This Sunday and the for the next two we shall concentrate on this all important topic that the Gospel presents to us this morning - the Word of God. This morning we hear our Lord speaking, “You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken.”
Jesus says this in the context of one of His “I AM” statements. Like last weeks, “I AM the Good Shepherd,” this week we hear, “I AM the true Vine.” If a branch is not producing good fruit it is cut off of the vine. This was the problem of the Jews of Jesus’ day. They were not producing the fruits of faith. And so the warning is clear and unambiguous - they will be cut off. To be cut off from the Vine is to therefore not have life - it is to wither away. It ends with being thrown into the fire and burned - destruction - hell. Such is the end of those who have been freely attached to the Vine that is Christ but refuse to - will not bring forth the fruits that should should naturally flow when one is attached to Him.
But this does not mean that those attached branches who do bring forth the fruits of faith go untouched. Jesus says that that branch is pruned, or perhaps more accurately “cleaned” so that it will be even more fruitful and bear even more of the fruit of faith. He tells the disciples, “You are already pruned/clean because of the Word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”
There are all manner of ways in which our Lord prunes us in this lifetime. And the fact is that don’t like that very much. We don’t like it when our Lord takes to pruning us - to cleaning us. Because from our vantage point, the Lord’s pruning is really only just pain and suffering. Look at how the Lord pruned Job. He stripped him of everything - took everything from him - his cattle, his wealth, his health, his children. It certainly did not look to Job like the Lord was pruning him - cleansing him - to bring forth even greater fruits of faith. When he was in the midst of it - it only looked like pain - like sorrow - like suffering. But the Lord is always the Lord. And all things are always in His hands. We cannot accept only things as blessings that we love, that we enjoy, that give us pleasure. As those who belong to Christ and know salvation in Him through suffering and the cross, we must also accept those things as blessings that neither look nor feel to us like blessings at all.
But for Job, as for the disciples, as for you - it is ultimately the Word of Jesus that prunes - that makes clean. The Word that Jesus speaks - the Word you hear - is that which keeps you connected to the true Vine that is Jesus. That Word is always a blessing. That Word is always life. That Word always cleanses you. That Word is what brings forth from you much fruit showing you to be a disciples of Jesus the true Vine.
Jesus is not only your “justification,” that is, the One Who by His life, death and resurrection makes you just and right - able to stand before the Holy God spotless and clean, covered in His own righteousness. He is also your “sanctification,” that is, the One Who dwells in you through Baptism and Holy Communion and brings forth all good works from you every day in all of your different vocations. Whatever you do as a Christian, from the smallest act to the greatest, is a good fruit of faith before God, because it is Jesus in you producing such fruit.
St. Paul says as much when he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” What a branch that is connected to this true Vine brings forth - it brings forth because it is connected to this True Vine. What you as a Christian do in service to your neighbor because of Christ is done because you are connected to Christ and He lives in you through the cleansing Word and He works in and through you.
So remain in Jesus and in His Word. That is to the Father’s Glory, after all. Continue to hear it proclaimed to you. Continue to receive it in and with His Body and His Blood. Have the confidence that whatever pruning/cleansing might come to you, you need not fear it, for you have been cleansed by the Word - the Word of Christ.