Spring is finally here and I’ll soon be able to see new growth appearing all over the buckeye tree Emily and I planted when we first moved into our house. I look forward all winter to seeing the new life burst forth from this tree’s little twigs. It reminds me of the message we receive in God’s word from John 15:5. Jesus says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” What a magnificent promise! We are capable of sharing in the life of Christ?
The most recent Sunday sermon from Luke 18 carries with it a similar purpose. In Luke 18, (as well as in 4:34; 24:19) Jesus is referred to as the Nazarene. This is used very wisely by the Gospel writer, but in our minds it’s easy to just pass right over this strange superlative. But see in the Gospel that Nazarene has some baggage we must unpack.
The term neser is the term shoot, like new growth from a tree. It is used of Jesus specifically. Though he is from Nazareth he is called Jesus the Neser because the Gospel writers are alluding to the root, the shoot coming from the stump of Jesse. If you remember, Jesse is the father of David. It was prophesied in Isaiah 11:1 that a shoot would come from the stump of David’s family to be the king of ages (2 Samuel 7). This great tree is also mentioned in Revelation as being the tree that brings salvation and eternal life, whose very leaves heal. When we think of Jesus as the tree we recognize that his kingship is revealed completely in the cross. A tree of pain and anguish that became for us a tree of healing. Jesus teaches us in John 15:5 that he is this tree. He says I am the vine and you are the branches.
What is remarkable about the way our God brings us into eternal life is that he picks up the broken twigs and plants them anew in the vine of Christ. We have union with Christ in a way that would otherwise be impossible…we actually are brought into Christ by His Spirit inhabiting us. To call Jesus the Neser is to call him the means of our life-force.
John Flavel remarks about the importance of this passage in John 15:5 (see also Romans 6:5 and Galatians 2:20). Flavel explains that, like a grafted branch, we draw on Christ’s life through the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us. When a branch is grafted into a root or vine, there is nothing of itself that can make it stay, or thrive, or produce fruit. What must happen is that the vine and roots produce sap that will rush through the new branch. The vitality of the branch is in this way completely dependent upon the root, the shoot. From out of the riches of the sap the branch is able to produce all the fruit of the plant. It does not need to produce its own fruit, but it is now compelled by the life of the root to give forth new and wonderful fruit.
Jesus Christ is our neser and our foundation. We must look to his tree and see the power of what it means that he is called our shoot. We who had no life, now live anew; better, richer lives than we can imagine. The sap of our vitality is the blood of Jesus, it is the work of his cross. We are called to transform our minds by Scripture, prayer, fellowship, in that we see the fruit of the sap of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). We are called to draw attention to the new life given us by our union with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. This is not our own work, but while we were broken branches lying about the yard, the Father united us with the perfect Son that we might grow again in the vibrancy of the New Eden. Is that not a glorious story?
This week let us relish the glory of Christ’s labor. Let us rejoice that we can see new sprouts growing on this tree of life. Spring is here, and we are the fruit of the only true Neser, Christ Jesus our king. Pray that the Spirt will be used in you to bear fruit to others this week. Pray to recognize the beauty of life in Christ.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com
Robert H. Stein. Luke. The New American Commentary, Vol. 24. (Nashville: B&H, 1992). 463.
J. Stephen Yuille. The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety: John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ. (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007). 28 & 82.