We're going to cover another large section of Jesus' last words to his disciples here. And he's probably talking with them as they walk through Jerusalem at night, heading toward the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus is communicating desperately to his disciples that they should not be afraid even though he is going to leave- that they should trust him. And so Jesus starts with an object lesson as they walk- as he often does.
Remind them about Q&A!
Have congregation turn to John 15
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
This statement is Jesus' last "I AM" statement and he uses 7 of them to indicate this is the complete revelation about himself.
I am the Bread of Life (Jn. 6)
++I am the Light of the World (Jn. 8)
++I am the Door (Jn. 10)
++I am the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10)
++I am the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11)
++I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14)
++I am the True Vine (Jn. 15)
Fix Proclaim slides on this issue.
And the vine has the connotation of being connected. In fact, this is the theme of this passage. You see the word "remain" over and over. It's the idea of resting in Jesus and letting him work through you. And sometimes, it will be hard- that's the nature of pilgrimage.
So Jesus talks about the process of making a vine desirable- the gardener must cut off useless branches (damaged branches?) so that nutrients aren't going to dead parts and he must clip off small parts of branches to make them grow in the direction that will best support the growth of the whole vine. So, if we are walking with Christ, remember, sometimes it hurts, and that's a good thing.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
In every situation, God is going to try to use it to shape us to be more like Christ- living a life totally dependant upon the Holy Spirit and remaining in Him.
As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
So if it's hard, or it hurts right now, take heart! God may be pruning you to help you grow! Because very few (dare I say no?) branches grow perfectly, and each must be pruned by the gardener to function correctly. So if there's no pain and there's never been any pain or hardship, or struggle in following Christ, then I would worry. Because he does all of this for the purpose of making us bear more fruit!
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
We are not saved by our works, but they are evidence that we are saved.
Not only that, but there's the call to remain. We must remain attached to the source of our growth, our power, our life- Jesus. He is the vine that gives us the "nutrients". And this is agian where prayer comes in. We must ask God through Jesus for the strength to accomplish any bit of His will. And this is not new. This idea spans back to the Israelites on the shores of the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army bearing down on them. Moses prayed for a miracle. The sraelites shouted, "Why did you bring us out into the wilderness to die?" But Moses' response was Exodus 14:14
The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
Or, I like the way another version puts it:
"The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV) And this is what Jesus means by saying over and over- "remain". Very much like Psalm 46:10
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”
And in the remaining in Jesus, the result is that we will love one another. And here, Jesus makes this well-known statement:
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
There are two ways that we can do this for one another:
(1) In life
(2) In death
This can only be enabled by remaining attached to Jesus- our vine. So then, I'll ask:
The purpose is that we must rest in Jesus to look like Jesus- that we love like Jesus. And our remaining in Jesus is a proclamation of sorts. The world will see our lives and it will be a proclamation to them. The way we love one another will be a proclamation. The way that we are willing to serve one another will be a proclamation. Not that we only figurativeley proclaim the message of the word of God- we must also literally tell people. There's a word-
κηρυξ- a proclaimer.
This is someone who speaks and acts on behalf of the king. It is important that they communicate the king's message as it is given to them, without exaggeration and falsehood. They are spokespersons. We are all called to be κηρυξ, and it will show when we love Jesus and love one another.
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
And the world will treat us in a similar manner to how they treat our king. And this is why Jesus goes on to say:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’ “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry. “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God. This is because they have never known the Father or me. Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.
This is the lesser-claimed promise of Scripture, right? No one wants to be persecuted. No one wants to be discriminated against. No one wants these things, but Jesus warns that we should expect them if we follow him. Our lives proclaim on behalf of Jesus (both words and deeds).
And so, Jesus says that because he has testified (and because we testify) people are without excuse.
They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.
This sounds an awful lot like Romans 1, don't you think?
But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
Jesus' life, our lives, Jesus' testimony, our testimony, and their conscience leaves them without excuse. So go tell people the Good News. It's Good News! That we can be saved! That Jesus wants to give us life by being connected to him! The Gospel is sweet!
But the Gospel is not only sweet, is it? The gospel is both sweet and bitter, isn't it?
Then the voice from heaven spoke to me again: “Go and take the open scroll from the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. “Yes, take it and eat it,” he said. “It will be sweet as honey in your mouth, but it will turn sour in your stomach!” So I took the small scroll from the hand of the angel, and I ate it! It was sweet in my mouth, but when I swallowed it, it turned sour in my stomach. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.”
But regardless of the message, we are to proclaim it. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will testify to us, and therefore, he will also testify through us. And the world will react with disdain, and vitriol, and hatred, but some may be saved! And just like they hate Jesus without cause, so they will hate us without cause, but the name of Jesus will be glorified.
And Jesus bluntly says:
“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.
Don't say, "woe is me!" if you experience this! We should expect to suffer, because it is nothing compared to the joy and glory and celebration that's coming!
Do not fear because the Holy Spirit is with you and Jesus will come to you and both will abide, remain, make a permanent home with you. These are our παρακλητους. Our comforters, our advocates, our allies, our paracletes. They will stand by us when the world turns it's back on us. Do not be afraid. Remain in Jesus. Proclaim about Jesus.