You can click here to go to the Internet Archive page for this sermon, or listen to the sermon using the player below.

Palm Sunday, March 29, 2009


Last week the choir sang two songs that they had written. Each one contained the theme of “Without Me You Can do Nothing”, which comes from John 15:5. As we approach the annual JSYCB concert this June, I ask you to prepare yourself by meditating on this theme.

To help you get started I want to have a look at the text with you this morning to help you understand it a bit better and help you apply it the way it was meant to be applied.

Today is also Palm Sunday: the triumphal entry is the inaugural event of a series of events and teachings by Jesus that culminate in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As I have said for probably every Palm Sunday service for the last sixteen years – this event marks off the most significant event in the history of mankind. The significance of this week simply cannot be exaggerated.
This week occupies almost 29% of the Book of Matthew, 25% of Luke, 50% of John and 37% of Mark. Now if you are writing the life story of someone it would be a little unbalanced to write half of it about one week of his life – unless that is what His whole life was about.

John 15:1-16

The True Vine Identified – Jesus
v.1 – “I am the true vine” – Cf. Ps. 80:9-16; Jeremiah 2:21;
Jesus is saying that salvation does not reside in Israel as the chosen people of God. Salvation is in Him and only Him. He is the TRUE vine. Whenever we see Israel as a vine in the OT it is always failing in its work.
Salvation is in Him and Him only.
There are false vines – see II Kings 4:39
Christ is a sufficient life giver and sustainer for all the branches of the vine. No one truly grafted into Him shall lack supply. They shall be fully nourished, satisfied, provided for. There is nowhere else to look. There is no need to hunger after He has come.

The True Branches Identified – Those who bear fruit
v.2 – “in me” – there are so many people who think that they are in Christ when in fact they are not. How do we know they are not? They do not bear fruit. What fruit? – The fruit if the Spirit, holiness of life, orthodoxy of belief … But in the context of these passages of Scripture – v. 9 – love for God and neighbour
And love for God is shown through obedience.
This does not teach that there are true believers truly in Christ who become so unfruitful that they are purged out by Christ. See verse 8. It is teaching that there is no room on the vine for those who give every semblance of clinging to the vine but who show no demonstration of Christ in them. See Matthew 13:25-40. Cf Mt. 13:40 with John 15:6. True disciples of Christ abide in Him and bear fruit – John 8:31.
Dear people – are you a real follower of Jesus Christ?…

V.2 -“that does not bear fruit” – The overwhelming truth taught in the NT is that real Christians bear fruit and if someone does not ear fruit it is because they are not true Christians:

But note it well dear ones. The reason they do not bear fruit is because they are not grafted into the vine. All those grafted into the vine will bear fruit. Christ has no failures. Christ will see to it that all the branches bear fruit. He will prune them and feed them and water them. He will bring us safely into His presence one day with great joy. He will see to it that we bear the fruit He has come to enable us to give. He shall lose none of all the true branches that are truly grafted into Him by His sovereign grace.

Matthew 7:17-19 (ESV)
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. [18] A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 12:33 (ESV)
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.
Matthew 13:23 (ESV)
As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Mark 4:20 (ESV)
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Luke 6:43-44 (ESV)
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, [44] for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.
Luke 8:14-15 (ESV)
And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. [15] As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
John 4:36 (ESV)
Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.
Galatians 5:22 (ESV)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Philip. 1:11 (ESV)
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Col. 1:10 (ESV)
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

v. 2 – “he prunes” – Gk.  “kathairo” – to purge, cleanse by pruning. – There will be no holiness, no fruitfulness in the Christian life if there is not pruning. Pruning hurts. But the Gardener knows what He is doing and He never does anything to hurt the branches. It is for their purging, their holiness… .
He only prunes the ones that bear fruit, so that they will bear more and better fruit. Those that bear no fruit he throws away. Why? They are useless. Galatians 5:22f – the fruit of the Spirit IS. Romans 8:5. But note it well – there is no Christian who is not in need of pruning.
There are only two types of branches. Those that are truly in the vine and need pruning and those that have no life giving strength from the vine and need to be cut off and destroyed. There is no such thing as a Christian who is not pruned for the glory of God and for the sake of becoming more fruitful.
A vine left to itself will produce all kinds of unproductive, life sapping stuff.

