Monday, January 25, 2010

The True Vine

Who is the True Vine?

By Dudley Hall

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. John 15:1

In the Old Testament era, Israel was considered the vine that God took from Egypt and planted in the promised land. One primary reference to Israel's role as God's vineyard is Isaiah 5:1-2,7:

Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; He built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes...For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!

When Jesus identified himself as Israel, he was making a huge point. He was doing what Israel was assigned to do, but couldn't. He was the Seed who would bless the nations that God promised to Abraham. The people of God would not be known primarily by their relationship to Abraham, but to Jesus the Christ.

It should be noted that Israel had failed at the assignment to display the true nature of God the Father as a nation of priests. She had turned her calling into a self-exalting superiority and generally excluded the nations. But she had succeeded in one thing: She had produced the Messiah. However, she could take no credit for this because it was the sovereign hand of God who worked through the good and bad decisions of the descendants of Abraham. No matter what she did, she could not prevent the Messiah's coming at exactly the right time. Jesus came in Israel's stead to do what she could not do.

Just as David had represented Israel as king, now the Son of David would identify himself as the Vine-Israel. Jesus is Israel in one person. So we can say that Israel succeeded in her role. Jesus did accurately represent God the Father, and he was the ultimate priest who brought man and God together. Jesus is the Savior. He saved Israel from failure just like he saves the Gentiles from wrath by doing for both of them what they cannot do for themselves.

Now in the last discourse with his disciples Jesus is giving an identity to his followers. They are the true branches of the true vine. Where Israel had been a false vine and produced wild grapes, this new people could display the fruit of his own life as they embraced their new identity. They were the new Israel in the sense that they would now have the assignment to display his true nature to the nations and bless them by presenting the gospel of Jesus and His kingdom. 

There aren't two vines. Jesus has stepped in and fulfilled Israel's role. He is the true vine. We as his disciples have the privileges of being connected to the very source of eternal life. Our job is to abide in the Vine.

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