Sixth Sunday of Lent: "I Am the True Vine"

Scripture: Isaiah 5:1-7 and John 15:1-17



"Love Divine, All Loves Excelling" PsH 568, PH 375, RL 464, TH 529
"And Can It Be That I Should Gain" PsH 267, RL 450, TH 455
"Christian Hearts in Love United" PsH 513
"Teach Me, O Lord, Your Way of Truth" PsH 276, TH 149
"I Am the Holy Vine" PsH 220 (Because the words and music were unfamiliar to our congregation, we sang this hymn to the tune ARTHUR'S SEAT PsH 164.)
"My Lord, I Did Not Choose You" PsH 496

Music by the Adult Choir

"Christ We Do All Adore Thee" Dubois
"Thou Art the Way" Roesch

Confession: John 15:3-5

Words of Assurance: "And Can It Be That I Should Gain," stanzas 1, 4

Guide to Thankful Living: Galatians 5:22-25

Sermon Ideas

Jesus declares "I am the true vine m the same setting as "I am the way and the truth and the life." In these "farewell discourses of John 14-16, he gives his disciples some famous last words before his death.

When he calls himself the one and true vine, Jesus is suggesting that his audience may know of other, false vines. Various Old Testament texts speak of Israel as a vine that is usually lacking in some significant way. Jesus'use of the image shares many parallels with Isaiah's "Song of the Vinevard" recorded in Isaiah 5:1-7. Because of this harmony and because of the action in both passages, the two can be retold as a two-part parable of the vineyard.

In the first scene, the gardener does everything right. He turns a fertile plot on a gently sloping hillside into a lush green vineyard. When harvest time comes, however, he is dismayed to find that his vines have produced only bad grapes unfit for use. Why such an extreme crop failure? The gardener concludes that it is something in the vines. They cannot produce good fruit. The vineyard must be neglected until it reverts back to wasteland.

Isaiah explains the parable thus far. The vineyard is God's people Israel. The divine gardener judges his people worthy of destruction because "he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress" (isa. 5:7). God's nurture must produce people who are right with him and who are fair with others. Otherwise, God will impose severe judgment.

Jesus' words provide the material for the second scene of the parable. The gardener tries another way " good grapes. This time, he uses a single plant o devdop his new vineyard. As the vine grows, some branch " do not bear fruit. The gardener cuts them away from the vine and burns them up. Then he prunes the fruitful branches so that they will be even more productive. The gardener is delighted.

As he speaks of the true vine and its branches Jesus teaches numerous practical truths about living with him. He is the true vine. We disciples cannot bear fruit unless we are closely connected to him. As he nourishes us, he expects to see result__fruit like righteousness, justice, and the virtues called fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23. He commands us to remain in him (John 15:4), to ask whatever we wish (v. 7) and to love each other (v. 12). He promises that we will bear much fruit if we remain in him.


Gerald L. Zandstra is a pastor at Hillside Community Church, Cutlerville, Michigan.


Reformed Worship 42 © December 1996 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.