“Loaded With Fruit” is a sermon from the scripture of John 15:1-8. This gospel lesson is about fruit, lots of fruit. The word, “fruit,” is used more often in John 15:1-8, than in any other place in the Bible. The word “fruit” occurs six times in our text for today. Three times we hear about “much fruit.” “Fruit” is the dominant theme of our gospel lesson for today, therefore we need to think of mental images of “fruit” and “much fruit.”
Think of the opulence of nature: clusters of grapes on grape vines, clusters of blue berries on blue berry bushes, clusters of cherries on cherry trees. Think “much fruit.”
What is fruit? The New Testament does not give us a meaning for the word. But by reading the Gospel of John, we know that fruit is symbolic of the love of Christ, the attitudes of Christ, the actions of Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us “the fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control. Nine of them. Nine glorious virtues that sweeten life for those who give and those who receive.
Fruit is good, tasty, flavorful. The same is true with those nine virtues of the spirit, the fruit of the spirit sweetens life.
I am the true vine” is one of the seven I AM sayings in the Gospel of John and this teaching needs to be understood as one these teachings. You recall some of Jesus’ I AM teachings such as I am the good shepherd; I am the door; I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world. You can see these teachings. That is, you can imagine Jesus as being a good shepherd…a door…a loaf of bread…a light. So it is with the teaching for today, I am the true vine. You can see this teaching with your imagination.
Each I AM teaching teaches us something different about Jesus Christ. “I am the vine” teaches that Jesus Christ is the energy that produces fruit/acts of love in our lives.
There are other vines that we human beings are deeply interconnected with and from which we draw life and energy but these are false vines. Such false vines can be our job, our country, our team, our city, our recreation, our hobbies, and even our family and our church. The gospel text does not focus on false vines but simply says that Jesus is the true vine.
Vine refers to grape vines which were so popular for common Israelites in both the Old and New Testament.
and my Father is the vine grower. Jesus is the true vine, the authentic vine, the genuine vine. His Father, (our Father), is the vine grower of this vineyard. The Lord God is the owner of the vineyard.
Circle the word, “my.” God is Jesus’ Father. God is also your Father and mine.
We have heard before that one of the seminal teachings of Jesus is that God is his Father and our Father. Here in this text, the Lord God is not called the Lord God as in the Old Testament but simply “my Father.” The Lord God is the Father of Jesus and there is an intimate and family relationship between them.
In this parable, the Lord God, our heavenly Father, is the vine grower. He owns the farm.
-He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Near the word, “he,” write in the word, “God.” God is the owner and gardener of the vineyard.
The Pharisees were people who did not have a vital connection with Jesus Christ nor with God. Both John the Baptist and Jesus warned their listeners about the Pharisees and Sadducees who did not produce the good fruit of the kingdom and their dead lives would be pruned and they would be thrown into the unquenchable fire.
We think of tomato plants that grow up and are very full of green leaves but have no tomatoes on them. What a disappointment. We grow tomato plants to raise tomatoes, not simply to have green bushes. Some people like the Pharisees produce lives that are like tomato plants, all show and green. They tithe, read their Bibles and show up in church, but they don’t produce any attitudes and actions of love towards God and the neighbor.
-Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. Circle and focus on the word, “every.” Every Christian experiences the “pruning back” by God. A sign of God’s love is to prune our lives back, so that we will be every more productive in our love. Even if our lives as Christians are bearing fruit (of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc.), God will prune our lives back, so that we can bear more fruit. The vine grower wants us to produce more fruit.
It is the Lord God, our heavenly Father, who prunes, cleanses and removes unproductive branches/disciples and unproductive routines and relationships within our lives.
Within the image of Father, we know that a loving Father disciplines his children in order for the child to become healthier and wiser, and live life in a loving way.
Focus on the words, “every branch.” In this metaphor, Christ is the vine and we disciples are the branches that are connected to Christ and draw energy from Christ. As disciples, our growth and life are entirely dependent upon being connected with the trunk of the vine.
As gardeners who work in our backyards and gardens, we know that we prune “suckers” off the vine, “suckers” that suck energy from the plant but produce no fruit.
There are many connections in our lives which do not produce the sweet fruit of love, kindness and justice. Christ removes those non-productive connections/associations in our lives. Jesus says that those unhealthy routines and relationships need to be pruned back, so that our lives are more productive of love and goodness.
This logic makes sense to us. That is, it is beneficial for us for God to remove those unhealthy routines and relationships which diminish the kind and quality of people that God wants us to be.
What are those unhealthy routines from your life that need to be pruned back so that your life can be more productive? Think for a moment of your unhealthy habits that needs to be eliminated.
What are those unhealthy relationships that need to be pruned back and changed? Think for a moment of your relationships? What relationships need to be changed in your life?
The Lord God, our Father, who loves us deeply, prunes back those unhealthy habits and routines that need to be change.
Circle the word, “more.” God wants us to bear more fruit, to produce “much fruit,” to live a more productively loving life in Christ.
Underline the words, “more fruit.” This is what the Lord God wants: for our lives to be abundantly fruitful.
Think of numerous clusters of grapes on a grape vine or numerous apples on an apple tree that is so laden with apples that the branches are weighed down. Think of pears on a pear tree or oranges on an orange tree. The list of other mental images goes on and on. Trees laden with fruit. That is what the Lord God wants from each of our lives. This happens only if we are grafted INTO Christ, so that our love, joy, peace, patience and compassionate energy will come from him.
There is to be a vital, living connection between each one of us and Jesus Christ. We are like branches growing out of the tree, Jesus Christ.
-Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. Our lives as Christians cannot produce fruit unless our nourishment comes from the vine, from Jesus himself. The only way to produce fruit is to be connected with the vine. Energy flows through the vine to the fruit.
As human beings, we know what happens to a branch that is ripped off a tree but left to hang there on that tree. The leaves wither and die. Why? Because the branch is not fully attached to the tree.
-I am the vine, you are the branches. This metaphor is clear. Jesus is the vine and his disciples are the branches. This metaphor is plain and simple.
Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Those who live in Christ find that Christ also lives in them. That is just the word it works.
Circle the words, “much fruit.” Jesus wants us to bear much fruit, to be unusually productive in our Christian life. This only happens when we are grafted into Christ and his energy flows through our love and compassion.
What causes Christians to produce “much fruit” in our lives? A branch produces numerous fruit when it is attached to the vine or tree. Like a branch is in the vine or my arm is in my body, all branches draw life from the tree just like arms and legs draw life from the body.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. Circle the phrase, “much fruit.” This is the third time in this small section where Jesus wants his disciples to know that they are to bear “much fruit.”
A question is: How do we glorify God? We glorify God, not primarily by doing to church and singing praise songs and old classic hymns. Not primarily by saying our prayers in the morning and night. Not primarily by talking the Christian talk. The primary way we glorify God is by bearing MUCH fruit. God is glorified with we bear much fruit and are loving and compassionate.
As we conclude this sermon, we are reminded of the way that Jesus wants our lives to look…… (show one of the images above).
Edited from a sermon by Rev. Edward Markquart