Have you ever played Connect the Dots?
You follow a numbered pathway, and you end up drawing a picture. As children, we probably all enjoyed it.
But have you ever tried to connect the dots when there’s only one dot?
Yet, that’s how many of us live our “Christian life.” We isolate ourselves and avoid connecting our “dot” to others—perhaps even avoiding connecting our “dot” to Jesus. We must be careful.
As Jesus is transitioning from the Last Supper to their conversation after the meal, we enter John 15. In John 15:1, we read Jesus saying:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.John 15:1
New International Version
This is the final of the “I am” statements in the Gospel of John. And like all the others, it’s a short phrase conveying a mind-blowing amount of theological truth.
It’s easy for us Christians to (accidentally) diminish the role of God the Father. Jesus makes it clear here: The Father is the gardener.
This means we’re talking about the Father’s vineyard. He is the one responsible for the production of the fruit. In the Old Testament, the symbol of a vine is used to describe the nation of Israel. Jesus makes a profound statement here: He says, “I am the TRUE vine.”
Ultimately, Israel as a whole was a prophetic picture of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The existence of Israel pointed to Jesus and His ministry. That’s profound.
Throughout John’s Gospel to this point, we have seen how Jesus has, in principle, replaced the Temple, Jewish feasts, Moses, and various holy sites. But here, Jesus replaces Israel as the focal point of God’s revelation. This isn’t new in the Gospel of John, but it is the most overt statement.
You might not be aware of it, but there is an ongoing debate on the issue of whether or not the church has replaced the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people. The question matters because it affects how we read the Old Testament and how the final promises of God in the End Times work out.
However, I believe the issue of the church “replacing” Israel is trying to answer the wrong question. Jesus is pulling back this heavy curtain on this issue in this verse. In the Father’s garden, Jesus is the vine, not the nation of Israel. Jesus fulfilled the Law, whereas the people of Israel could not. Jesus is the hope of the world, not keeping the tenants of the Law, feasts, and festivals.
Therefore, I offer: the issue is not “did the church replace Israel?” That implies God is finished with them. The very fact that there IS a nation of Israel today proves God is not done with them.
The issue is that Jesus replaced the nation of Israel and brought Jew and Gentile together into one family where there is “one body, and one spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
The vineyard belongs to God the Father, whose Son, Jesus, is the vine planted in the fertile soil. The emphasis of the New Testament and vision of the Old Testament is this unification of the entire world under the banner of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
If we get the tree right, then the fruit will be right. The tree, or vine, is not “the church.” The vine, or tree, is Jesus. No fruit can be grown of higher quality than what the vine can produce. If we make “the church” the vine, then we are connecting to a human agency, and that’s bound to cause trouble.
And Jesus is setting up a radical idea for His time: eternal life is only found through Him. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring that as we move through John 15.
Have you put your faith in the vine of Jesus? Are you trusting Him to give you eternal life? Are you living for Him? Connect your “dot” to Jesus and thrive in His Father’s vineyard.