I’ve meant to do something like this for a while; post a thought from the recent Sunday sermon.  Our pastor prepares notes with blanks to fill in to help memory retention, and they’re 3-hole punched to keep in a small notebook.  I’m going to (try to) post just a thought from the sermon here at the beginning of the week.

(I attend Lilburn Alliance Church with pastor Fred Hartley.  There is a link to the previous Sunday’s sermon on the main page of the web site, or you can subscribe to the podcast.)

The series our pastor is beginning a study of John 15, starting this week with just the first verse.  The NIV translation of this verse is, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener."  He covered the whole first verse, but I’m going to just touch on the first phrase of it.  The literal translation of that phrase from the Greek is "I, I am, the true the vine…."  No, that’s not a typo.  If you look at the Greek version, even if you don’t know Greek (and I don’t), you’ll see the first two words meaning "I" and "I am", and a short one-letter word preceding each of the next two words, being the definite article "the".  Again, I’m not a Greek scholar and I’m taking Pastor Hartley’s word for this, so feel free to comment if you find something different.

This construction of "I, I am" is (as I understand it) unique in Greek literature.  This is meant to convey the fact that Jesus is the "I Am" of the book of Exodus.  This is another of His many claims of divinity.  Jesus used this construct on at least 6 other occasions, including one that got the religious leaders perturbed.  (Again, the Greek translation shows this.)  For those that suggest that Jesus never actually claimed to be the divine Son of God, these instances are some of those where he did, in a language that his hearers would understand.

Then there is the construction "the true the vine".  Here, Jesus is claiming exclusivity, again using a language construct that his hearers understood.  He is not a true vine, one vine of many truths.  Instead he is the one and only vine that is true.  There are other vines, but none that are as eternally true as Jesus.  Again, this goes up against claims that Jesus is but one of the many ways to God.  He never spoke of any other way but Himself, and he spoke of Himself as the single path to God the Father, in ways that both the people he spoke to could understand, and even more plainly for the rest of us that don’t speak Greek.

I’ve had a few discussions with folks in the past, going back to the Bulletin Board Systems of old (pre-Internet, for you young’uns) where I’ve heard the claims about Jesus never intending to claim exclusivity, and the many ways in which people try to shoe-horn Jesus into their own religion or philosophy.  The problem is, and has always been, that Jesus didn’t ever allow for that in what He said.  He fully intended to stand alone and unique in human history, and efforts to incorporate His teachings, and He Himself, into the religions of others is a testament to the power in His words, and the deception of those trying to claim Him. 

Filed under: ChristianityDougReligion

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