WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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THE JOY OF LOVE
(How to be rightly related to CHRIST, and each other)
Throughout the Old Testament, the analogy of the “vineyard” is used as a depiction of GOD’s beloved Israel. However, this term is never used apart from the idea of degeneration. The descriptions by Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21-22), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 15 & 19:10-14), Hosea (Hosea 10:1), and King David (Psalm 80:8-13) all stress the point of degeneration, or, a moral decline of GOD’s chosen people (the Church).
In John 15:1-16:4, the author of GOD writes of JESUS’ instructions to HIS Disciples, that they should be “rightly related to HIM”, “rightly related to each other” as Christians (15:11-17), and, “rightly related to the World” of Unbelievers (15:18-16:4).
In other words, Christians are to have three respective duties. They are to;
· Abide in JESUS (Vs.1-10)
· Love each other (Vs.11-17)
· Witness and testify to the World (Vs.18-16:4)
“I am the True Vine” is the last of the seven, now famous, “I am” statements of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST that are found in the Gospel according to Saint John. The scene in this particular passage, takes place on the eve of JESUS’ trials and subsequent Crucifixion by Roman method. Here JESUS seeks to relate and demonstrate to HIS Disciples, and to us, just what GOD THE FATHER, and HE HIMSELF, expects from HIS followers as Christians living in the world.
JESUS, as the “True Vine”, fulfills that which GOD had intended for the Israelites and the world in general. GOD is the Cultivator and Protector of all of life, human and otherwise, and HE desires good fruit from each of us. In fact, we see JESUS stressing that point in this passage (15:2-16), no less than eight times. The fruit, which GOD expects from the human side of HIS creation, is “obedience”, “righteousness”, and “justice”.
JESUS tells us that every branch, or person in this case, that does not produce good fruit will be cut off from HIS vine, and indeed, cuts themselves off from eternal life. Here we see that, every person (branch), who professes to be a follower of CHRIST, is not necessarily a “true follower”, or “a producing branch” of “THE TRUE VINE”. Such branches, or people, will be cut off from THE TRUE VINE in the last day, or in the “time of harvest”. The great example of this is Judas Iscariot. Although Judas Iscariot was a branch of THE TRUE VINE, he was not a producing branch, or true follower. He did not produce good fruit, and therefore, had to be cut off from THE TRUE VINE, and burned in the end.
In the Greek, the word the Apostle John, and other New Testament writers use for “remain” is “meno” (men-o), and it means “to stay in a given place, state of mind, relationship, or expectancy”; and “to abide, continue, dwell, or endure”. This word occurs 11 times in this particular chapter of this Gospel account of John. The fruitfulness, of which JESUS speaks of in this passage, can only occur, as a result of HIS life being reproduced in ours.
In other words, our life and behavior must reflect JESUS’ life and behavior, and we must “remain” in HIM, or “continue” to reflect HIS image to others, through our own behavior and actions, throughout our remaining lifetimes, after pledging ourselves to HIM.
We, as Christians, must prove to the world, through our behavior and actions, not our mouth, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women. It is only by doing this, that we can be considered to be “true followers”, or “producing branches” of the “TRUE VINE” of GOD, which is CHRIST JESUS.
All those who remain, or abide in JESUS, will also continue to bear good fruit until the day of the final harvest. However, all those who fail to remain in JESUS, or, in other words, “remain on the LIVING VINE”, despite all of GOD’s tender loving care and faithfulness to them, they will have to be lopped off from the VINE, and cast into the fire to burn as useless wood in the end.
In John 15:11-17, JESUS moves on to instruct HIS disciples (and us), as to how we should “rightly relate to each other” as Christians. Here, we see JESUS delivering to all who seek to follow HIM, the only commandment that HE would ever give, and it is to “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and it is a commandment that the Apostle John personally, never forgot.
According to Jewish folklore, the Apostle John, who lived longer than all of JESUS’ original twelve Disciples, in his old age, had to be carried into the Temple, because he could no longer walk. At that time, the Apostle’s sermon consisted of only one sentence, “Little children, love one another”. It is one of the more lovely stories in a Biblical Church history that consists of countless lovely stories from the early Church. Every time I think of it, it nearly brings me to tears.
THE WORLD’S HATRED OF CHRISTIANS
In John 15:18-16:4, JESUS instructs us on how we should relate to the world. I continue to stress the point that, when we choose the Christian walk, we automatically become strangers to worldly behavior. We are no longer permanent residents of this earth, but rather, we become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the laws of GOD should become paramount to us.
Here in this passage, JESUS warns of the hatred that the World will have for those who follow HIM. As long as a person belongs to the World, the World will always love that person. That is primarily because that person resembles the World through his or her behavior and actions, and to hate that person, would, quite literally, mean hating themselves.
The person who hates “the true Christian”, hates JESUS, and thereby, hates GOD. Anyone, who is shown the Word of GOD, and does not accept it, is guilty of denying CHRIST, who is the “personification” of the Word of GOD, and therefore, is GOD.
We as Christians have a duty to go out into the world and share the Gospel with dignity and respect. JESUS empowered us with the HOLY SPIRIT, and GOD goes before us, to prepare the hearts of those to whom we may be speaking. “Be of good cheer”, and “be not afraid” is what JESUS said to Peter and HIS other Disciples that day in far off Palestine, where HE “walked on water”, in order to give them encouragement to “remain in HIM”.
We, as Christians, are called to go out into the world and spread GOD’s wonderful gospel with dignity and respect, and we don’t have to be afraid as we proceed. JESUS will always come to us, from across the storms of life to render aid to us when we’re in need of it, but we must continue to bear good fruit, by remaining in HIM, if we are to expect HIS help with our mission. If we fail to bear good fruit, as Judas Iscariot failed to, we will be cut off from the “TRUE VINE” that brings with it, Eternal Life.
JESUS eternally encourages us through these immortal words that HE spoke to HIS closest disciples, just prior to HIS ascension back into HIS Heavenly Realm; “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I AM with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:19-20 - KJV).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander