Posts Tagged "John 15:1-8"


May 02, 2021
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this fifth Sunday in the season of Easter comes from our Gospel text, especially where John records Jesus’s words, “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.”  Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends…

It’s not unusual for words to fall into disuse or to change meanings over time – I wonder if anyone here knows what a “dandiprat” is, or if anyone knows that a baby walker used to be called a “go-cart.” The word “abide” is like that; of the numerous definitions and uses of the word, almost half of them are now considered antique. You just don’t see hotels on the side of the road, encouraging people with billboard signs that say, “Come abide with us!” You won’t hear baseball announcers telling viewers, “Well, Braun is up to bat with Yount and Cooper abiding on second and third base ….” If it’s used at all these days, “abide” is a word that’s used in a very specific, often religious, context. Certain hymns use the word – think, “Abide with me,” or our closing hymn, “Abide, O Dearest Jesus.” Proper prefaces and other prayers will sometimes utilize the word as well – though, again, it’s not terribly frequent. And of course, we do find the word in specific, albeit scattered and disjointed, passages of Scripture, except here in John 15.

Here, and throughout the entire chapter beyond our text, Jesus uses the word “abide” 11 times, all of which are close in proximity. Of course, the question becomes, “What definition, archaic or otherwise, are we working with here?” Are we talking about a lodging, dwelling in a physical place for a period of time? Is it that we are agreeing to work with a set of rules or mandates, abiding by them? Is there something that we are awaiting? Something we are putting up with? All of these are working definitions of the word “abide,” but I think the more antiquated definitions are what we’re seeing here: persevering, continuing, lasting, withstanding, staying.

Jesus is in the midst of His “farewell discourse,” His conversation with the disciples that takes place on Maundy Thursday in between His commandment for them to love one another and His betrayal in Gethsemane. In our text, the “True Vine” discourse, He tells them, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away ….”

Now, think about the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking. What did they do mere minutes, hours after their Lord spoke these words? Well, they ran. They did not stay, they did not abide, as their Lord was led away to the horrific, beautiful work that lay before Him. They took off, like the pusillanimous sinners and cowards that they were … and we’re no better. Is your devotional life stellar? Is your church attendance impeccable? Do you find yourself tapping your feet, waiting for the sermon to be over so we can get on with the rest of our lives? How about out there, in the world? Do you find yourself to be the picture-perfect example of abiding in Jesus? A branch that is worthy to stay attached to the true Vine?

Well, I guess it depends. If you are basing your worthiness of staying attached to the true Vine upon what you do, then no. By that standard, you and I ought to be cut clean from the good true Vine and thrown into the fire. Is that what Jesus is saying here? I don’t think so. He continues by telling His disciples, “… and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. 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. …  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

It is His Word that makes you worthy, that makes you clean, that makes you a branch attached to the true Vine! His Word causes you to abide in Him! His Word causes you to trust in Him, in spite of what you see in yourself and in the world!  You abide in Jesus by believing, trusting His Word proclaimed to you in the words of absolution, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and as you partake of the very body and blood of our Lord, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. That is how we abide in Christ: by receiving His gracious gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation and replying, “Amen; let it be to me as You say, O Lord.”

Well, what about the bearing of fruit? Isn’t that a call for me to do something, to show that I am a branch abiding in the Vine? Well, if you are abiding in Christ, hearing His Word, trusting His promises, then you can be sure that you are bearing fruit! You may not know it, you may not see it, and it will not be perfect, but you can be sure it is happening, as Jesus promises, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit …”!

I don’t often close my sermons this way; but today, I’d like to close with an old prayer not often heard (unless you tune in to my Thursday night devotions on YouTube). It’s a prayer that orients our understanding of this antiquated word. Let us pray ... “Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. Abide with us and with Your whole Church. Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world. Abide with us with Your grace and goodness, with Your holy Word and Sacrament, with Your strength and blessing. Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near. Abide with us, and with all the faithful, now and forevermore.”

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: John 15:1-8

Already Clean

April 29, 2018
By Rev. David French

Today's Gospel again takes us back to the night Jesus was betrayed.  He has already instituted the Sacrament of the Altar and is again teaching as He and His disciples make their way to Gethsemane.

On the way He tells a parable that compares all who believe in Him to branches on a grape vine.  Jesus is the vine.  His Father is the vinedresser.  Just as a branch gets its sustenance from the vine, so also, He taught, we get our sustenance from Him.  Just as a branch dies when separated from the vine, so also we die spiritually when separated from Christ.  The point of course is that we are totally dependent on Jesus for everything and as we live in Jesus our heavenly Father, our vinedresser or gardener, prunes those made clean by His Word.

