We looked at these verses in our selection last Sunday, but today our focus is on Jesus being the vine. There are some deep theological points in this claim of Jesus that he is the vine. As highlighted when we began looking at this whole passage from John, it is one of Jesus’ “I am” statements – “I am the vine”, and “I am the true vine”.
As the true vine Jesus presents himself as the God-given source of life and fruitfulness. Also, as the true vine Jesus is in contrast to the barrenness of the once-fruitful vine of Israel. Israel, the people of God, had strayed and separated themselves from the life-giving source of God, hence the need for the true vine to heal that connection with God. God as grower has pruned and removed the dead and unfruitful branches so that the vital union of the disciples with Jesus will be maintained and enhanced. Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that apart from the vine the branch neither lives nor bears fruit – can do nothing – and the prospect of ‘greater works’ is diminished.
I think what is important here is the prospect of greater works, or more fruit. Connected to the vine Jesus’ disciples, us, are enlivened and therefore not doomed to barren inactivity in the Father’s vineyard, or we could say here the coming Kingdom of God. Without connection to the vine, we cannot produce the fruit that we have been created to produce. As we produce fruit the vine, Jesus, is fulfilling his purpose and intended fruitfulness, thus bringing the love and grace of God into the world.
Our place as branches depends on the care and nurture of God the grower and the love and care that flows from the roots of the vine, the true vine, into the branches, us. Our connection with the vine is a life-giving reliance. Through our connection to the vine Jesus transforms us from useless wild shoots, who can do nothing, into noble, fruitful branches. We have not chosen this fruitfulness; it is the vine who has fed and nourished us into this fruitfulness.
All of this highlights our need for the presence of Christ in our lives every day. The presence of Christ in our lives changes the way we look at the world and changes the way we act within the world, hopefully.
Those first followers of Christ, those who were said to be following ‘The Way’, did things differently to what others did. They cared for the poor and the widow, they cared for the sick, they spent time in community, they showed respect and inclusion to those around them. The presence of Christ in their lives made people ask what was different about them. It meant that people questioned and learnt about the way of Christ. It also meant that some dismissed them as different, some thought they were out of their minds and a disruption to the usual way life was lived. It is in our connection to the true vine that we can share the fruit of that vine with the world today.