Jesus Is The True Vine

Jesus said,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”

Indeed, God is like the owner of a vineyard, who planted His people Israel in good soil:

“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.”

And yet, despite all His faithful care, His people quickly went astray. Listen to what the divine vinedresser asks them:

“I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?”

“When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”

The answer is sin. Instead of the fruit of lips that praise His name, our unassisted hearts naturally produce wickedness.

“For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison; their clusters are bitter.”

We have all become cut off, useless vines that are charred on either end by our sin:

“When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything!”

But Jesus is different. He is like the vines of the promised land, whose grape clusters grew so large that they had to be carried on a pole by two men. He yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, and that in infinite abundance.

But most amazing of all is that He was plucked up and cast away in our place! Of Him it was written:

“The vine was plucked up in fury, cast down to the ground; the east wind dried up its fruit; they were stripped off and withered.”

Like Naboth, He was killed in His own vineyard, although He was the son and heir of everything. But now He lives forever, and allows even those who killed Him to be grafted into Himself and bear fruit.

Thank you, Lord, that I don’t have to be a vine, but may instead be one of your branches!

“Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus Killed Death

For as long as anyone can remember, death has reigned on the earth.

“Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

Because of Adam’s transgression, everything living is held under death’s sway:

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth… before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

Death is not a rightful ruler, but a usurper appointed by God to curse the earth and subject it to futility. It is not a part of the way things were meant to be, but an enemy, a destroyer, an abomination that causes desolation.

But praise be to God that by His unfathomable wisdom, Jesus has defeated death by submitting Himself to it. No one took His life from Him; He laid it down of His own accord, and three days later took it back up again. His resurrection is the ruination of death’s reign, and His eternal life guarantees its ultimate destruction.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Death itself has been sentenced to death, and one day soon that judgement will be executed:

“Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.”

Then the new heavens and the new earth will teem with indestructible life:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

By dying on the cross, Jesus put death to death so that we might live. Praise His holy name!

“May your hearts live forever!”

Jesus Is Incomprehensible

Throughout the ages, God has been gracious to  reveal Himself to us, both in creation as well as in special revelation (the Word being chief).

But there is much about Him that we can never know. He is before all things and surpasses all things, the Rock of Ages that fills the whole earth. He dwells in the highest heavens in unapproachable light and consuming fire, and everything that comes to pass is from His hand:

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.”

Who is sufficient to understand this?

“Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.”

Who can possibly claim to have explored the full depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God?

“How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

“Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord?”

—as if such a thing were even possible!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

“The thunder of his power who can understand?”

The only satisfactory answer that can be given to these ineffable queries is worship:

“O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind.”

Jesus, I praise You that you have revealed yourself to us in a way that our shallow minds can partially contain. Expand our souls with an ever-increasing passion to know more of you, and by that knowledge constrain us to a more perfect obedience!

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Jesus Is The Bread Of Life

When God called His people Israel into the wilderness, He knew there would be no food. It was there—despite their unbelief and their grumbling—that He blessed His people with a miraculous gift as well as a gospel promise. Bread rained from heaven in the form of fine white flakes:

“Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.”

Such is the gracious provision of God that these flakes were not only nourishing, but delicious as well:

“The taste of it was like wafers made with honey.”

But the purpose of the manna was not just to sustain and delight the people, but also to test them, “whether they will walk in my law or not.” And sadly, they failed the test. They were found grumbling:

“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

They tried to circumvent God’s command to gather it day by day, yet without success:

“Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank.”

But Jesus is a better provision in every respect! Like the manna, He too came down from on high:

“For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

But unlike manna, Jesus is living bread, the Bread of Life.

“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”

This is no empty metaphor, but part of the ordination of a holy sacrament:

“And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

And by this sacrament (and the faith that attends it) our hungry souls are satisfied:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Jesus, give me this bread always that I may be forever satisfied in You!

“Whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”

Jesus Heals Our Blindness

Physical blindness is no trifling matter, no small affliction. Its ultimate origin is not of human sin or random chance, but divine appointment:

“Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”

And while this is a great mystery, God has also seen fit to use physical blindness as a symbol of spiritual reality. He who is physically blind is in some measure insensitive to light and brightness, similar to a seeing person in the dark. And though we may see light with our eyes, yet we often choose to remain in spiritual darkness. We are insensitive to the light of God’s holy revelations, and thus prefer the darkness and shifting shadows over the truth:

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This choice dulls our receptivity to God’s truth and creates a void in our hearts:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

It was for this very purpose that Jesus came: to expose our blindness and then offer the eternal cure. Unless He removes the scales from our eyes, we will never see clearly; unless He applies the salve of grace to our eyelids, we will never discern truth. We will instead be like the Pharisees, of whom He said,

“Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

But if we humble ourselves, He promises:

“I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.”

And again,

“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.”

Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me! Lord, help me to see the true realities, and to walk in the light of Your word all my days!

