Have you noticed that groups, organizations, companies or even whole countries develop a need to tell themselves that they are the special ones?
Cell phone manufacturers will market themselves as the answer to your needs. Hence Apple or Samsung will want to tell you the story that they are the special ones.
Perhaps you belong to such a group. Your business sees itself as a leader, a player, the natural choice for customers. Read any of their mission statements and you will come across language that sets out the goal of being simply the best.
Depending on how deep the roots and how long the history, such thinking can be very powerfully embedded in the corporate personality.
If you add a religious dimension to such thinking, then you multiply intensity. History is littered with examples of those who considered themselves to be the special, chosen custodians and guardians of the truth.
It is a very dangerous path, for it leads those who travel it to be tempted into pride, arrogance, complacency and a contempt for others.
Consider how, not so long ago, Kodak was not just the name of a company but synonymous with photography. Now it barely functions in the market and is a shadow of its former self.
Consider how empires come and go and the fact that you now go as a tourist and look at ancient ruins of cities that once considered themselves to be the chosen one and the world leader.
For nearly 2000 years Israel had told itself it was special, chosen and unique. Since the days of Abraham the idea had taken deep root in the Jewish soul. Of course God had chosen them, had made promises to Abraham, and had entrusted them with unique insight.
But by the time of the Son of Man, many had come to believe that simply being born a Jew (and preferably a male Jew) they were members of the chosen, special ones. Symbols and images were attached like logos and mission statements. Israel had come to believe that it was somehow God’s vine on earth a unique, fruit producing plant with a long history stretching back to Abraham himself.
Can you imagine how much courage it will take for one 33-year-old man to challenge this whole mindset? In 5 startling and astonishing words he overturns the concepts with as much force as he used to upend the money changers tables.
“I am the true vine” indicates a devastating critique of the past and a revolutionary vision of the future.
Merely having Jewish blood in your veins was not enough. That did not connect you to the divine source. Jesus places himself at the center and positions himself as The True Vine. Israel is not the true vine, he says, I AM. It is a connection to me, he argues, that is the only way to empower your life to produce any fruit at all. In fact, without me, he goes on to say, you can’t do anything. Not only that, but fruitlessness is a sign of disconnectedness and uselessness and will result in removal of the vine all together.
Even more than that, the Son of Man explains that his Father is the gardener.
In a short speech he sweeps away many old concepts, restructures the corporate mindset and revolutionizes a nation’s understanding of itself.
So I repeat, can you imagine what courage this took?
We will look at this in more detail but for now let me suggest that in our era there are still those who think privilege is their birthright. There are those who think that being connected to a corporate giant, an ancient institution, or a particular group gives them meaning.
Jesus still says ‘no’. Meaning, purpose, fruitfulness, success only comes from connectedness to him, without this you can do nothing and are in danger of losing even what you have.
So here’s a closing question. Do you too, have the courage?
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
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