The Word of Encouragement
v. 3 – No mention of vines or fruit or abiding or anything else that fits in with the picture that Jesus is painting. Why didn’t Jesus say “I grafted in the branches”or “the Father has planted a real vine among you and you have been attached to it”? Well, we cannot teach better than Jesus and He leaves the general picture He is painting here to say in no uncertain terms that salvation comes through the Word of God. He is speaking to the twelve – minus Judas, who left earlier to hand Jesus over to the authorities. “You”, Jesus says, “even though I speak like this, are the ones who have real life because of the Word that have spoken to you.” Compare this to 13:10 … . In 13:10, Judas was there.

Note that Jesus does not say “because you believed the Word that I have spoken”.

The Proof of Real Life Identified

v.4 – A word to the true branches – make sure you remain with Christ.
The only proof of being a true disciple of Christ is by clinging to Him – constantly, forever. No true believer assumes his safety. The mark of the true believer is that he is careful. He gets up in the morning and prays – he will never say – “ah, who needs it?” He reads his Bible and seeks to change where it indicates he should because he knows that if he does not he is going into his day unprepared.

Much Fruit or Nothing
v.5&6 –
5a – Abide and bear much fruit – Christ does not produce nothing. Those who are not in Christ, who do not abide in Christ – they are the ones who produce nothing.
Dear Christian – don’t you want to have it said of you – “He bore much fruit”? Of course!! …
5b – Live apart from Christ and produce nothing
This is not a comparison between a fruitful believer and an unfruitful believer. It is contrasting what believers in Christ do – they abide in Him and they produce much fruit – and what non-believers do – they do not abide in Christ and they can do nothing. This is what Jesus gets at very bluntly in verse 6 … . “If anyone does not abide in Me” – meaning that if anyone does not bear fruit that comes form abiding in Christ – then he is gathered up and burned up.

There will be no abiding and no fruit bearing if Christ does not enable it.

Apart from me you can do nothing, then means that we, apart from Christ cannot bear fruit. What fruit is Jesus talking about in the context of this passage?

How to Bear Real Fruit
v. 7 – Abide in Christ …
Have the Words of Christ abiding in you …
Receive from God whatever you want. Do you believe that if you abide in Christ and have His word(s) abiding in you that you will have form God whatever you ask for? You should, because this is what Jesus says here. Then why aren’t we all millionaires? Because that is not what people who abide in Christ and have the Word of Christ abiding in them – want. They want something better. They do not chase after the things of this world. Their treasures are not upon this earth. … See Psalm 37:4

Without Me You Can Do Nothing and the Triumphal Entry

Does any of this tie in, on Palm Sunday, with the triumphal entry? Well, we are not those who will artificially tie any parts of Scripture together unless the text allows it, but it is not much of a stretch to see that if we cannot do anything without Christ, then it is imperative that He come and give Himself to us. This is what we see in the triumphal entry. “Behold your king comes to you.”

All that John 15:1-17 talk about is only accomplished through the cross of Christ. If Jesus does not enter Jerusalem as He does on the first Palm Sunday – then nothing else matters at all. Not at all …

The King who comes in to die is the One you must have if you are going to produce anything that will last – 15:5
The King who comes and offers Himself to you is the One through whom you can pray and know that your prayers are heard and answered – 15:7
The King who enters Jerusalem so triumphantly is the One who will love you as the Father loves Him – 15:9
The King who enters Jerusalem in the midst of great rejoicing and celebration, is the One who will put His joy in you and that your joy will be full – 15:11

If Jesus does not enter Jerusalem and accomplish the salvation of His people through His death and resurrection, then John 15:5 will be the truth that is told for all people for all time. There will be no need to talk about abiding in Christ – because there will be no saved people to abide there.

Jesus enters Jerusalem as the triumphant, victorious King. His triumph is over what sin does to the individual and to the world. See at the cross the fulfilment of the promise to Satan in the garden in Genesis 3:15. See at the cross the fulfilment of Jesus words in John 12:30ff

We not only believe that without Him we can do nothing, we believe that by abiding in Him we can produce much fruit. In Christ we can do all things through Him – Phil. 4:13.