Jesus the True Vine

true vine

John 15:1-17 is another teaching that Jesus shared with his disciples during the famous Farewell Discourse, the last series of teachings that Jesus gave his disciples. This time of teaching began after the Passover meal as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-5) and continues until Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32, John 17). The Farewell Discourse includes many noteworthy instructions, one of which is the seventh of Jesus’ I Am statements, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1).

The word picture of a vine for the people of God was not new. In the Old Testament, God compares Israel to a vine and a vineyard on several occasions. The idea is that God the Father chose, planted, and tended to Israel just like a gardener chooses, plants, and tends to a seed as it grows into a vine. God chose Israel from among the nations (Deut 14:2), planted them in the Holy Land (Deut 1:8), and provided for all their needs in many ways, both physical (rain, water, food, etc.) and spiritual (Law, priests, prophets, etc.). Unfortunately, the Israelites of as a whole proved to be unfruitful branches and required much “pruning” through exile to Assyria and Babylon.

However, a small remnant of faithful Israelites was enough for a future hope of the nation. Further, out of this remnant, the Father brought the Son, Jesus, into the world as a human baby. Jesus, the true vine, is the fulfillment of the word picture of the vine used to describe God’s people. And now the identity of God’s people has expanded to include Gentiles (non-Jews) who trust in Jesus Christ. Gentiles are the wild branches grafted into the true vine (Jesus Christ). So the church (all the branches) includes both Jews and Gentiles, whoever believes in Jesus.

If you believe in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit lives within you alongside your spirit (Eph 1). The Holy Spirit illuminates our minds and refreshing hearts tot help us grow, just like the water and the sun that helps the branches grow (Gal 5). And the Bible, God’s Word, is our spiritual food that helps us grow (Luke 4:4), just like plants need food from the soil to grow. And as we grow in Christ, our lives start to show the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). This is what it means to abide, or remain, in Christ, our true vine.

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Jesus the True Vine (John 15 1-17)

Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life

A one way sign over a sky background pointing to the right.

John 13:33-14:14 occurs in the famous Farewell Discourse, the last series of teachings that Jesus gave his disciples. This time of teaching began after the Passover meal as Jesus washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:1-5) and continues until Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32, John 17). The Farewell Discourse includes many noteworthy instructions, one of which is the sixth of Jesus’ I Am statements, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Jesus was explaining to the disciples that he was returning to God the Father. Thomas asked Jesus how to follow him to the Father, and Jesus replied, “I am the way.” One of the ideas that John emphasizes strongly is that Jesus is the express image of the Father and that, through Jesus, the Father gives us access to Himself (John 1:14-18). Indeed, the invitation to become God’s children has been given to everyone; but it may be received freely only by believing in Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13, 3:16).

Jesus, by claiming to be “the way” to the Father, acknowledges these truths. As Jesus lived “the way” of the Law, fulfilling its righteous demands, he became our “way” to the Father. Because while conviction comes through the Law (John 1:17, Psalm 19:7), salvation comes through believing in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). And in the moment of believing in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts alongside our own spirit, sealing us as children of the Father (Ephesians 1:13-14) and, over time, making us more like God the Son, as we yield to the leading of the Spirit in our lives (Romans 8:12-29, 12:1-2).

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Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 13 33-14 14)

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

resurrection and life

Although final spiritual resurrection to eternity was not clearly stated in the Old Testament, the idea that the deceased who loved God continued to live on spiritually and would see a future time of glory traces back to the Psalms and the Prophets. A future resurrection hope for believing Israel is especially meaningful in the Prophets and Poetic books (Job 19; Pss 16, 49; Isa 16; Ezek 37). The New Testament quite clearly teaches spiritual resurrection in many places, with Jesus being the firstfruits and that of believers’ being similarly promised (1 Cor 15).

Here in John 11, Jesus’ power over death and life is on full display. At the beginning of the chapter, when Jesus receives the news of that Lazarus is sick, he delays. This seems like an unkind thing to do for a dear friend and out of character for Jesus—until we remember that Jesus’ primary mission wasn’t healing people but preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14). So, when Jesus says in John 11:4, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it,” he is not speaking to the causal link between the sickness and Lazarus’ death, but to the physical restoration miracle that brings Lazarus back to life and offers further confirmation that Jesus is God the Son, the express image of the Father made flesh who came to accomplish God’s plan of salvation for humankind (John 1:18).

The religious systems of the world teach many kinds of afterlives, referring to paradise, nirvana, etc. Other people claim not to believe in any afterlife at all. But the Bible teaches that everyone dies, and after that comes the day of judgment (Heb 9:27). However, believers need not fear the day of judgment, because Jesus covers us with his perfect love (1 John 4:17). So, when the day of judgment comes, everyone who believes in Jesus has their works of sin crossed out because we are covered by the righteous works of Jesus (Rev 20:11-14).

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Jesus the Resurrection and the Life (John 11 17-45)

Jesus the Good Shepherd

good-shepherd.jpg

Shepherding is one of the oldest professions, going back to Abel, a son of Adam and Eve (Gen 4:2). In ancient times, political and spiritual leaders were sometimes compared to shepherds because of their position of authority over the lives of people. There are two kinds of shepherds: hirelings, who shepherd other people’s sheep for pay, and true shepherds, who shepherd their own sheep (and others’) with their lives.

The Bible compares God to a shepherd (Pss. 23:1, 80:1), as well as Moses (Isa 63:11) and the Persian king Cyrus (Isa 44:28). The Bible also promises punishment for the bad shepherds of Israel (bad spiritual leaders) and that God, the Good Shepherd, will one day bring his flock Israel back to the land inheritance he promised them (Ezek 34).

When Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd, the Jews who heard him were reminded about God’s promises of punishment on Israel’s bad shepherds and God’s promise to be the Good Shepherd to Israel. And when Jesus explains later how he gives his sheep eternal life and how he is one with God the Father, it was clear that Jesus was revealing his own identity as God the Son Incarnate while predicting his own blood sacrifice on the cross that would provide final atonement for sin.

Psalm 23 provides a beautifully detailed picture about how God, the Good Shepherd, cares for us, His sheep. In light of Jesus’ self-revelation that he is the Good Shepherd, we can see how Psalm 23 isn’t merely a wonderful song of comfort, but a clear declaration about the greatness of Jesus’ love for us. His love toward us is immeasurable and unfailing, so great that he gave his own life as a perfect sacrifice to save sinners, to everyone willing to receive the invitation to believe in him.

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Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10 11-30)

Jesus the Door of the Sheep

door-of-the-sheep

Doors function as barriers between whatever is inside a space and whatever is outside the space. Modern doors can range from very simple and providing only a temporary, symbolic barrier, to very complex and providing a permanent, physical obstruction. Also, a window and a door differ in at least one very important way: a door is a legitimate entryway for people to go through, but a window is not.

When Jesus says he is the door of the sheep, he is illustrating at least two important spiritual roles. First, Jesus is the doorkeeper to eternal life with the Father. In John 9, a blind man was healed. But the religious leaders (who should have rejoiced at the man’s healing and glorified God) kicked the healed man out of the synagogue because they didn’t like Jesus. (A synagogue is where the Jewish people in Jesus’ time gathered weekly to worship God.) But religious leaders don’t determine who gets into heaven. As Jesus explains in more clearly in John 14:6, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” To get to heaven, we must “go through” the legitimate door—Jesus. And Jesus is the only way, there is no other.

A second important spiritual role of Jesus is how, as our shepherd, he protects us. A good shepherd protects his sheep from dangers, especially predators like wolves and bad people like thieves and robbers. One of the ways a shepherd does this is by taking the sheep into a sheep pen at night. But the sheep pens were very basic, with stones stacked for walls and just an opening for the door. So, often the shepherd would sit or lie down in the opening to keep dangers from coming in the sheep pen. Similarly, we may see or hear spiritual dangers from other people, as well as Satan and his spiritual forces, lurking around us. But when we believe in Jesus, he protects us spiritually from those dangers.

Jesus is a good shepherd, but he’s not a universal shepherd. The invitation to be a member of Jesus’ flock is universal, but membership is voluntary. If you want to be a sheep in Jesus’ flock, there’s a condition—you have to believe in Jesus—that he is God the Son and he died for your sins. And when you do trust in Jesus, he becomes your “heavenly door,” protecting you spiritually from Satan, sin, and spiritual death and freely welcoming you into eternal life in heaven with the Father.

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Jesus the Door of the Sheep (John 10 1-10)

Jesus the Light of the World

light-of-the-world

What does light do? Light helps us see. Without light we would always be stumbling around, falling over things, running into each other. We’d get hurt and we wouldn’t really be able to go anywhere or see anyone. We would need help, someone to show us the way or tools to help us navigate in the darkness.

Physically, when God created the universe, at first it was filled only with darkness (Gen 1:2). Then, by only His word of power, the first thing God made was light (Gen 1:3).

Spiritually, the Gospel of John tells us that the world of humanity lives in darkness. Darkness is a symbol of sin and death. Just like how physically we stumble and fall in the darkness, spiritually we stumble over temptation and fall into sin. But into the dark world of humanity, Jesus came bringing the light of God.

The Gospel of John tells us, “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5). And Hebrews tells us that God, “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son [Jesus] … the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Heb 1:3).

Jesus is God the Son, the physical incarnation of God. He brings God’s eternal light into this dark, sinful world of sin and death. This light is Jesus’ self-revelation of salvation in Himself for all who believe. (John 3:16-21).

As followers of Jesus, Jesus shares His light with us. And He tells us to share that light with the world. Jesus explains with an example in Matthew 5:14-16. When you put a lamp in a room, do you hide it under a basket? No, that’s silly! You get a lamp to light up the room. In the same way, the dark world of humanity needs believers to share the love of Jesus with our words and actions so they can see the light of Jesus, experience His life-changing power, and believe in Him.

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Jesus the Light of the World (John 8 12-30)

Jesus the Bread of Life

bread-of-life

Bread was one of the simplest and most common kinds of food in the Ancient Near East. Making bread is a relatively simple process—mix a little bit of water and oil into some flour, knead it into dough, then bake it over a fire, on a baking stone, or in an oven. These ingredients were readily available and affordable, so bread was easy to make. For these reasons, bread was a staple in the diets of people from all walks of life.

Because bread was so common, it became a popular spiritual symbol. In the Old Testament, God used it as a spiritual symbol to teach some truths to His people, the Israelites. The Jewish holiday of Passover, which serves as a reminder of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, uses unleavened bread because the Israelites left quickly so the bread didn’t have time to rise (Exodus 12). And when the Israelites wandered the desert wilderness for 40 years under the direction of God’s servant Moses, God provided “bread from heaven” for the Israelites to eat, which they called “Manna” (Exodus 16). So, God instituted bread as a symbol for His divine deliverance and sustenance for His people.

Jesus revealed an even deeper spiritual meaning of bread. As the Gospel of John says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35, NKJV). When Jesus spoke these words, his Jewish audience remembered the Passover bread and the bread from heaven that God provided their ancestors in the wilderness. They understood the spiritual symbolism of God’s provision and sustenance, as well as the connection with God’s servant Moses. They understood Jesus’ claim that this symbol of deliverance and sustenance pointed to Jesus, elevating him above Moses and equating Him with God (John 6).

Passover celebrates when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt. The bread from heaven, or Manna, reminds us how God sustained the Israelites in the desert wilderness. These historical events point to Jesus–God the Son–who delivers us from sin and sustains us in our Christian faith as we live in this unbelieving world. This is just another example of how God’s Word, our spiritual “bread,” points to our Savior and Sustainer, our “bread of life,” Jesus Christ.

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Jesus the Bread of Life (John 6 22-40)