Monday, June 4, 2007

me? i think i'm more of a cabernet sauvignon...

John 15:1-17
1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide 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. 5I 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. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Throughout John’s Gospel we’ve been reading and learning that John has been taking all these things that were typically understood by the Jews of his day that were understood in scripture a certain way, and he’s showing us how, because of Jesus, these things are redefined and re-evaluated. They meant one thing before, but now Jesus shows us what they were pointing to, or how they have changed.

God speaks creation into existence but Jesus is that Word which created all things.
John shows us how Jesus is the light of the world, how Jesus is the Temple of God, how Jesus is (Torah) the way, the truth and the life, this is how Jesus is the bread of life. Etc. Now Jesus comes along and he says that he is the True Vine. Well why does he use Vine? Where is this coming from?But we’re set up by John already to be aware that this is probably a loaded term. This probably already had a meaning to the original readers and listeners.

I think in order to understand what John is highlighting for us, and the real potency of Christ’s words we need to go back.

In Genesis, we see that God creates humanity in order to be in relationship with them and he puts them in a garden. However, humanity rebels and God exiles them out of the garden and the relationship between God and humanity is broken. Now everything in scripture after this point is ultimately dealing with this issue. How will God restore the relationship that was broken? God chooses a nation, Israel, and makes a covenant with them to be in relationship with; that they would be blessed in order to be a blessing to all nations. They were a light to the nations. God was going to use them to bless all of humanity and restore it back to himself, but also they were to be an example of what humanity could be like when in relationship with their Creator.

Israel fails miserably in staying in this covenant. They break it over and over again and God forgives them over and over again. So they are supposed to be this picture of a new humanity but they fail horribly. However, God is still true to His promise that he is going to use them to bless the nations. And he does, because Jesus is a Jew, he’s an Israelite. Now throughout the Old Testament there are a number of different images and metaphors that are used to describe Israel. So they are referred to as a number of things, an adulterous wife, a rebellious son, a flock of sheep etc. one of the metaphors and images that is used is a vineyard. Israel, God’s people is a vineyard that he planted. We see this mostly in the prophets, Jeremiah and Isaiah the most.

Isaiah 5:1-2
1Let me sing for my beloved
my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
2He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it
and he looked for it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

Jeremiah 2:20-22
"For long ago I broke your yoke
and burst your bonds;
but you said, 'I will not serve.'
yes, on every high hill
and under every green tree
you bowed down like a whore.
21Yet I planted you a choice vine,
wholly of pure seed.
How then have you turned degenerate
and become a wild vine?
22Though you wash yourself with lye
and use much soap,
the stain of your guilt is still before me,
declares the Lord GOD.

Now this comment about Jesus being the true vine is alluding to this verse in Jeremiah. The section this passage in Jeremiah is apart of is an entire section about Israel forsaking God. And though God planted a choice vine they became a wild and degenerate vine.
What we see is this picture of what happened with humanity. It became wild and degenerate.
So we have this picture of a vineyard that God planted and it was a good vine, but it became wild and degenerate. This vineyard is a picture of Israel, and Israel is a picture of a new humanity. So we have this picture of something that was supposed to be so good and had so much promise but it became wild.
Now wild grapevines are quite different from good grapevines. Wild ones are very invasive and aggressive. They entangle themselves all over trees and choke the life out of them. I was trying to find out what was so different about wild grapevines and I came across this lady who was asking what to do because she had these wild grapevines and they were entangling themselves in her trees to such an extent that when one tree would fall it would bring down five more. And she couldn’t get rid of them because she’d cut them back and they’d grow right back.

You can just imagine these wild grapevines just smothering and choking out the lives of these trees. And I’m sure you’ve seen vines do this before and it’s not a good thing. They almost seem parasytic.

So as we put together this picture in our heads, we see what a loaded term vine is in the Old Testament and we come to the words of Jesus. I am the True Vine. now the Greek word here that is used for True is one that would be used for something that is no longer dormant or latent. This gives us a little more understanding of what Jesus means by True Vine. We get the picture of a True Israel, a True Humanity. We remember the promise that was made to Israel, but they became wild grapevines, now finally that promise is coming to actualization. Israel being blessed in order to a blessing to all the nations is coming to fruition in Jesus. That picture of a New Humanity is fulfilled in Jesus he is what we were created to be. And only when we remain in him do we find true life and produce fruit. We produce good fruit. Good grapes. Not wild grapes. But the key is to remain or abide in him. This point is being hammered home to us. From verse 4 to verse 10 the words 'abide' is used 10 times. That’s ten times in six verses. Reading through those verses gets almost painfully redundant because you keep coming across this word Abide. At points you feel like Jesus is running out of things to say so he just keep repeating himself. But maybe there is reason he keeps saying it. Could it be perhaps that we have a tendency not to abide in him? But, why? I started wondering why Jesus would have to keep telling his disciples over and over to abide in him. See when we abide in him we bear much fruit, which in turn causes us to be pruned. NT Wright says:

“Branches that decide to ‘go it alone’, to try living without the life of the vine, soon discover their mistake. They whither and die, and are good for nothing but fire. But branches that remain in the vine and submit to the pruner’s knife when necessary, live and bear fruit. That is the prospect that Jesus holds out to his followers, to all of us…And, though it always hurts, we must be ready for the father's pruning knife. God is glorified, and so will we be, by bearing good quality fruit and lots of it. For that to happen there will be extra growth that needs cutting away. That too is an intimate process. The vine-dresser is never closer to the vine, taking more thought in it's long-term health and productivity, than when he has his knife in his hand.”

The pruning hurts, it’s not pleasant but we in turn produce more fruit. But why do we produce fruit? What’s it for? And why do we go through the discomfort of pruning in order to produce such fruit? Well I started thinking about the fruit that is produced by a vine. Grapes. What do grapes make? Wine. I’m not a big wine fan myself. But my brother was telling me all about it last week and he said something really interesting about it. He was commenting on how serious wine drinkers use wine to compliment the meals they are eating, certain foods go well with certain red wines and others go better with certain white wines. And what they do is actually just sip the wine because not only does it cleanse your pallet but it also enhances the flavours of the food you're eating. It makes the meal better. Wine has this ability of locking in these flavours and using them to enrich the food that is with it. What a drastic difference between the wild grapevines that choke out the life of the trees around them and the good choice grapes that make wine that enhances the meal its with. So we start to see these two paths. You abide in Christ and you become someone that makes life better for those around you. Or you don’t abide in Christ and you become someone who chokes out the life around you.

So why is it so hard to abide in Jesus? It’s because there is only one way to get grapes into wine. You must crush them and you must pour the juice out. This is why Jesus urges us to abide in him. It isn’t easy. We aren’t supposed to just produce this fruit and stare at it and be all proud of ourselves because we’re bearing fruit. No we’re supposed to bear the fruit so we can be crushed and poured out and made into wine that makes life better for other people, it enhances life and brings out the joy and wonder and…love.

Because that’s the point isn’t it? Jesus says in verse 17 “ These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

The point is: loving one another. But it is the kind of love that is crushed and poured out. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” We allow ourselves to be crushed because of our love for them. There is no greater love than that.

Are we loving others this way? Are we laying down our lives for others?


Andrew Fulford said...

Great work!

darryl.cole.silvestri said...

thanx, Andrew. that means a lot coming from you.

John said...

Hey, looks familiar! I really liked it Darryl.

Greg Musselman said...

Great Analysis Darryl. I've been thinking a lot lately about this pruning ordeal, specifically on God making us holy, and how difficult it truly is. I liked your squashed grapes analogy. Are you studying John at the Story?
Later bro,

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