‘I AM’ The Vine


Jesus Christ! The great ‘I AM’ The significance of ‘I AM’

‘Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your Fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ ‘What shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. And he said, ‘Say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Exodus 3:13-14.

‘I AM EHYEH’ first singular present of TO BE. HAYAH denotes that God is personal, eternal, self-existent i.e. absolute being.

1. Eternal. Psalm 135:13

2. Self-existent. Psalm 88:6-7

Then God, having revealed to Moses some essential aspects of His (God’s) personality informs Moses of the name by which He (God) wants to be known. God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘YHWH the God of your fathers, has sent me to you, this is my name for ever and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’ Exodus 3:75 / Psalm 135:13

YAHWEH plural form

Genesis 1:26, ‘Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness’.

The plural in the name YHWH, us and our, can in my opinion be regarded as an indication of the plurality of God’s nature and character, of which the Son and the Holy Spirit are part; three distinct persons who can act individually though never in disharmony and who are united in the godhead as one God. That the Spirit i.e. the force of God was there at creation is clear, ‘and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters’. Genesis 1:2

That through Jesus all came into being is stated in John 1:1-3 and John 1:18. It was through Jesus, i.e. God Himself Incarnate that redemption would be wrought.

The name YHWH meaning ‘the Becoming One’ is the ‘redemptive’ name of God and refers to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ who is in the bosom of the ‘Father’ God; Jesus who is part of the Godhead. When Jesus made Himself equal with God He was merely speaking the truth and had indeed every right to utter the words, ‘I AM’ in such a special way. The Jews understood perfectly well what was alluded to by the term I AM used by Jesus.

‘This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.’ John 5:18 / Leviticus 24:16

Now, remember the Bible doesn’t use names for God in the same way as we use names today. God doesn’t have a name as such but He uses certain words to describe His character or nature.

For example, the word El-Shaddai describes His nature as the all-sufficient One, the all-powerful One. The word Adonia describes His character as Lord, Master, the One with all authority. The word Yahweh describes His nature as the everlasting, self-existing One.

And so when God speaks to Moses, He is not giving Moses a name as we understand it. But He’s telling Moses to tell His people that Yahweh, ‘I AM THAT I AM’, the self-existing One has sent you. God is basically saying to Moses I don’t need a name but I will give you one to tell my people.

Now remember the Israelites have been in captivity in Egypt for 400 years and so God goes on to say in Exodus 3:15 just in case my people have forgotten who ‘I AM’, tell them ‘The LORD, (The One with all authority), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.’

Now let’s fast forward a couple of thousand years. We know that the Gospel according to Matthew focuses a lot on prophecy where Matthew points out time and time again that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The Gospel according to Mark focuses a lot on Jesus’ miracles and Mark uses the word ‘immediately’ regularly.

The Gospel according to Luke focuses a lot on Jesus’ humanity and shows Jesus as being the Son of man. And finally, the Gospel according to John focuses a lot on Jesus being the Son of God which shows the Deity of Christ.

But have you ever wondered why all the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are found in John’s Gospel?

John writes in John 20:30-31 ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.

Now John never uses the word miracle in his gospel but he does use the word sign regularly. And there are 16 signs recorded in John’s gospel, 8 are things which Jesus did and 8 were things which Jesus said.

John is basically saying that the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are signs, selected from many other signs. And he says these signs are selected with a purpose in mind and that purpose is that you believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be.

And so just as `I AM’ is God’s own identification of Himself in Exodus 3:14 to Moses. Remember that strictly speaking, it is not a name, but a declaration of His Nature. When we come to the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus was not giving Himself a Name or a title, but was asserting His Deity. In other words every ‘I AM’ reveals some aspect of His nature and purpose.

‘I AM the vine, you are the branches’

The Background

Jesus and his disciples had concluded the meeting in the upper room in Jerusalem where they celebrated the Passover. Apparently, they had just left that event and were making their way eastward toward the garden of Gethsemane situated on the western slope of the Mt. of Olives, John 14:31 / John 18:1. Undoubtedly, the disciples were exceedingly anxious, John 14:1, and perplexed as to what loomed ahead.

The Characters in the Illustration

There are four characters in the Lord’s illustration.

1. There is the ‘husbandman.’

This term is rather obscure in our modern culture. ‘Husbandman’ does not signify a ‘husband,’ but rather a tiller of the ground, a vinedresser, or, in our vernacular, a farmer. He is the one in charge of the vines and to whom ultimate accountability is to be rendered. He does everything within his power to see that the plant bears fruit. If it does not, the fault is not his. Jesus identifies the ‘husbandman’ as ‘my Father,’ i.e., God, the Father.

2. There also is the ‘vine.’

The vine is the source of life for the branches. It provides the water and nutrients by which the grapes are produced. Without the vine, no fruit could ever result. Branches are utterly dependent upon the vine. Without Christ, of course, there is no spiritual life or hope of eternal reward, John 14:6 / Acts 4:11-12.

Interestingly, Christ designates himself as the ‘true’ vine. The Greek term denotes that which is genuine; the word stands in contrast to that which is fictitious, counterfeit, imaginary, simulated or pretentious.

Inasmuch as the Israelite nation was portrayed on occasion as a ‘vine’ by the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah 5:1-7 / Matthew 21:33ff, one can scarcely avoid thinking that this is a rebuke aimed at a considerable segment of the Hebrew family; the nation largely had failed in its mission and was on the precipice of murdering its Messiah, John 10:7ff.

3. The ‘branches’ are identified explicitly as the Lord’s ‘disciples’ John 15:8.

How anyone can possibly contend that Christ is the vine, and various denominational churches are the branches?

4. Finally, there is that ambiguous ‘they,’ to which reference is made in verse 6.

These will be responsible for gathering the withered/pruned branches and committing them to fire for burning. One might surmise that these individuals correspond to the ‘reapers’ mentioned in the parable of the tares, Matthew 13:24-30, identified later as the Lord’s ‘angels’, John 15:39.

They will ‘gather out’ of God’s kingdom those who cause others to stumble, and who themselves practise iniquity, John 15:41.

Psalm 80:14-18/ Jeremiah 2:12 / Isaiah 5 / Exodus 13 / Hosea 10:1ff all talk about the vine. John 15:1. Maybe the disciples remember what He said a couple of days before. The parable of the vineyard worker. Owner.

The vine, Ezekiel 5 passages deal with the vine. The vine has only one purpose and that’s to bear fruit. John 15 notice, Fruit, more fruit, much fruit. The purpose of the vine was to produce fruit.

How do we produce fruit?

Naturally, not forced. A healthy tree will produce fruit. John 15 uses the word, ‘abide’ which is ‘meno’ and means to remain, to live. It shouldn’t be an effort to stay where we are. Fruit, Galatians 5, love, joy, peace etc.

9 temporary miraculous gifts

1. Apostleship

2. Prophecy

3. Miracles

4. Healing

5. Discerning Spirits

6. Word of Wisdom

7. Word of Knowledge

8. Tongues

9. Interpreting Tongues.

9 fruit gifts which are permanent

1. Love

2. Joy

3. Peace

4. Patience

5. Kindness

6. Goodness

7. Faithfulness

8. Gentleness

9. Self-control.

If we stay in Christ we should naturally grow. This is how we glorify God

Throughout Jewish history, the vine became the symbol of Israel. During the Maccabees period of history, the symbol of the vine was on the coins of Israel. It was over the main doors of the synagogues. Josephus in describing Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ day says, ‘Under the crown–work was spread out a golden vine, with its branches hanging down from a great height, the largeness and the workmanship of which were an astonishing sight to the spectators’. Antiquities of the Jews, 5.5.4

I picture in my mind the Hebrew prophet Isaiah walking through the marketplace in Jerusalem. People are busy hawking their wares, vegetables and wool. As he walks along he sees a vendor selling stringed instruments. The prophet picks up an instrument and begins to chant a song for my ‘well–beloved’ concerning His vineyard. The LORD God Jehovah is the ‘well–beloved’ and His vineyard is the nation of Israel. Read his song in Isaiah 5:1-7.

Isaiah closes his song with a play on words. Israel is a degenerate vine. God looked for justice but found bloodshed. He looked for “righteousness” but He found ‘a cry of distress.’ The vineyard failed to produce righteousness. God chose the vine and planted it. The Hebrew poet describes it this way: Psalm 80:8–9. He concluded with a prayer, ‘O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech Thee; look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine’. Psalm 80:14

Moreover, the prophet Jeremiah picked up the same lament as Isaiah with these words: Jeremiah 2:21. The prophet Ezekiel reminds us the vine is good for nothing except to bear fruit. The vine was a symbol of the spiritual relationship between God and Israel. The fruit of righteousness was to honour and glorify God.

The crooked, dwarf is worthless wood as fuel because it flames up like paper and is gone instantly. You could not use it to make furniture. It was too soft and no good for lumber. You cannot use it as a tent peg because it crumbles or flexes when you hit it. It fulfils only one purpose by bearing rich, delicious fruit. Israel was a wild, rotten grape. Ezekiel tells us she was ripe for the great winepress of the wrath of God. Ezekiel 15:1-6 / Ezekiel 19:10-14.

Jesus is the true vine

In John chapter fifteen Jesus and His disciples had just celebrated the Passover. The disciple Judas has left the group to set up the betrayal. Jesus and the eleven remaining disciples left Jerusalem and went down into the Kidron Valley and up the slope of the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. As they walk along the trail Jesus and the disciples pass through the vineyards that surround the city. Along the trail are gnarled grapevines that showed the scars from recent pruning.

They can see in the distance ‘the Temple at Jerusalem, above and around the gate, seventy cubits high, which led from the porch to the holy place, a richly carved vine was extended as a border and decoration. The branches, tendrils, and leaves were of finest gold; the stalks of the bunches were of the length of the human form, and the bunches hanging upon them were of costly jewels, this vine must have had an uncommon importance and a sacred meaning in the eyes of the Jews. With what majestic splendour must it likewise have appeared in the evening.’

Jesus picked up a cutting and turned to His disciples. ‘You know how Israel is pictured as a vine which is to produce refreshing fruit. Well, she failed. I am the authentic Vine. I am the true and genuine Vine as opposed to a mere copy or symbol. I am the fulfilment of all that this symbol suggests. I am the Vine, the true One.’

The word ‘true’ is also used for that which is the ultimate realisation. Jesus is the fullest realization of the hope of Israel, of her expectations, of what God intended her to be. Israel as a vine never achieved her goal. She was a failure. However, the Lord Jesus Christ Who came as the True Vine accomplished all that God intended His Messiah to do.

Jesus drew a sharp contrast between the degenerate vine of Israel and Himself. He transferred the privileges and responsibilities from the Hebrew people to Himself.

The purpose of the vine

John 15:2. The purpose of the vine is to bring forth fruit. The whole emphasis of the allegory of the vine is fruit-bearing. God expected Israel to produce luscious, beautiful, rich choice grapes of righteousness. She produced sour, rotten, stinking, tasteless grapes. God was looking for justice and righteousness; instead, he found oppression, cruelty, and exploitation of men. Jesus said the purpose of the vine was ‘that it may keep on bearing more and more fruit.’

What is the fruit God is producing in your life?

The fruit of the vine will be the natural outflow of the life of the vine. Jesus is the Vine. When we are united with Him we are identified with Him. We produce His wine. We reproduce Christ. He works in us what He produces.

God expects the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced in our lives. Only Jesus living in us can produce the fruit of the Spirit. God expects to see a likeness to Jesus Christ. He examines our lives and expects to see love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, and self–control. The fruit is Christ-likeness. The fruit is the righteousness of God in the heart. It is the likeness of Christ.

God the Father is the vinedresser

We who name the name of Jesus Christ are God’s great vineyard. God expects us to produce His fruit in His vineyard. John 15:2 reads, ‘Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.’

God prunes us

Just as the viticulturist must cleanse the vine, our heavenly Father must cleanse us so we will bear more fruit. He finds a branch that is producing fruit and He begins to cut it back so it will bear more of the likeness of Christ. His goal is to cleanse the branches that remain, in order to produce fruitfulness. The whole emphasis is ‘fruit,’ ‘more fruit,’ ‘much fruit’ again ‘much fruit.’ He won’t stop until He sees fruit!

God cuts away the deadwood, diseased and rotten portion of our lives. Sometimes we feel that His methods seem cruel. He does it so we will produce the righteousness of Jesus. I have often observed that from those who have endured intense suffering there comes forth the radiant beauty of the Lord Jesus. This pruning process is a cleansing process.

Jesus said in John 15:8, ‘By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.’

He will do whatever cleansing is necessary to produce His kind of fruit. Our heavenly Father finds a branch that is beginning to bear fruit, beginning to produce the likeness of Christ, and He cuts it back, trims offshoots, so we will bear more fruit.

How does the Father prune?

John 15:3 ‘You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you’.

The Father employs the circumstances and situations in our lives to make us heed and hear His Word. He uses the Scriptures to confront our carnality and selfishness. Slowly and surely God’s Word is at work in our hearts pruning and cleansing and causing us to bear fruit. The Father’s pruning knife cuts off the sucker shoots of our old life within us so that we become more Christ-like.

Consequences of not abiding

John 15:6 Verse six gives us the consequences of not abiding in the vine. ‘If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.’

The principle of fruitfulness. John 15:4–8 Whereas verses 1–3 relate to our position in the Vine, verses 4–8 speak of our practice as branches in the Vine. Jesus looks for His own life reproduced in us. He wants to reproduce the life of the Vine in the branches. He tells us the secret in verses four and five, ‘Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.’

The single most important thing in your life is an intimate, abiding love relationship with Jesus Christ. This is our responsibility in our position in Christ.

‘You in Me, and I in you.’ That was the kind of life Jesus had with the Father while He was here on the earth. It is an intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.

The Apostle Paul used the expression ‘in’ Christ to communicate this same vital connection that exists between Christ and the believer. The basic relationship is already established by the coming of the Holy Spirit into the believer’s life.

Two things stand out in these two verses. There is an activity that is to be done, and there is a passivity that is to be acknowledged. We are to abide in Christ. That is active, something we do. We are also to let Him abide in us which is passive.

It is something we allow Him to do in us. Both of these relationships are absolutely essential if we are to live the Christian life. The ‘fruit’ God is looking for in the Christian is the likeness of Jesus. It is the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in Galatians 5:22–23. This is the proof of discipleship.

Our responsibility as branches

John 15:4-5 Jesus said ‘Abide in Me.’ To ‘abide’ means ‘to remain in union, maintain a living communion, to maintain unbroken fellowship with another’. This is our responsibility in Christ. John uses the word ‘abide’ over fifty times in his writings; eleven times in John 15. When I am abiding I am believing, reckoning on and persevering. The ‘filling of the Spirit’ and the ‘abiding’ are one and the same. ‘Walk in the Spirit’ keeps us abiding in Christ.

A vine branch is lifeless and useless unless it remains attached to the vine. It can produce grapes only as it remains attached. The moment it is severed it begins to die and becomes fruitless. Believers in Christ can produce the fruit of the Spirit only as they remain attached to Jesus and draw their life in the Spirit from Him.

The Apostle Paul expressed the same truth in Galatians 2:20. He wrote, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.’

The believer who is abiding in Christ can say, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengthens me’. Philippians 4:13.

Promises that enable us to abide in Christ

John 15:7-8 John 15:26. We have the promise of prayer. The condition of the promise is that we abide and that we will produce His fruit.

‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples’.

The sap, nutrients, and energy must come from Him. Again, He says in John 15:16, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.’

When you give Christ the desires of your heart then you are touched and controlled by His love. We adjust our lives to His will when we come to Him in prayer. There is a clear demonstration of discipleship in verse eight. God will be glorified in Christ-likeness. There will be a deeper experience in Christ’s love.

‘Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.’ It is easy to obey Him when our heart is moved by His love. When we do not obey Him it is evident we do not love Him. When we obey Him our love grows deeper and deeper. We become something beautiful. The more you love Him the more you want to abide in Him. The more you abide the more you will obey.

We have the promise of the Parakletos.

‘When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me,’ John 15:26

If you are not walking in the Spirit you are not abiding. We are not saved and then left to live the Christian life all by ourselves. We received the Helper the moment we were saved. The Holy Spirit lives within us. He produces the likeness of Christ as we yield ourselves to Him.

Proof that we are bearing fruit, John 15:7-11, God answers your prayers according to His will. John 15:7. You will see God at work in your life. If you are abiding in Christ, your prayers will be ‘in the name’ of Christ. They will be in accord with all that Christ stands for and desires.

You will demonstrate Christ-likeness, John 15:8, it is not an activity that glorifies God, but a Christ-like character. You may be bedridden, or suffering from some debilitating disease, but you can manifest a Christ-like spirit. You are demonstrating discipleship. That is all He asks of you. You abide; He will produce His character in you. In this vital union, there is much fruit-bearing. We will ‘keep on bearing’ much fruit.

You will have a growing experience of Christ’s love, John 15:9-10.

What is your response to God’s love?

There must always be a response if love is to grow. When love is responded to it grows deeper and richer. If you are not feeling the depths of God’s love you are not responding to it. You are not loving Him back. You have to feed any relationship to make it grow. Relationships don’t grow automatically. Love has to be responded to. This is also true of our relationship with God.

“We love Him because He first loved us,” says the apostle John. We keep on loving Him in response to His love.

‘Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love’. Our love for Christ is the result of His sacrificial love for us. Are you growing deeper and deeper in God’s love? Abiding in Christ is an intimate walk with Christ. We are enriched by Christ. In verses 10 and 11 He adds, ‘my love,’ ‘my joy’ and ‘my peace.’

Your joy will be full

‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full’.

It is creative joy. It is the joy of a finished work. Jesus calls us into His joy. We can have Christ’s permanent absolute joy in our lives. It is the fruit of His life in us.