God created man to be filled with His glory and then work in His power and authority as a ruler over everything on the earth. Man walked out of God’s presence due to sin and the Son of God came to restore man’s lost relationship with God. He defined His role as that of a True Vine that accepts grafting of other branches, provides them with strength and helps them to bear much fruit. In this was one who accepts to be grafted into Lord Jesus, receives the much needed new identity, strength and fruit bearing capacity. Since in this relationship He becomes the Provider, the branches also come into responsibility for Him so that their actions must be commensurate to this new relationship.
Why did the Redeemer call Himself a Vine? – Vine is unable to gain great heights and needs external support to flourishwhile Lord Jesus as Creator is full of might. He is the expression of God’s love for mankind, a love that is difficult to fathom for many. He came as a Redeemer Savior to reconcile the rebellious mankind back to God and He did not come to condemn the world. God became man and descended into this world to be our Immanuel and be with us. While teaching the disciples about their future role of a ‘servant’ of mankind, He told about His own work also, ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:25-28).
In His Sermon on the Mount the prominent ones among the blessed are those who are poor in spirit, meek, the merciful and the peacemakers for they shall be blessed with a close relationship with God (Matthew 5:3;5, 7 & 9). He did not teach to have a vengeful attitude but to turn the other cheek to the one who slaps you and this teaching was given in the cultural background of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ culture of that time. The symbolic reference to being the ‘True Vine’ is in line with this role and teaching. He could have referred to Himself to be like the cedar of Lebanon that grows to a great height and circumference. But who or what can grow bigger than God, who has created everything. Satan attempted and lost all.
Abraham was chosen by God to be His representative on the earth and reveal God to others and through him the Israelites came to the chosen people (Genesis 12:2). The promise of God to Abraham was, ‘in you all families of the earth shall be blessed’ and this goes beyond his progeny the Jews and the Ishmaelites, who had limited themselves in their own respective boundaries. After the division of the kingdom of David, in the third generation only, the ten tribes came to be called the Israelites and the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin as the Judeans. The division between the two increased further with their respective separate worship centers. The Assyrians after capturing the Northern kingdom took many residents captive and relocated people from other regions into this region to stop any future threat of rebellion (2 Kings 15:29). The Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans calling them impure due to their intermarriages with others. Lord Jesus told the Scribe the story of the Good Samaritan to explain the concept of a neighbor who needs to be loved (Luke 10:30-37).
Lord Jesus left Jerusalem to go to Galilee but ‘He needed to go through Samaria’, despite the fact that the Jews took a longer route to travel between these two regions to avoid passing through Samaria (John 4:4 & 9). The Samaritan woman on the well was surprised when He asked her for drink and said, ‘How is it that you being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman’. A Rabbi would never speak to a woman alone and that too to a Samaritan woman. But the Lord is the True Vine and a vine climbs over walls to reach in areas beyond where it is planted. The Son of God did not come to condemn anyone but to save and in that none is excluded. The command is to make disciples of all nations and not any particular people only (Matthew 28:19). A cedar tree grows straight up but who can reach it for it is beyond the reach of most people. The call of the Lord is, ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ and then He calls out to take His yoke upon themselves to hand over their burdens (Matthew 11:28-29). How can someone hand over his burdens to someone who is unreachable?
A vine generally requires support to rise higher and the Savior Lord repeatedly said, ‘The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner’. Lord Jesus like the True Vine continually depended on God the Father for everything and prayed to the Father regularly, even before and on the cross. Even after His resurrection from the dead His first priority was to ascend to ‘My Father and your Father and to My God and your God’ (John 20:17).
Man was created to be ‘fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it’ (Genesis 1:28). For us being fruitful is also about winning souls for the heavenly kingdom and this we cannot do on our own. Lord Jesus has termed all believers as braches and then the exhortation, ‘He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). How can one be grafted into something that is haughty and high up? He is the same always and even today the call to all people is the same, ‘I stand at the door. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20).
Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords became a servant and washed His disciples feet to prepare them for the ministry. The True Vine reached out to mankind across borders and at their level to raise them higher up to the level of the ‘Yahweh Elyon’, the Most High God in heaven. The declaration of God, ‘the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’ (Isaiah 57:15). This could never be fulfilled by a cedar but only by the True Vine, who is humble and full of love.
Interlinking of 7 I AM statements in the Gospel of Apostle John – The sin of disobedience of God by Adam and Eve caused widespread effect on whole of creation. Mankind died spiritual and physical death, earth started producing ‘thorns and thistles’ and insects that are harmful to mankind. And man lost control over the beasts of the wild and animosity between whole of creation came about to the hurt of each other. The first step to be taken by the Redeemer necessarily was to revive the seemingly dead in sin to make them aware of their state and to revive them spiritually and as ‘Bread of life’ He did that. Once one could realize his state, the need was for the light, to come out of darkness of sin and the world, which need was met by ‘the Light of the world’.
Once one could see his way around in the Light, escape was only possible through ‘the Door’ into something better. This new life needed a guide, a teacher, a provider and ‘the Good Shepherd’ cares for and watches over those who were entrusted to His care, even to the extent of laying down His own life to ensure that they have one. One could walk out but still remain spiritually dead and ‘Resurrection and the Life’ was made available to live a new and changed life. The Good Shepherd does not lead aimlessly but to the eternal destination which is the Way of Truth and eternal life in the presence of God the Father ‘in His heavenly mansion’ and that too in a separately prepared place for each one. The saved are then perfectly grafted into the ‘True Vine’ to bear fruit and be a blessing to others who are still stuck in the clutches of sin and the devil.
I AM is the most powerful command from God to man for through this one is set free to be what you aspire to be because it is the power of God being filled into you. Moses reverently took off his shoes to surrender before God speaking to him from the Burning Bush and was filled with heavenly power to do what he had earlier planned to do in his own power (Exodus 3:5). In a similar manner, Joshua was commanded by the Lord and equipped to move from victory to victory (Joshua 5:15). The believers are given seven and not only one statement for the work ahead is great as per the blessing of Lord Jesus, ‘the works that I (Lord Jesus) do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do’ (John 14:12). Prophet Elisha sought double portion of the spirit from his mentor Prophet Elijah and received that (2 Kings 2:9). Lord Jesus is so loving towards His followers that we are all blessed with the full portion of the Holy Spirit to do what He wills for us to do. We can receive and live filled with His power or to live under the control of the devil.
Expected changes in a believer – God created man to live a life in a close relationship with Him and that is the reason for the daily evening visits to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The doctrine of tithing was started with this very purpose of spending time in fellowship with the Creator to open our hearts before Him and to try and gaze into His heart and seek forgiveness for our thoughts, words or deeds that hurt Him. Our LORD is a covenant keeping God and a Christian is called by His name and we are His. Therefore, the promise that ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you’ (. Isaiah 43:1-2). Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, the three friends of Prophet Daniel, boldly declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O King. But if’ He decides not to, even then we will worship Him alone (Daniel 3:17 & 25). They were thrown into the furnace but all saw that in the fire there were four men and the fourth was ‘like the Son of God’.
The indwelling Holy Spirit is fulfillment of the promise of God to be with us always and to fill us with ‘power, love and self control’. Our dependency is on God and not on any other power of this world but the Good Shepherd can only do all this for us if we abide in Him, and He in us. The warning is also very clear, ‘if anyone does not abide in Me; he is cast out as a branch and is withered and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned’ (John 15:6). The branches or the sheep have to make an effort to remain with their Shepherd. Asaph, the great musician choir leader of King David’s time provides the right answer, ‘I am continually with You; Your hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory’ (Psalm 73:23-24). Asaph held on to God despite the tribulations and trials and received guidance and was filled with faith and hope of being received to glory.
Apostle Paul exhorts all believers to ‘be filled with Spirit’ and this is the first step for that, to be alone with God every day before starting anything. Seek His guidance to identify all that is against His will and blocking empowerment from Him. Confess all that is seemingly wrong; seek forgiveness and claim His Divine grace (1 John 1:9). Surrender to the Holy Spirit all thoughts, feelings, plans, actions and attitudes and seek His hand daily. Believe that He has answered the prayers and live accordingly. Finally what Apostle Paul did and preached, ‘Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Our Savior prayed to God always and thankfully, surrendered Himself to His Divine will even to face death on the cross and that is what He expects us also to do. God is ready to hold our hand in every situation, it is we ourselves, like the Israelites who keep complaining and running away from Him.
The Savior Lord has grafted all believers on to Himself and has promised to answer our prayers also. On our part we are required to cling to His hand to receive guidance, empowerment and protection from Him. He alone is the Way, the Truth and the True Vine and not only does He bless us with His fruit but also equips us to bear fruit for His kingdom.