When Martin Luther wrote about today's Gospel, he wondered what kind of conversation you would have with the vinedresser if you were the vine.  Luther Writes: “Imagine that you are a vine and you see  the vinedresser coming along and chopping about [your] roots with his mattock or his hoe and cutting the wood from [your] branches with his clipper or his pruning hook, [you] would be prompted by what [you] saw and felt to say: "Ah, what are you doing? Now I must wither and decay, for you are removing the soil from my roots and are belaboring my branches with those iron teeth. You are tearing and pinching me everywhere, and I will have to stand in the ground bare and seared. You are treating me more cruelly than one treats any tree or plant." But the vinedresser would reply: "You are a fool and do not understand. For even if I do cut a branch from you, it is a totally useless branch; it takes away your strength and your sap. Then the other branches, which should bear fruit, must suffer. Therefore away with it! This is for your own good." You say: "But I do not understand it, and I have a different feeling about it." The vinedresser declares: "But I understand it well. I am doing this for your welfare, to keep the foreign and wild branches from sucking out the strength and the sap of the others. Now you will be able to yield more and better fruit and to produce good wine." The same thing is true when the vinedresser applies manure to the stock of the vine; this, too, he does for the benefit of the vine even though the vine might complain again and say: "What, pray (tell), is this for? Is it not enough that you are hacking and cutting me to pieces? Now with this filthy cow manure, which is intolerable in the barn and elsewhere, you are defiling my tender branches, which yield such delicious juice! Must I stand for this too?"

Luther continues with these words: That is how Christ interprets the suffering which He and His Christians are to endure on earth. This is to be an investment and a help rather than affliction and harm. Its purpose is to enable them to bear all the better fruit and all the more, in order that we may learn to impress this on ourselves as He impresses it on Himself. As though He were saying: "After all, this is the truth, and I cannot interpret it otherwise. I share the fate of the vine in every respect. The Jews will throw manure at Me and will hack away at Me. They will shamefully revile and blaspheme Me, will torture, scourge, crucify, and kill Me in the most disgraceful manner, so that all the world will suppose that I must finally perish and be destroyed. But the fertilizing and pruning I suffer will yield a richer fruit: that is, through My cross and death I shall come to My glory, begin My reign, and be acknowledged and believed throughout the world. Later on you will have the same experience. You, too, must be fertilized and cultivated in this way. The Father, who makes Me the Vine and you the branches, will not permit this Vine to lie unfertilized and unpruned. Otherwise it would degenerate into a wild and unfruitful vine which would finally perish entirely. But when it is well cultivated, fertilized, pruned, and stripped of its superfluous leaves, it develops its full strength and yields wine that is not only abundant but also good and delicious." [Luther's Works, John 15:2]

One of the best examples or foreshadowing’s is found in the Old Testament lessons from the patriarchs – or the twelve sons of Jacob who grew into the twelve tribes of Israel.  Eleven of the brothers all hated the one brother Joseph and eventually sold him into slavery to a caravan of Ishmaelites heading to Egypt.  God however used the experiences of Joseph as a slave to prune and prepare him for the work He had prepared for him to do. 

Eventually Joseph became the second most powerful man in Egypt and God then used Joseph to bring the Children of Israel out of Canaan into Egypt saving them from the physical and spiritual famine in the land.  And then God used Egypt as an incubator where the Israelites, His Children, would grow into a great nation.

The reality of that shadow is seen in the good God worked out of the evil endured by His only begotten Son Jesus who He called out of Egypt for all people. And what does this blind and sinful world do when it comes face to face with the Son of God?  As you well know, because of the sin we all bear we all had a hand in subjecting the Holy Son of God to a “so called” trial and there condemned Him to die on a cross. Sinful men used a crown of thorns to mock, rods to bruise, whips to shred, a spear to pierce, and nails to attach the body of God to a cross and there He was left to die.  Truly it is pure evil that hangs pure love on the cross of Calvary.

God however used the blood of Christ to accomplish His goal that was and is to bring sinful mankind back to Himself, to restore the relationship that had be shattered by that first sin.  The world in its wisdom thought it had defeated God, but God in His wisdom used Good Friday to pay for sin, overcome death and defeat the devil.  The world thought it had destroyed the Son of God, but God used His Sons destruction for our forgiveness and then raised Him from the dead for our justification. God the Father took the world’s most intense hate and used it to serve His love for you and me, to bring us back into His kingdom. My friends we live in a fallen, world - a world that hates Christ and so hates you. But take heart our God who never changes, continues to change the world's hate into blessings for His people.

Today's Gospel reading offers comfort when we’re feeling the weight of the world.  It reminds us that our God will use these times of sorrow for our good, that they are only a pruning for those who are already clean, that is all who are baptized in His name.  Know and believe that your pruning will lead to fruitfulness and the strengthening of your faith that you might hold ever tighter to His promises and share His gifts with all who come to know you in both word and deed.

All of us begin life as a branch separated from the vine … ready for the fire. Mercifully through the water and Word of our baptisms that fire is quenched as God the Holy Spirit, grafts us into His Son bringing us to life by giving us His life.  When Jesus tells us to abide in Him, He is simply telling us to live our baptism and to feast on the spiritual food that is His body and blood given and shed for you.  He’s telling you that He is all you will ever need to be with Him in heaven … forever.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: John 15:1-8
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