Read Psalm 80, Isaiah 5:1-7, Mark 12:1-12, and John 15:1-8*
“Good Grapes, Sour Grapes”
Let’s look at these remarkable parables from the old and new testaments about vines and vineyards. But before we do, I want to read this quote from Raymond Brown in his book “The Gospel According to John”
“It is helpful to remember that in Israel, branches that do not bear fruit are cut off in February/March. “Sometimes the vines are so completely cut back that one sees in the vineyard only the stalks bereft of branches. Later (August) when the vine has put forth leaves, comes the second stage of pruning, as the vinedresser pinches off the little shoots so that the main fruit-bearing branches get all the nourishment.”
We are going to start at the ending. For though we are speaking of the True Vine and false vines or Good Grapes of Sour Grapes. What we are really talking about is what “fruit” is good and what is unacceptable to God. So let us look at what Jesus says in Matthew 12:33-37 “Make a tree good, and then its fruit will be good. Or make a tree rotten, and then its fruit will be rotten. A person can recognize a tree by its fruit. You poisonous snakes! How can you evil people say anything good? Your mouth says what comes from inside you. Good people do the good things that are in them. But evil people do the evil things that are in them.
“I can guarantee that on judgment day people will have to give an account of every careless word they say. By your words you will be declared innocent, or by your words you will be declared guilty.”
Clearly Jesus was saying that we can tell the difference between good people and bad people by their actions and their words. This good fruit is proof of the basic goodness or godliness of their true selves.
In our reading from Isaiah we found that God, ”Hoped for justice but saw only slaughter, for righteousness but heard only cries of distress.” Clearly the good fruit desired was Justice and righteousness which are once again seen as proof that the branches have remained attached to the True vine.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine.”
I don’t know many times have I read this section or heard sermons on this section and yet, there is a word that I’ve seen for the first time: “TRUE”. Jesus didn’t just say that he was the Vine. He is the True Vine. That indicates to me that there are at least two vines … maybe more … the other(s) are False Vine(s}.
Psalm 80 gives us a hint.
“You brought a vine from Egypt. You forced out the nations and planted it.: You cleared the ground for it so that it took root and filled the land. Its shade covered the mountains. Its branches covered the mighty cedars. It reached out with its branches to the Mediterranean Sea. Its shoots reached the Euphrates River.
It is clear from this passage that the vine brought out of Egypt was the Jewish people themselves. God brought them out of slavery to the land promised to Abraham. A land that God had prepared for them. A land that already had cities, towns, farms, pastures, and vineyards.
What was the promise that God made to Abraham? We read in Genesis 12:1-3, “The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your land, your relatives, and your father’s home. Go to the land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation, I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse. Through you every family on earth will be blessed.”
At first reading it sounds like the promise is all about making Abraham great in the eyes of the world. It is that but there is a purpose at the end of the promise, you will be a blessing. through you every family on earth will be blessed. He and his descendants were to be a blessing to everyone on earth. They were to become this blessing by following God and bringing others into communion with God
In our reading from Isaiah he used this illustration,
“Let me sing a lovesong to my beloved about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it up, removed its stones, planted it with the choicest vines, built a watchtower in it, and made a winepress in it. Then he waited for it to produce good grapes, but it produced only sour, wild grapes.”
What happened to that vine brought out of Egypt and planted in the promised land? Although God had done all of the work to prepare a place for His special people, they failed to produce good grapes and only produced sour wild grapes.
In Isaiah God, through His prophet, asked,
What more could have been done for my vineyard than what I have already done for it?
The answer, of course, is nothing. God had done all that could be done to make His people produce good fruit. It was the people who had rebelled against His teaching, training and leading.
In the beginning of the nation, it was a nation ruled by God, who chose Judges and Prophets to guide the people, and it grew strong and healthy. However, the people of Israel forgot their God and started to want to be like other nations. Other nations were ruled, not by God, but by kings.
Samuel was one of those chosen by God to be a judge among the people. We read in 1 Samuel Chapter 9 1-18,
“When Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn son was Joel; the name of his second son was Abijah. They were judges in Beersheba. The sons didn’t follow their father’s example but turned to dishonest ways of making money. They took bribes and denied people justice.
Then all the leaders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They told him, “You’re old, and your sons aren’t following your example. Now appoint a king to judge us so that we will be like all the other nations.”
But Samuel considered it wrong for them to request a king to judge them. So Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord told Samuel, “Listen to everything the people are saying to you. They haven’t rejected you; they’ve rejected me. They’re doing just what they’ve done since I took them out of Egypt—leaving me and serving other gods.
Once they detached them from the vine which is God, they became wild and produced sour grapes.
Jesus said, “my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit.“
The vine brought out of Egypt and tenderly cared for had been corrupted by the world and was now fit for nothing but kindling. Though His chosen people had abandoned Him, God never completely abandoned them. He allowed them to be “trimmed” but he always saved a remnant that he could replant.
However, over and over they turned from Him. Jesus told the story of the owner of the vineyard who repeatedly sought only to gather the fruit that was his due. In the same way God sent prophets to warn the people but as Jesus said,
“He had one more person to send. That person was his son, whom he loved. Finally, he sent his son to them. He thought, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But those workers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.”
The nation of Israel was intended to bare fruit for God, but it failed. Now Jesus, the true vine, has been planted and is bearing fruit for the Father. He does not fail, and so he is the true vine. The nation of Israel did not bring forth the desire fruit, therefore we find Jesus saying, In Matthew 21:43 where Jesus dispensed with parables and told them directly, “That is why I can guarantee that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce what God wants.
I have know people, and perhaps you have too, who think that being a follower of Christ should protect them from all troubles and pain. They become disillusioned when they run upon hard times.
There are many times that God does protect us from the evil forces at work in the world. We never see them and so don’t recognize His divine hand at work. At other times, He allows us to go through the storms of life because they make us stronger. As Jesus said, “He (God) also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.”
“This task, pruning, is a very critical one in a real vineyard and requires great skill born of experience. That Jesus understood this shows that he was very familiar with grape culture, otherwise he could not have known that by pruning a fruit bearing branch one can cause it to bear more fruit.
By what means does the Father dress the vine, or prune it? We find the answer in v. 3. The pruning is also the "making clean" of the heart and soul of the individual, which he accomplishes by means of the Word. We must always keep in mind that when Jesus speaks of the Word in such a way, he means the Word of God that issues from his lips. His disciples were already clean because they had cast off all the impediments to receiving his Word and so, receiving the Word, they were cleansed by the Word. The close relation between the pruning and the making clean is seen clearer in the Greek, where "pruning" and "cleaning" are both rendered from kathairo. They are the same word.”(a)
Jesus said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me. Whoever doesn’t live in me is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Branches like this are gathered, thrown into a fire, and burned.”
The good news is, if we stay true to the teachings of the Lord, we will produce fruit pleasing to God.
The bad news is, if we fail to bear good fruit, we are of no use to God and will be cast away.
But look, Jesus follows this with a promise. “If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours.”
This is much the same promise He made in Mark 11:22-25 Jesus declares, “Have faith in God! I can guarantee this truth: This is what will be done for someone who doesn’t doubt but believes what he says will happen: He can say to this mountain, ‘Be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it will be done for him. That’s why I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours. Whenever you pray, forgive anything you have against anyone. Then your Father in heaven will forgive your failures.”
The reason for that reward is because, “You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples.”
If we are to produce good fruit we must remain true to the purpose that God has intended for us. What is our purpose? Hear this answer from Micah 6:8. “You mortals, the Lord has told you what is good. This is what the Lord requires from you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to live humbly with your God.”
Christ, who has nourished us as the living True Vine, make us, Your branches, one in praise and love, and raise us up at the last day to our true reward.
Bible quotes are from the God’s Word Translation
Quotes from a sermon by Edgar Jones
*Psalm 80 Open your ears, O Shepherd of Israel, the one who leads the descendants of Joseph like sheep, the one who is enthroned over the angels. Appear in front of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Wake up your power, and come to save us. O God, restore us and smile on us so that we may be saved. O Lord God, commander of armies, how long will you smolder in anger against the prayer of your people? You made them eat tears as food. You often made them drink their own tears. You made us a source of conflict to our neighbors, and our enemies made fun of us. O God, commander of armies, restore us and smile on us so that we may be saved. You brought a vine from Egypt. You forced out the nations and planted it.: You cleared the ground for it so that it took root and filled the land. Its shade covered the mountains. Its branches covered the mighty cedars. It reached out with its branches to the Mediterranean Sea. Its shoots reached the Euphrates River. Why did you break down the stone fences around this vine? All who pass by are picking its fruit. Wild boars from the forest graze on it. Wild animals devour it. O God, commander of armies, come back! Look from heaven and see! Come to help this vine. Take care of what your right hand planted, the son you strengthened for yourself. The vine has been cut down and burned. Let them be destroyed by the threatening look on your face. Let your power rest on the man you have chosen, the son of man you strengthened for yourself. Then we will never turn away from you. Give us life again, and we will call on you. O Lord God, commander of armies, restore us, and smile on us so that we may be saved.
Let me sing a lovesong to my beloved about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it up, removed its stones, planted it with the choicest vines, built a watchtower in it, and made a winepress in it. Then he waited for it to produce good grapes, but it produced only sour, wild grapes.
Now then, you inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah, judge between me and my vineyard! What more could have been done for my vineyard than what I have already done for it? When I waited for it to produce good grapes, why did it produce only sour, wild grapes?
Now then, let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will tear away its hedge so that it can be devoured and tear down its wall so that it can be trampled. I will make it a wasteland. It will never be pruned or hoed. Thorns and weeds will grow in it, and I will command the clouds not to rain on it.
The vineyard of the Lord of Armies is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the garden of his delight. He hoped for justice but saw only slaughter, for righteousness but heard only cries of distress.
Then, using this illustration, Jesus spoke to them. He said, “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, made a vat for the winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to vineyard workers and went on a trip.
“At the right time he sent a servant to the workers to collect from them a share of the grapes from the vineyard. The workers took the servant, beat him, and sent him back with nothing. So the man sent another servant to them. They hit the servant on the head and treated him shamefully. The man sent another, and they killed that servant. Then he sent many other servants. Some of these they beat, and others they killed.
“He had one more person to send. That person was his son, whom he loved. Finally, he sent his son to them. He thought, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But those workers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
“What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the workers and give the vineyard to others. Have you never read the Scripture passage:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
The Lord has done this,
and it is amazing for us to see’?”
They wanted to arrest him but were afraid of the crowd. They knew that he had directed this illustration at them. So they left him alone and went away.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.
“You are already clean because of what I have told you. Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me.
“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me. Whoever doesn’t live in me is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Branches like this are gathered, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours. You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples.