LifeLink Devotional for Monday, April 12, 2021
Jesus used illustrations and symbols from everyday life to perfect our understanding of spiritual truth. In the fifteenth chapter of John, Jesus addresses a symbolism that was a significant part of the religious heritage of the Jewish nation. In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as the vine or the vineyard of God. “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” (Isaiah 5:1-7). “Yet I planted you a choice vine” is God’s message to Israel through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel 15:1-8 likens Israel to the vine, as does Ezekiel 19:10. “Israel is a luxuriant vine,” said Hosea (Hosea 10:1). “You brought a vine out of Egypt,” sang the Psalmist, thinking of God’s deliverance of his people from bondage (Psalms 80:8).
The vine had become the symbol of the nation of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins of the Maccabees. One of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine carved on the front of the Holy Place. Within the Jewish community there was an understanding that the vine represented their national identity. Obedience to the law was the means by which one became a fruit-bearing part of the vine, and the fruit was the spreading of the Jewish law to more and more people. Those who did not hold to the law were removed by the authority of the religious rulers. They believed they were responsible to keep the vine sacred by assuring that all the branches were abiding in the law.
As Jesus and His disciples walked toward the Garden of Gethsemane on the night Jesus would be betrayed, they may well have passed through a vineyard. The sight of the grape vines would have been a perfect visual illustration for the words of Jesus in John 15:1.
““I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”
There is one very simple and profound truth in the first five words Jesus says. Religion does not save you. Religious tradition does not connect you to the Father. Only through Jesus can we be saved from sin and bear fruit of eternal value.
My friends, everyday people with good intentions pass into an eternal separation from God because they trusted the laws and traditions of their religion. Every minute of every day people are dying with a false sense of security that they have earned their way into God’s presence based on their family heritage of religious righteousness. Yet without Jesus, the True Vine, they have no access to the Father.
We who are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sin of the world must rejoice that we are included in the Vine. But we must also grieve for those who do not yet know this truth. We must grieve especially for those who claim to know the truth but reject it and even fight against it. With the compassion of Christ, we must join with the Holy Spirit and do all we can to reach those people with the words of Jesus. “I AM THE TRUE VINE.”
Do not trust your religion to save you from your sins. Do not trust your traditions to give you life. Do not trust your sacraments to forgive your sin. Jesus is the True Vine. Trust Jesus alone. He will save you.