We believe that all people are sinners by nature and activity and unable to reconcile themselves to God by any human effort.
Marvin Gaye sang about it. Credence Clearwater Revival popularized it with their remix. I’m talking about the tune, “I Heard It Through the Grape Vine,” of course. Now, picture a church musician attempting to fashion that classic Marvin Gaye tune and set it to the concept of John 15. Instead of singing: “I heard it through the grape vine,” just imagine a congregation singing, “I- am -the- true -vine.” You can imagine it; I actually heard it. Musically, the timing and arrangement all fit, but the result was … well … a bit off. CCR it was not.
Some things just shouldn’t be messed with, and if they are tweaked, they had better do justice to the original. I think that applies to a lot of things in life. The plan of salvation is a good example. That’s really Jesus point in John 15. Our Savior’s words echo the truth of our next statement of belief: We believe that all people are sinners by nature and activity and unable to reconcile themselves to God by any human effort.
I’m sure we have all heard John 15:5 many times. Jesus compares himself to a vine. And not just any vine; he is the true vine. That means he is the authentic, genuine, and original vine. No substitutes with Jesus. It’s like manipulating Marvin Gaye’s song about heartbreak and grapevine rumors of love-gone-wrong in order to cobble a worship song lauds Jesus’ faithfulness. What an amateurish effort to be genuine!
And yet, that is just what our sinful nature is and does. We are sinners by nature and activity. There are originals. And then there are genuine imitations. In the music industry, it’s called a “cover” song, a remake, a remix, or even a mashup. That is what the Bible is teaching us about our salvation as well as the One who authored it. There are vines. And then there are genuine vines. There are our failed efforts and then there is Jesus’ finished accomplishments.
Down through Jewish history, the vine became a symbol of Israel. In fact, the prophet Isaiah wrote a love song about the Lord’s “beloved vineyard.” Isaiah 5 records this tribute to the kind of relationship the LORD Almighty wanted to develop with his chosen people. The Lord did everything to be faithful to them. He tended and cared for them with genuine love. There was nothing fake about the Lord’s love. It was an intimate, close connection. Vine and branches.
Like an Old Testament Marvin Gaye, Isaiah’s tune soon changes. He talks about how the Lord heard it through the grapevine, so to speak, that his beloved Israel was unfaithful. Israel was not a genuine vine. God looked for the deep colored fruit of virtue and justice hanging as lush clusters but found only bloodshed. He looked for true, honest tendrils reaching out in support to others, but found cries of distress.
It didn’t take too long for the people’s hearts and lives to be labeled as frauds. No authenticity. Pure amateur. Failed efforts. “I heard it through the grapevine that you’d no longer be mine.” No one had to tell the Lord, he knew. No one can reconcile themselves to God by their efforts.
This begs me to ask: what kind of sham am I? What kind of fraud are you? We make horrible vines That’s because we aren’t meant to be vine. The temptation is to think that we are, however. Our culture warbles out that sort of siren song. We are sold a bill of goods which insist that everyone needs to be in control. No one should have any problems or challenges. Nobody can show weakness. Nobody can fail; not if you want to be the G.O.A.T.
There can’t be two vines, though. You can’t have two Saviors: Jesus and me! And if you do, one of them is a pure fake. That also means one is destine to fail. Humans cannot achieve reconciliation with God by their efforts!
I am so thankful that Jesus is the original, authentic Savior in a world of imitations. In a world of authentic fakers, genuine spin-doctors, virtual-reality reality, artificial, social media friends, and plastic banana, generic people who are often too afraid to be real – there’s all that – and then there is Jesus. He is the truth to our falsehood. He is the authentic to our fake. He is real-McCoy to our fraud. He is the light to our dark. He is the water to our thirst. He is the life to our death. He is the Savior to our sin. He is the final accomplishment to our failed efforts. A true vine. The only vine.
Jesus is the fullest realization of God’s deepest love. What God demanded from us and what he intended for us, Jesus came and accomplished. That is our greatest hope and deepest comfort for our souls. We are not meant to be vines. But Jesus is.
Jesus’ forgiveness and faithfulness are the life source to the branches. And you are connected to him. That means anything genuinely good and kind and pure is from Jesus. That’s because Jesus is your Vine. And your life is his Wine.
So, what kind of “wine” is the Lord making out of your grapes? Well, your wine is the extra care you showed to that one student who is afraid because her parents are getting divorced. Your wine is the empathy you demonstrate in your counseling as you seek to understand rather than just to be understood. Your wine is the quiet faithfulness you exhibit as you work extra hard to achieve those CEU’s or that additional specialization and training.
Your wine? Patience toward the elderly. Courage for the anxious. Integrity to the manipulator. Truth to the deceived. Love to the unloved. Advocate to the outcast. This is the wine of our ministry as fellow branches. As the Lord, squeezes and presses us to greater service, he will also equip us to demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s good work to the people he brings to our care. Only the Lord God can craft our attitudes, words, and deeds into his choice wine that benefits others.
Such fruit joins to create a rich wine with authentic flavor, bouquet, and balance in service to Christ. That happens only as we remain in the true vine. And that is Christ. He, the vine; we produce the wine. And so, fellow Christian Family Solutions branches: most blessed fruit-bearing and wine-making. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
1. If Jesus is not the true vine, then what happens to the plan of salvation?
2. If Jesus is not the true vine, then what happens to the purpose of life?
Jesus, true and ever-living vine, continue to graft us to yourself by your grace. Ever remind us that we are nothing without you. With you, however, we have true, meaning and purpose to this life as well as the sure promise of eternal life in you. Amen.