We have a unique relationship with each other in ministry – we share a calling, we share a mandate, and we share in the fellowship of the believers. Let’s begin this session at the very end of the Apostle John’s book.
The very last verse of the Gospel of John is John 21:25.
25 Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.
It has this fascinating summary for the reader, for us. Imagine if you will for a moment, the Apostle John putting together a list of all the things that had happened and recognizing that he probably couldn’t write down everything. What would he include?
If you went on a vacation and you wanted to write about your experience, the food, the amenities, the people you were with or met, the weather, the activities or problems that arose. What would you want to include, what would you think isn’t that important when the experience was memorable?
So John gives us a record of some of the events, some of the people, some of the locations, some of the miracles, some of the conflict, and some of the words of Jesus that seemed the most important.
Doesn’t that make you think that how we read these words is as important as what we read? These are a record of Jesus and His life – so that we might believe.
15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
To get to John 15, we need to begin back at John 10:22, to put ourselves in a place to hear Jesus.
Jesus is walking through Solomon’s Colonnade, in the Temple Courts, John specifically gives us the time as winter. A confrontation arose as those in the Temple accused Jesus of being demon possessed –
If this was today someone would have posted it on social media… and can I just remind us all, that we have an obligation to our personal integrity and to the reputation of TSA to guard what we say in public including or especially on social media? Do I even need to say this?…. I digress –
John goes on to record Jesus’ words about His sheep, the first metaphor in this passage.
v. 28 “I will give them eternal life and they shall never perish, no one who will snatch them out of my hand.”
And then…”the Jews tried to stone him.”
John 10:39…what did that look like? The Scriptures are filled with moments like these and don’t let them slip away without hearing, seeing, smelling the environment.
39 Once again they tried to arrest him, but he got away and left them.
Then comes the narrative of Lazarus and the demonstration of Jesus’ power over death and the 11th chapter ends with v 57 with the note that the Pharisees were looking for Jesus to arrest him….
…and then on to the Upper Room
- The image of servanthood 13:1-17
- That language of a new commandment 13:31-38
- The exit of Judas 13:26-30
- The prediction of their denial 13:18 – 25
- The promise of His provision 14:1-21
…and then comes the imagery of the Vineyard where Jesus is the vine.
With the assurance of who He is, His power over circumstance, the promise of His care, Jesus turns His attention to the relationship of Himself and His people, at that moment, and in the years to come.
The imagery of the vineyard is one familiar to all those who live in this land –
Joshua, Jeremiah, Isaiah …..all address the vineyard and God’s provision of that vineyard and
the benefit of the vineyard,
the behaviour of those who cared for the vineyard
and the relationship with the Creator.
As John 15 opens we are in God’s Garden – you know Genesis, the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve dwelt, they were provided every provision, they were safe and in the very presence of God…
…they only needed to live in obedience and enjoy God’s every provision.
Talk about a mandate.
Think for a moment about their early morning – sun is up, lions are still napping, the warm air slowly rustling the leaves, breakfast from the orchard, clean water to sip, and maybe growing nearby the first coffee beans…
They only needed to live in obedience…
And is it so different for us?
This leads me to John 15:16
16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.
Now it is always dangerous to take a verse on its own because it can be so easily taken out of context, which is why we’ve begun back in John 10. The Apostle John felt that this order of events and the words of Jesus tell us about God and His relationship to us – as sheep, as His children, as heirs, as called by God. He understood that those who are called by God, who follow Jesus will do so in the full relationship with God and His prevenient grace.
We are chosen – that is called – as we considered in our first session, but it is with purpose – with a mandate. Called and commissioned is how we sometimes speak of this. John records this call – Jesus’ call to be those who bear fruit.
Another personal confession: I love being busy – the busier I am, the happier I am. But busy is not necessarily fruitful. It’s a personal challenge to me.
And John records this underscoring note: Fruit that will last.
So this is about eternal matters – having been called and appointed we turn our attention to eternal matters.
Here’s how Reggie McNeal puts it – Kingdom Come, page 41:
“All of us, when we were born, were cast headlong into the story of the Kingdom. We didn’t ask for the roles we were given or beg to be here. But here we are. We seek to make sense of our lives because of a fundamental aspiration stamped into our essential being by our designer. It is the yearning to experience the Kingdom – to have life as God intends for it to be.
This yearning fuels more than a hope. It causes us to believe that the life we seek is more than a dream – that it’s a real-life possibility. This belief propels us out of our life-deficient circumstances to pursue the abundant life of the Kingdom. We work for it. We pray for it. We’re not satisfied with the Kingdom remaining a distant, otherworldly reality. We want to see it manifested here on earth, just as it is in heaven. And it turns out that our desire is closely correlated with the heartbeat of God: He, too , wants to manifest the Kingdom here on earth!
The apostle Paul put it this way: “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ first possessed me”. Paul wanted to become the person that Jesus saw he could become when Jesus arrested him on the Damascus road. Even if we cannot express this idea as eloquently as Paul has, or with his spiritual precision, we know that this hope resides in every person on the planet – the dream to really live. That is the agenda of the Kingdom: to help people live into that dream.
We seek the Kingdom by aligning our lives with what we know about God’s work in the world. He promised us that when we seek we will find. The reward for our search is life. That is the prize that keeps us pressing on.”
And we come back to the words of Jesus: “I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”
A Covenant with God – The Methodist Covenant Prayer
I would like us to read it together:
I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you;
Let me be full, let me be empty,
Let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
To your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.