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Jesus Is Our Great High Priest Forever

A priest is one who intercedes before God on our behalf. God first instituted the sacerdotal office by electing Aaron and his sons “to serve me as priests.” They were commanded how to dress, how to perform the appointed rites, and how to fear the most holy things of God. Those who neglected these instructions (such as Nadab, Abihu, and Eli’s sons) were expelled from office by means of an untimely death. But even those who faithfully performed their priestly duties would die in the end, leaving the work to their progeny. And so it was, even down to Jesus’ day. Each new priest would offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, so as to avert the wrath of our holy God. But Jesus, condemned to death by the very priesthood He appointed, became our Great High Priest by sacrificing His own body. His shed blood accomplished what the Levitical offerings could only foreshadow: salvation.

“It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” but now “we have been justified by His blood.”

And if we are saved by His blood, how much more by Himself, since He continues forever! As it is written,

“You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

“If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

By the power of His indestructible life, Jesus has completed and fulfilled the role of the High Priest, and even now continues to minister before His Father:

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Thank you, Lord, for saving us from the wrath we deserve, and for ministering before God that we might become holy!

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

Jesus Is Better Than Money

Of all the idols we seek and serve, none is as demanding as Money.

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Money is a hard master, a tyrant that offers no grace, allows us no rest, accepts no rivals, gives us no peace. No matter how hard we work or how well we invest, we will never have enough:

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.”

We strive to make up the difference, but we fail because what is lacking cannot be counted.

“There is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches.”

Not only that, but we must spend our days defending what little we have from moths, rust, and thieves:

“When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes?”

And in the end, money is fickle and disloyal, quickly leaving us in our time of need:

“When your eyes light on wealth, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”

And again,

“he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

But Jesus is a different sort of Master! He has promised to always be with us; He will never leave us or forsake us. His provision is abundant and limitless, requiring no human effort to substitute. And the wealth He gives us is grace:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”

Thank you, Lord, for delivering me from the service of money and offering me the riches of grace. Help me then to use what little earthly wealth I have to lay up treasures in heaven!

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus Delivers Us From Sin

Sin is a mighty enemy, a ferocious adversary beyond reckoning. The devil and the world lurk without, but sin resides within our inmost heart. It is like a lion in waiting, crouching at the door, ready to strike at the slightest opportunity. These often come through our fleshly desires and passions, which wage war against our souls:

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”

Sin thrives wherever grace is not found:

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”

It eagerly desires to hold dominion over us by making us obedient to its whims:

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey?”

And the ultimate purpose of this domination is to prepare us for slaughter:

“Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of sin? Thanks be to God, through Christ Jesus our Lord!”

In Him are redemption, deliverance, salvation, and grace. In Him are all the claims of the law of sin rendered inert:

“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

By His almighty power we are commanded to exercise dominion over sin:

“Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Jesus knew no sin, and yet He became sin for us,

“so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Grace alone provides victory over sin; all other weapons are of no avail. Lord, thank you for delivering us from the sting and power of sin. Give us grace to do battle with what remains, and haste the day when in your presence we are delivered from the presence of sin forever!

Jesus Is Our Heavenly Husband

The Scriptures refer to the people of God as the “bride of Christ,” and to Jesus as our heavenly Bridegroom. The nature of this union is indeed a great mystery, but the role we are to play is not. As Christ’s betrothed, we are to love Him, to submit to Him, and remain pure for Him:

“I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”

The people of Israel were given the same promise of divine matrimony:

“For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name.”

And yet, just like the Israelites, we too are possessed of that same sinful proclivity to deny our Husband and commit spiritual adultery:

“Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel.”

Jesus is altogether righteous, and like Joseph would have been justified in writing us a decree of divorce and sending us away. But His self-sacrificial love washes us clean from sin, adorns us with beautiful righteousness, and draws us into an eternal covenant:

“For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you.”

Christ loves His bride with such zeal and devotion that our hearts will one day forget every competing affection and seek only Him:

“In that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’”

“Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty.”

Thank you, Lord, for betrothing us to Yourself in faithfulness and everlasting love. How we look forward to the great wedding feast that awaits us, the consummation of our eternal union!

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Jesus Dwells With His People

God’s promise to dwell with His people is gloriously incomprehensible. Before sin entered the world, Adam walked with God in perfect bliss and security. But because of his transgression he (and all mankind with him) was driven out of the garden and away from God’s presence. The tabernacle, whose furnishings echoed Eden itself, was God’s earthly dwelling among the people of Israel. But its holiness was so intense that no one could endure it:

“Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

The temple, which came later, was larger and more ornate, but filled with the same unendurable glory:

“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.”

But now that Emmanuel has come—God with us—we have no need of tent or temple.

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

But how can this be?

“Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You.”

How much less then can our minuscule, sinful hearts be expected to house the Holy Spirit?

“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”

And yet, somehow by God’s infinite and amazing grace, that is exactly what He commands:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

Lord, thank you for filling my heart with the same glory that Moses and the priests could not endure. Come in, blessed Savior, and may my humble heart be your eternal home!

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”