I Am The True Vine

I Am The True Vine

In this last of the “I am” sayings series of headers, Jesus, in John 15:1, employing agrarian ancient Eastern imagery describes himself by saying: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” Then, in verse 5, he goes on to reiterate: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” Once again, Jesus emphasises that it’s all about relationship and remaining connected with him. The vine, and branches by nature, grow and bear fruit. So it is in life. Life is a journey of growth, of producing and bearing fruit. Abiding in Jesus the true vine means participation in the Word and Sacraments-worship; the community/communion/koinonia of sinner-saints; and acts of loving kindness. Shorter, pruned branches remain closer to the vine—hence; they are the most healthy and fruitful. So in our lives, pruning vis-à-vis repentance and sufferings keep us closer and more connected with Christ the true vine for the purpose of growth and bearing fruit. Vines, of course, produce grapes, which are one of the symbols for Israel. Grapes, in turn, become wine—the drink of life for Jews in the Passover and for Christians in Holy Communion.

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I am the Way, Truth and Life

I am the Way, Truth and Life

In John 14:6, which is spoken in the larger context of Jesus’ farewell discourse with the disciples, he answers Thomas’ question about the way to where Jesus is going (his Father’s house) by saying: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” In other words, he personifies the way, and the truth, and the life. Jesus the way prevents us from getting lost amidst so many ways. Jesus the truth reveals all that we need to know concerning himself, God, others, the world, his Church, and heaven. Jesus the life provides us with everything that we need to live in this world and beyond. The universe as well as every human who is graced with faith in Jesus is given this way, this truth, and this life. Eventually, Jesus the way, truth, and life shall gather all of his followers into his Father’s house. It is with eager longing that we await that time, even as we live in the here and now.

 

I am the Resurrection and the Life

I am the Resurrection and the Life

In this fifth “I am” saying of Jesus in John 11:25, our Lord described himself with a view to the future. He speaks these words of comfort and hope to Martha who is grieving over the death of her brother, Lazarus. As the story unfolds, Jesus authenticates his claim as the resurrection and the life by revealing his power over death and raising the dead Lazarus. This sign was a foretaste of the future, when Jesus himself would be raised from the dead and promise all would-be followers that, one day; they too would be raised from the dead and be given the gift of eternal life. Each Sunday is a celebration and reminder of Christ the resurrection and the life, present and active among us. Life is graced with many small resurrections whenever the risen Lord gives hope to the hopeless; faith to the doubting; love to the loveless; new life to the dying.

I am the Good Shepherd

I am the Good Shepherd

The picture of Jesus as the good shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep in John 10:11, 14 has provided countless people of faith much comfort and confidence down through the ages. Most likely biblically literate Jews and Christians automatically think of Psalm 23 whenever they hear the language of shepherd and sheep. Jesus too certainly knew the other shepherd-sheep passages from the Hebrew Bible, where shepherds represented the political and spiritual leaders of Israel and the sheep all Israelites. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus provides for our physical and spiritual needs; protects us from danger and harm; and preserves life through the forgiveness of sin made effective through the laying down of his life—his atoning work on the cross. One of, if not “the” most moving, tender passages of the New Testament is Luke 15. Here Jesus our Good Shepherd is prepared to seek out and save a single lost sheep and leave his whole flock behind. Each sheep/person is extremely valued by Jesus—hence the feasting when the lost are found.

 

I am the door/gate

I am the door/gate for the sheep

In this third “I am” saying of Jesus, “I am the door/gate for the sheep,” (John 10:7, 9), the Greek word for door/gate is θύρα (thura), which can be translated as either door or gate—although it refers more often elsewhere to door than gate. Here Jesus is speaking on at least two levels. The first level refers to the literal, biblical agrarian world of the Holy Land. Sheep were protected from robbers and thieves by herding them into pens or sheep-folds and the shepherd may very well have served as the door/gate for the pen to keep the sheep safe inside the pen and allow them to go outside when it was time to go back into the pasture or to the nearest water source. On a deeper, spiritual level, Jesus is speaking of his authenticity as the Messiah over against false-pretender leaders, teachers and messiahs. He is also speaking of eternal life, where Jesus is the door/gate into heaven, hence the way of salvation for those who belong to and follow him. The picture/image/metaphor of a door is a most comforting one then in relation to Jesus and all of his would-be followers. A closed and locked door speaks of protection and security. An open door suggests freedom, opportunity, adventure, excitement, and growth in faith, hope and love as one follows Jesus wherever he leads us.