home from shopping and burst into tears. Half of each rose bush was pruned away. Two weeks later, she phoned the gardener and cried again, “The rose bushes are absolutely covered with blooms. They are so beautiful!. Thank you.”
The audience Jesus addressed knew all about pruning. If they did not grow grapes, their neighbors did. Wine was made from grapes because it would keep without refrigeration. Wine was a common, everyday drink, so grapes were grown and used by many people.
II. The Parable
1) God is the vinedresser or gardener.
2) Jesus is the true vine.
3) We are the branches.
The Bible teaches us that everything depends on God. As the branches, we receive from Christ. God acts upon us, pruning the deadwood and pruning the fruitful branches.
Double Pruning – verse 2
a) The unfruitful branches will be cut away. This is complete removal, as Jesus will explain.
b) The fruitful branches will be trimmed, to make them even more fruitful. A different word is used here, the one for purified or cleansing.
When a rose blooms and starts to wilt, it is giving up its show of color and aroma (for insect pollination) to use its energy on seeds. If the gardener prunes just above a five-leaf cluster, the rose will send out a new branch that will produce new buds and blooms.
Now You Are Forgiven through the Word – verse 3
The word “purge” refers to cleansing, purification, forgiveness. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” If you know a person named Katharine, Cathy, or Katie, her name is based upon the Greek word for pure. Jesus died for our sins. Our sins are taken away through the spoken Word. We do not need to carry around the weight of previous sins. God loves us and forgives us through Christ. All those who trust in Christ receive this forgiveness.
Abide in Christ – verses 4-6
No one expects a cluster of grapes to grow on its own, away from the vine. No one expects a rose to bloom apart from its branch. The Christian abides or remains in Christ. He cannot continue away from Christ. Jesus comes to us through worship and through the study of the Bible. He begins with Jesus through baptism and later receives the Body and Blood of Christ in communion.
Jesus is very clear. We can only bear fruit in Him and not in any other way. Not through any other religion. Not through the Law. Not through human wisdom and self-esteem.
Why does Jesus say the same thing in various ways in these verses. He wants us to get rid of any notions that something else is also true. We are fruitful only in Christ.
If We Do Not Abide with Jesus – verse 6
Jesus always teaches the positive and the negative at the same time, to make His Word perfectly clear. If we do not remain in worship and study of His Word, we will be like the branch that dies away. Note five actions:
1. The branch is thrown away.
2. He dries up.
3. He is gathered up.
4. He is thrown into a fire.
5. He is burned.
The Bible only teaches us about believing and not believing in Christ. There is no neutral ground.
The Great Promise – verses 7-8
When Jesus urges us to pray, He also moves us to pray, not with threats but with promises. Whatever we ask will be given to us, to glorify God, not us.
God wants us to be fruitful. When we ask Him because of our faith in Christ, He answers us because of His Son.
This parables begs for outside work, if possible. Some possibilities, based on climate and time of year:
1. Look for a rose bush with deadwood. Show how easily it snaps off, compared to a healthy branch.
2. Let the children prune a bush a little. They will do not harm and will probably help it.
3. Look for a flower that has gone to seed. Note how it withers up and dries. Marigolds are great flower and seed producers. It is easy to compare new flowers to old blooms gone to seed.
4. What are some fruits the children enjoy? Bring some to class – grapes, apples, oranges, strawberries, raspberries. Most have their seed inside. Other examples are: beans and peas. The more we pick beans and peas, the more they flower and produce new pods.
5. If you can take the children to a real grape arbor, do so. It is wonderful to reach under the leaves and pull out a ripe bunch of grapes.
1. What do we need to do to enjoy what Christ promises? How do we abide in Christ?
2. What are some fruits of being a believer in Christ? Note the three groups of three, indicating that the fruits come from the Triune God.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
3. Do we ever ask our parents for more than we expect? Do they surprise us with how much they love us? Do they let us have something that would harm us?
4. How is God our loving heavenly Father?
5. Have we prayed for someone who was sick or needed an operation?
6. Do we pray for our brothers and sisters, our parents, teachers, and pastor?
7. What should we ask for ourselves, to be fruitful according to Jesus?
"That forebearance which is a fruit of the Spirit retains its characteristic kindness whether directed toward friend or enemy, toward rich or poor."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 103.
"So it goes in the spiritual government of the Church, as specially indicated in the narrative now before us. Where I have preached and taught during the past ten or twenty years, there another could perhaps, have done more in one year; and one sermon may bring forth more fruit than many others. Here, also, it is true that our labor, diligence and effort can accomplish nothing These two things must go together, namely, that each one does his duty, and that he, nevertheless, acknowledges with Peter: 'My labor cannot bring forth anything, if thou dost not give the increase.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, IV, p. 153.
"Yet this is also true, that Christ often delays the bestowal of His help, as He did on this occasion, and on another, John 21, when He permitted the disciples to toil all the night without taking anything, and really appeared as if He would forget His own Word and promise."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, IV, p. 154.
"In suffering pious persons have no aim of their own, but if it be God's will they bear good fruit like the tree planted by streams of water; and that is pleasing to God, and besides all presumption is condemned, all show and every excuse however good they may be. But he who battles heroically will receive for his suffering here joy, the eternal in place of the temporal. Of this Christ says: 'Your joy will be turned into sorrow.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 86.
"Joy is the natural fruit of faith. The apostle says elsewhere (Galatians 5:22-23): 'The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.' Until the heart believes in God, it is impossible for it to rejoice in Him. When faith is lacking, man is filled with fear and gloom and is disposed to flee at the very mention, the mere thought, of God. Indeed, the unbelieving heart is filled with enmity and hatred against God. Conscious of its own guilt, it has no confidence in His gracious mercy; it knows God is an enemy to sin and will terribly punish the same."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 93.